The North tour of the Island of Lanzarote
Mrs Db and I had a look at the tours on offer and decided we would do the North Tour of the Island; we managed to find three tour companies doing the tour including Thomson’s, Last Minute.com and CustomerTravel.es. They all seemed to be a similar price including Thomson’s which had one visit different to the others to a parrot place, which didn’t interest me and their price for this was 45.90 euro’s all in.
However, both Last Minute .com and CustomerTravel.es seem to do the same tour of three places, they visited three places Manrique’s home, The Green Caves and Jameos Del Aqua which you have two of the three places paid for (plus a couple of extra freebees), giving the option of dropping out of one of the three for 30 euro’s or paying a further 8 euro’s for all three and a further 8 euro’s for a meal. So to recap visit all 3 places and have a meal worked out at 46 euro’s
We chose CustomerTravel.es and paid for the lot and having done it, I can say it was the right decision, mainly because if you opted out of one of the places, you would have to sit on the coach and wait for everyone for about 45 minutes. Same with the meal, we were taken to a restaurant where there were no other restaurants to buy anything, they did sell snacks. Most people on the trip paid the extra in the end.
Going on a tour in December has a drawback and plus’s. The drawback is that few people are interested and tour companies such as the one we went on had to pick up people as far as Puerto Del Carmen which took and 1hour and 15 minutes to pick up 24 of us. The plus was that less people get in the way from other tours and less on ours. Pickup time was 8.55 and we returned about 17.30
So here we go, the guide spoke in English and Spanish, as there was a Spanish couple aboard.
On the left of the picture is the lava fields created in 1730-36 by several Volcanos erupting and destroying villages and crops, a quarter of the Island was covered in Lava and this area is still untouched. This is the only road in and out of Playa Blanca, so quite a long way round to Puerto Del Carmen
After collecting 21 other people from Puerto Del Carmen and another from Port Calero, I can't believe how big Puerto Del Carmen has grown, someone described it as Blackpool but can't recall Blackpool being this big, I noticed from the coach, the tabacconists displayed better exchange rates on their boards than Playa Blanca :o
The first place we visited was free and it is a place dedicated to the people of Lanzarote and their people's culture and survival, in the earlier days there were no water sources on the island and many inhabitants died of thirst
So where I am standing is looking over a museum and the area
and on the base of statue, Lanzarotes' equivalent of our "Angel of the North". There is a farmer, a dog, a goat and a camel portrayed, made up of box parts depicting boat parts which symbolises how in the old days, it's people stored their water in any container they could get their hands on
Its not the place I would normally visit but it was free
each room showed part of the Island's culture, like this room containing a weaving loom
I have other rooms
But this one to me was worth the visit, now what's this meet up all about
after visiting all the rooms, we went downstairs to an underground restaurant, built under the lava
Mrs Db thought the restaurant might be a bit expensive for us
anyway I think I was first waiting at the coach
With everyone back in the coach, the rep went on to say, "Now we are going on to visit the home of Cesar Manrique. Manrigue suggested that in order to maintain the look of the Island, houses should not be built above two storeys high and that all house windows and doors by the sea should be painted blue and all inland houses should be green doors to blend with nature"
Manrique was born in Arrecife in 1919, moved to Paris and New York to study but had the urge to return to Lanzarote in 1968. He was a well respected man, who tried to convert the people into working with nature using the resources of the island. I would describe him as a modern artist with way out ideas
His house was built using five lava bubbles found in the lava fields, to enter his house it costs 8 euro’s which had been prepaid by us. It would appear that 8 euro’s seems to be the entrance fee for most sightseeing places on the island, including the National Park (which is included on the Southern tour)
The top floor was originally his bedroom and kitchen but has been converted into a museum showing how he used paints and canvases and old photos of him. I didn’t take any pictures, as it didn’t interest me, however, the hole in the floor did
Walking out the back, one can see the lava flow that had solidified
Going down the stairs into a hole in the lava, you can see the swimming pool he has built
Then down into a cave entrance
There is a small subterranean garden
then step into a cave hallway with lighting with a white painted floor
Which leads into the first bubble called the white room, don’t ask me why it was called that, the guide wasn’t with us
This is the advantage of going late in the year, less people
And if you are patient and wait a little, you can photograph the room empty
It does look quite good for a cave
Follow the white flooring out
and one enters into the second bubble called the red room
Well the room is white but the furniture is red
You could party here and no one would hear you
Step out of the red room which leads into another cave hallway,coming out to the swimming pool area
The place is well protected from the wind
The pool area has a table at one end
Following the pool around, one goes through another doorway which enters into the black room
There is a room converted into a gallery with hanging pictures that Manrique had painted, guarded by a security guard but I didn’t take any pictures and didn’t buy one
The gent’s loo had a pump to pump up water to the tap to wash your hands but he failed on the nature bit of the hand dryer, which was an electric blower.
