Thursday, 27 June 2013

Lanzarote

Marina Rubicon, every cloud has a silver lining
This last week I just did what I do best and abandoned all commitments to jet off to another place far far away.

Lanzarote is a peculiar holiday destination. As the plane was landing, instantly I noticed the serious lack of vegetation. The whole island is built up around the grand, menacing volcanoes, surrounded by miles of hideous land that looks like a building site as it is where all the lava has solidified in a crunchy mess. The ground is like a field of giant chocolate cornflake nests, only made out of grit and stone. The earth is black and red and the fiery history of lava and desolation has given the island the symbol of the devil.

Compared to the lush, jungle scenes of Thailand from my last trip I was at first quite disgusted by how ugly nature could look. Everything was so lifeless, amplified by the fact that, as a tourist town in out of season, the streets were quite often hauntingly empty. There is also no natural sources of water... no springs or streams or rivers. You probably wouldn't even notice this, but once it is brought to your attention you can't help but notice the serious lack of flowing water.

One of the most interesting things about the island is that many films such as Planet of the Apes and parts of Star Wars have been filmed there as the vast miles of desolate rock appear so alien and the landscape is often compared to the moon, with NASA even conducting experiments there. Sometimes, as I wandered around the empty streets, I felt as if I was in some dystopian future in which Earth has been evacuated and I am one of the few survivors who made it to the moon where a new, bleak civilisation had been constructed. But then I'd see a stray cat and play with it, and, as wrong as it may be, I doubt if there was an apocalypse cats would be saved and sent to the moon.

Anyway, one of the main reasons I knew I wasn't on the moon, apart from all the obvious evidence, was the wild wind that charged at you relentlessly day and night. I have never been somewhere so windy in my whole life, and packing lots of little skirts to wear on meals out turned out to be a big mistake.

But, as the week went on, all these peculiar things that at first seemed so negative grew to fascinate me. We went on a coach trip tour and our eager and slightly peculiar guide, Paul, told us all about the intriguing history of the island. In 1730 there was a volcanic eruption that lasted six years and covered a quarter of the island in lava. Suddenly the vast miles of wasteland had a history. Also, the serious lack of flowing water meant that no animals could survive there and so to help the agriculture a load of camels were shipped from Morocco and there are now 200 on the island. We rode one and called him Cameron.

The strong winds rolling off the volcanoes means that all the farmers have to build little semi-circular walls around each crop to protect it from the strength of the wind. In vast quantities all these little walls create  a pattern on the landscape like the scales of a fish.

Finally, although the island may seem desolate compared to the green fields of England, Paul explained that, thanks to the volcanic eruptions, the soil became more fertile and the islanders could grow vegetables for the first time ever. They still clearly struggle due to the winds and lack of water, but some tomatoes are better than no tomatoes.

By the end of the trip I left eager to find out more about this landscape that seems so lifeless and alienated and yet holds so much variety and history. I also liked the fact that if it wasn't for something so catastrophic as a volcanic eruption, the island would probably have been abandoned years ago and the tourist industry wouldn't exist. Silver linings and all that!

Here are some of my favourite photos. This was a good week. The sun made me happy, I ate lots of nice food, learnt new things and didn't cry once.


Mysterious castle on the hill

The terrain

This sign epitomizes the creepy desolate town. I love the way the sun on the dents makes it look like flowing material.





Sharing the load.

Best form of graffiti!

Ghostly boats floating on the water.





Cameron the camel


Timanfaya devil

El Golfo,  best beach ever, white water meets black sand surrounded by red rock and a green lagoon




Save the best till last... cats, lots and lots of cats!

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