After arriving Friday afternoon Saturday was spent sleeping and slowly getting to know our new environment. It was beautiful and sunny and much hotter than Gibraltar. The marina hosted a Welcome party in the evening and many stories of the trip down were swapped. Sunday was another quiet day. We walked to the small beach in the afternoon for a swim and looked around the shops. Monday morning found all the boat owners up early after the lazy weekend with many jobs to keep everyone busy. Bill was back and forth to the sail makers while I investigated the launderette. In the afternoon we all assembled in the car park ready for our coach trip around the south of the island courtesy of the Lanzarote tourist board. We boarded one of two coaches which both carried local guides. We were taken to the national park of Timanfaya. The volcano had erupted in 1730 and again in 1824 and left a quarter of the island almost completely buried under a thick layer of lava and ash. Reminders of the past are still present in high surface temperatures; geothermal abnormalities produced by a magma chamber fairly close to the surface. Temperatures of 610°C are recorded at a depth of only 13m and between 100 and 200°C at surface level. We had 3 demonstrations. Firstly we formed a circle and a spadeful of stones was taken from the surface, a few were put into each of our hands but they were so hot we had to drop them immediately. Secondly they had an opening in the ground and when some tree branches were dropped into it they immediately burst into flames. The 3rd involved tipping some water into some bore holes which sent great plumes of steam up into the sky within seconds. Alongside the demonstration area is a restaurant with a grill placed over the top of a volcanic vent that they use to barbeque the food! The bus took us on a tour of the volcanic park. The scenery was spectacular with many striking features of lava flows, volcanic cones and tubes, domes and craters. It’s a world of fantastical colours and textures. Timanfaya is virtually intact thanks to the slow process of natural evolution. It has barely been touched by human activity. Some areas aren’t as hot and have a fine layer of lichen over it that looks like snow. After our tour of Timanfaya we were taken to a winery. The vines are built into the hillside and grown behind semi circles of stone. They are covered in a layer of black ash to conserve the moisture in the ground caused by the dew as they only have 30 days of rain a year on Lanzarote. The little semi circle walls went on for miles. The wine tasting was very pleasant.
Tuesday we spent doing jobs around the boat but in the evening we were off in a coach again for dinner at the volcanic underground cave of Jameos del Agua. It is located inside a volcanic tunnel created by the eruption of La Corona Volcano. It owes its name to the existence of an internal lake that originates from filtration through the rock which lies below sea level. It was difficult to tell which was original and which was new it was cleverly formed. We walked down a rock staircase into an open chamber that was full of tables and chairs. We walked past these further into the cave and down past the lake. At the other end was a beautiful lagoon. There were several bars dotted about so we sat down for a pre dinner drink. The meal was excellent, Avocadoes with Prawns followed by roast pork and veggies, and a delicious chocolate tart to finish. The wine flowed. While we enjoyed coffee and liqueurs a troupe of traditional dancers entertained us dressed in traditional costume, their skirts swirled as their musicians played. It was a very enjoyable evening.
Thursday morning I woke up early and immediately realised what I had signed up for today – a try dive. I’ve tried diving before and haven’t been able to get past the point where you have to start the descent. The dive centre here uses the dinghy slipway to get into the water instead of going off the back of the boat. I walked to the centre with my heart in my mouth. There were 5 of us booked in altogether. Angela and her husband Frank and their friends Steve and Mike. George immediately put us at ease and we all started to get kitted out. George sat with us for about an hour talking us through what was going to happen and then we all walked down to the beach. George and Heidi helped us into our weight belts and tanks. I thought I definitly wouldn’t come to the surface now. We walked into the water and started with just putting our faces in the water. When we were happy with that George asked us to just fall forward into the water, as we did he released the valve on the BCD (jacket that inflates and deflates to keep you floating or help you to sink) and it felt like a Baptism as we fell forward on to our hands and knees! We then had to practise taking the regulator (the thing in our mouth that we were breathing through!) out of our mouth and then put it back in again and clearing the water. We all managed to do that and also clear the water from our mask by blowing through our nose. We were now ready to go forward over the edge of dinghy ramp into the open water. I had a voice on one side of my head saying I can’t do that but one on the other side that said I could. Everyone else managed it so I let go of the edge and floated over to the others. Lots of claps in the water. After that I was away, we only went down about 3-4metres but I DID IT. George had some fish food with him that brought lots of fish over to us from all directions; they were so beautiful with all their different colours. I’m going to take a longer course in the Caribbean when we get there because I enjoyed it so much. Friday evening was curry night. There was going to be a friendly race with the locals in the afternoon but the winds were too strong and no one was prepared to go out and risk getting their boats damaged before the Atlantic crossing.
Chris and Mark on Blue Magic very kindly asked us if we would like to go out for a drive with them on Sunday afternoon. We left after lunch and drove around the town of Arreclife, the capital of the island, along the waterfront. The sea was quite rough because of the high winds. We then drove right to the north of the island to a height of 475 metres. We had a wonderful view but the weather was a bit hazy. We stopped for tea and cake on the way down in a café that had spectacular views across the valley.
Monday morning brought more high winds of 40kt+ coming off the land. We are all moored together and everyone’s boat was covered in a layer of black volcanic dust blowing across from the volcanic mounds behind us. Bill had Freddie, one of the children on Miss Tippy, on the boat for a DT lesson. The children started off with a travelling teacher but it didn’t work out so we are all helping in any way we can. Bill enjoyed getting his tools out and teaching him how to use a jigsaw, etc. They made an outboard bracket for Miss Tippy.
On Tuesday we had another coach tour this time to the north of the island.
Bill stayed behind to help David on Enchantress fix his hatch but Susan and I went off to the coach. First we stopped at the Cactus garden which has many fine examples of cacti within a wonderfully designed setting that was created by Cesar Manrique a local artist whose work is in evidence throughout the island. We moved onto La Cueva de los Verdes, the green caves. We were taken on a guided walk that took us underground for a mile or so through volcanic tunnels that are part of the volcanic tunnel system that runs from Montana de Coruna that erupted about 4000 years ago and flowed out into the Atlantic. It’s along the same lava flow that the Jameos del Agua was formed. Over the years the caves have served as a place of refuse for local people when pirates attacked their shores. The temperature inside remains at 18C throughout the year and it was pleasant inside out of the hot sun. The cave opened out into a vast cavern. The shape of the walls formed by the solidified lava and enhanced by discreet lighting is quite extraordinary. As the tour draws to a close the guide asked us to be quiet in order to introduce you to the ‘secret’ of the cave. It was very clever and I’m not going to give the game away. The last place we visited was the Mirador del Rio that was one of the homes of Cesar Manrique and over 800M above sea level. It commanded spectacular views.
Wednesday was spent stocking up the boat ready for the Atlantic crossing.