Apparently Manrique stepped out in the road in 1993 and was not seen and run over
We were asked to be back at the coach at 11.40am but someone had to be 10 minutes late
So now, we would go to the highest point in Lanzarote for some photo shots, followed by a visit to the Valley of 1,000 Palms, something Delboy was looking forward to and were both freebies
Soon we were off into the mountains and at cloud level, a mist hung sinisterly over an army aircraft tracking site
It was at this point the guide told us about the history of the Lanzarote people, she called them Aborigines ( I thought they came from Australia, so looked it up) the people were referred to as Guanches, according to the guide they were conquered by the Nomans in 1400's. No battle took place, it was a sort of friendly takeover, however, the Normans built a castle telling the occupants if was for their safety. Once built, the Normans enslaved them all. Some fought with sticks and stones rather than become slaves and original population was reduced to as little as 250 of them. What did the Normans ever do for us
The people of Lanzarote are generally a lot taller than their Spansih counterparts and have bright blue eyes (a bit like the young girl who sold me the tickets
), I thought she was Scandinavian) and it is thought that they have Nordic origins but intermixing of the Islanders and mainland Spain is changing that.
Anyway I digress, as we approached the tallest point the cloud had passed
We pulled in to the highest point for some photos, it was a bit windy for me to risk getting near the edge, but a cracking view
alright, didn't have the courage to go right to the edge but the courage comes later
only a few minutes stop and there was another view over the otherside that was just too far to go, if I had that car and my own time I could have got there
someone lives here with this view
Now the guide told us that two weeks before we had come out it had rained an awful lot and the soil is so rich under the lava that plants are just waiting for the rain to shoot up making the island green. I have never seen it like this but lucky we picked the right weeks and not the two weeks before
So now back in the coach, we leave for the Valley of 1,000 Palm trees, the scenery was stunning from the coach window, see how green it is
These were brown trouser roads but well barriered, the guide had told us that the driver had some good news yesterday, as he had just passed his driving test
It could be Wales with sunshine
eventually coming into the Valley of 1,000 Palm trees
a lot of rich people live here and according to the guide, the coach driver did, mainly on his tips
The story is, that the people who live here in Haria, plant a Palm tree everytime a son is born, she did add that they planted two trees for every female but I think that was wishful thinking
There are now only 4000 odd trees remaining and there is a 6000 euro fine for anybody damaging them. So I thought thats odd thats 3000 more than the name. Anyway looking it up, two Palm trees were planted for every boy and one for a girl
It is thought that this took place in the 17th and 18th century as a reaction against pirates that more or less destroyed trees everything in the 1570's
The guide asked, does everyone wish to eat and we were then taken over the hill to a restaurant
This place was obviously geared up to take several full coach loads in the summer, but today there was only us
It was a help yourself buffet and one could go around as many times as one liked
for 8 euro's prepaid
etc, at least 12 trays worth and more
don't touch that Paella Mrs Db, till I got a shot of it
Mrs Db had got hers, the free wine was IMO cr#p
afterwards, I couldn't wait to get outside, as the backdrop was wonderful
not much to say really, but to take it all in
this I was enjoying
a last one before we get into the coach
Then it was back over the hill, through the village of the Palms but we didn't stop, not sure if we were late or whether the restaurant stop was considered the stop, a lttle disappointed but i have this shot (a bit blurred) apparently this is the village were Manrique is buried. I later looked up that the Valley of Palms is the mountain area not just the village, so we did get the stop at the restaurant area
Then it was on to to the Green Caves, could Delboy get round the mystery of the caves :o
so here we are at the Green Caves, made from the solidified lava flow
from this volcano in the distance, the lava is covered in greenery but ran down down into the sea
We went down a staircase cut out of the lava, this costs 8 euro's to go in (prepaid for by us), however, I guess that if you went independently by car you would have to have a guided tour, as it could be dangerous place unguided. I guess you would have to wait until there was enough people in a group.
We were all told to wait at the bottom before entering
At this point, the guide told us to watch our heads, as some parts of the cave were very narrow and to remove all sunglasses from your head, as they would get scratched.
so we started our entry with the guide leading us in
The daylight disappearing behind us
with just small rail sections to hold on to, another staircase spiralled down below
The guide gathered all 24 of us next to this rock, in the background the music from the film 2001 was playing when that strange rock appeared in the start of the film.
