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canoeing, kayaking and other adventures

canoeing and kayaking adventures born in the Southeastern U.S. and now centered in Scotland...

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Lanzarote the Bus Tour - Day 2 - 4/11/2008

We took the Grand Tour of Lanzarote to see what there was to see and see if there was anything worth seeing more.

Our first stop was a cafe in Yaiza so the arrivals from Playa Blanca could join us. From there, our first real stop was near El Golfo. On the way in, we saw a photo shoot for something with a woman wearing something that looked both expensive and insufficiently warm given the lack of warmth that day.

Once the bus let us off, we walked down to see the Green Lagoon that was a bit more yellow when we saw it. Some of our group looked among the rock rubble for olivine. Others bought theirs from the woman running the "gift shop" table in the car park. We explored the rocks including a semi-cave as well as the beach. Brian discovered that the water was just as cold on the windward side of the island.

All of Lanzarote is volcanic in origin so the rocks are cooled lava, stubbly and brittle like limestone. Climbing felt easy. From the walk back to the bus, we noticed that erosion seemed as much a problem as limestone -- a big chunk of the path had fallen about 5m to the rubble below.

We spent a lot of time in the Parque Nacionale de Timanfaya, first visiting the camel safari (but not riding camels) and the natural oven of the park's restaurant before doing the famed Crater Route in the park. Natural heat makes the ground warm and if you dig down just a little, you can find quite a lot of heat. There were three levels to visit. First, one of the park employees took a shovel of rubble from the ground and gave each of us a rock to hold. We didn't hold the rocks for long as they quickly became too hot to hold. At the second level, we got to look into a natural pocket as they tossed some straw into it. I wondered what the autoignition temperature of straw was as it burst into flames. At the top level, we were told to stand back while one of the employees poured some water into a pipe in the ground and made a mini geyser.

Only buses are allowed along the Crater Route and no one is permitted off the buses. The topography is a barren mix of reds, browns, black and white. Green and living things were sparse. Our bus tour took us along most of the big craters, including the Timanfaya itself, although I must confess I don't remember which one was which. Our tour let us look down on the camel park as we looped around the much taller craters that could easily be on another planet.

The end of the crater route meant lunch was soon to follow. We stopped at a large buffet-style restaurant. Veggie options were limited and my lunch was very potatoey. I discovered a fondness for papas arrugadas aka Canarian wrinkly potatoes, so called because they are cooked in seawater and are indeed wrinkly. They weren't salty enough for Brian. I also sampled the famous salsa mojo verde and creamy garlic death sauce. The tour guide warned us against the garlic sauce, but Brian ate it, too. That's always the way to do it, sharing the garlic breath.

After lunch, we stopped at a local bodega to sample local wine. Lanzarote whites are better known and appreciated than their reds. We got to sample a dry white and a moscatel. The latter is a dessert wine, similar in sweetness to sherry. I liked it a lot. We brought two bottles back with us to share.

Back on the bus, we drove through the old capital of Teguise and the guide spoke more about architecture. Most of the buildings have flat rooftops to collect the rain. The rainy season is in the winter and that water must last them the year. They have desalination plants for seawater now but that water is not good for drinking.

We stopped at another cafe overlooking the shoreline northeast of Arrecife, the current capital. I was a bit annoyed by this cafe stop. It was a nice view but not all that interesting otherwise.

Back on the bus again, the next stop was the Guinate Tropical Park that I think was set up by an English guy and is apparently a bird sanctuary. The sun was well hidden behind the clouds, the wind had kicked up and most of the birds were smart enough to be somewhere else. Apparently sometimes you can see penguins in the park but we just saw some seagulls playing in the wind. We had nice views to Islas Graciosa, Montaña Clara and Alegranza just north of Lanzarote.

The stop in the park was brief as we were already approaching 4pm. Rounding the north end of the island, we headed to our last stop of the tour, the famous Jameos del Agua. Born of ideas from César Manrique, a famous modern artist I had never heard of, a resort hotel was built into a cave in the 1960s. Lots of rich and famous people visited it. Eventually it was converted into a tourist attraction. The bar/restaurant was still running but the hotel rooms were not. In the tidal pond in the cave, we saw albino crabs crawling along the rocks. Exiting the cave, we found a pool that looked like part of a villain's lair in a James Bond film. No wonder Sean Connery is said to have visited the resort.

At 6pm, the Jameos del Agua was closing and the sun was setting. We piled onto the bus for the journey back to the hotel. It felt like a good taste of the island but unfortunately, we were not inspired about what else we needed to visit while there. The camel safari felt like a must but otherwise, we were left wondering.

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