"This cave is called a lava tube",said the guide, "all that you see here, has been formed by the lava gouging out the rock on it's way to the sea"
It did look vast and impressive, all lit up, soon getting ones head through tiny spaces became apparent as it started to get narrow
In the next two photos you can see on the left of the picture a river of lava left as it hardened, and turned to stone
The inhabiants of the island, used to hid in these caves from pirates that regularly came ashore in the 18th century looking for slaves, not a good place to be was it, remember these towers at Playa Blanca and Fuerteventura used to warn the people of invading pirates
I digress, but it all fits in, here we were shown lava as it cooled still dripping from the ceiling
and the roof above showing another tube where the lava has pushed through
so now someway down the cave, the music changed to "mediveal monk" type singing, was there going to be a happening. We reached a wider area of the tube where there was a stage and chairs mysteriously placed around, as if we were all going to witness or listen to the keeper of the cave.
Further down, the cave went on into the distance, all still lit, we were all asked to take a seat.
"Now", said the guide, "what we have seen in the cave has been caused by the lava flow forcing its way through the ground on its journey to the sea, this is called a tube". "We will shortly be going to another level, where the lava forces its way up the volcano and this is called a vent". "Now there is a ledge we have to go up but don't worry the ledge is as wide as a bus". She went on to say, "I have to firstly say, there must be no talking, as we go upstairs, as it will ruin the acoustics". Delboy thinks at this point, "Acoustics, it's bl##dy monk's music and we are the only 24 in here","And no photographs, please" added the guide.
Delboy then said to Mrs Db, "did she say no photographs", "No, I didn't think she said that", Mrs Db replied. "That's good, as I purposely asked that girl in the travelshop if I could take photos everywhere and I was thinking at that time about the Manrique place not allow it, not the cave", I replied.
As we started our ascent up this ledge, the guide added what we were about to see, the Aborigines threw their dead over the side. Mrs Db muttered in a quiet voice," Oh charming", with the thought of skulls and skeletons at the bottom of a ravine.
"Ah was it considered a sacred burial ground" I thought. However, a snap for my sake.
"NO PICTURES PLEASE", in an authoritive voice, said the guide
bug#er she's blurred my picture :o Delboy was seething a bit, as we were beckoned to go to the right, away from the edge.
One lady attempted to go near the precipe
was dragged back like a naughty school girl and she didn't like it
"Now whispered the guide, you may look over the edge"
Bl##dy hell the sides went hundreds of feet down, I couldn't see the bottom from where I was standing. Just like a scene from an Indiana Jones movie
Now said the guide,"I am going to ask the girl in the party to throw this stone over the edge and I want the rest of you to count the number of seconds it takes to reach the bottom"
The stone was thrown over the edge and what followed, I can honestly say astounded all 24 of us
Now this must be kept a secret said the guide.
"If I crawl on my stomach near the edge, may I take a picture", I asked the guide. I was given the nod
We made our way following a dodgy looking pathway with hugh gaps at the side and made our way to the surface
I loved every minute of it and felt there was perhaps there was more to see but obviously not for the public, gosh it was bright outside
Soon it was the last stop the Jameos Del Agua to follow
Difficult to describe the Jameos Del Agua but its by the sea and it is a lake created and trapped by the lava solidifing when it reached the sea
It costs, yes 8 euro's and IMO probably the one to miss if you had only two of the venues to see but we are all different so it would be up to the individual
So it was down a staircase
It was a blue lagoon which contained millions of albino crabs that are completely blind
There was a restaurant each side of the lake to buy beer and snacks
Manrique was considering it for his home but decided to open it up to the public and continue living in his other home
I popped down into the loo via a stone staircase and there were three urinals, and above was a slit in the wall, I managed to peer through (yes I said peer)
, so out came the camera
Now this is the first time I have stood over a urinal and taken a picture, honest
anyway, after washing my hands, it was back upstairs to show Mrs Db
Whilst others below, were more interested in the crabs
as mentioned before, there were millions of them
sometimes the camera picked up the blue of the lake, other times it didn't
but changing the camera setting at this point, to sensitive, found the blue
at the other end of the lake, Manrique had built another swimming pool
It was strange, if you looked at it, one couldn't tell how deep it was, or if the water was on different levels which was impossible
however, one can sit down and relax by the pool
or go to the bar above for a beer and watch it all below
Then it was back to the coach, dropping the people to their resorts didn't seem to take too long
A lovely day and evening
now I must stop playing with those camera settings on the balcony
Well that was Delboy's impression of the Great North Run