Postcard 1 from the Canaries – Lanzarote

The Country File weather forecast was predicting more rain, some snow and the occasional gale force wind so I decided to consult my phone and with a little help from Skyscanner I found a couple of flights, one to Tenerife and the other to Lanzarote and both were under £50 so, after a couple of messages to two sets of dear friends I realised I could see them all and enjoy some sunshine. So here I am in Lanzarote.

Colin and Sue are perfect hosts and we trigger great reminiscences buried deep in our memories. Some may have had a hint of embellishment (and sometimes none) but we have some outstanding evening meals with homegrown, recollected entertainment.

I tried to hire a car and there were none available until Friday and my plans are to go to Tenerife over the weekend so I’m a bit disappointed; however, after a coffee and a bit of a think I decide to hire a bike instead.

As I’m passing the car hire office where quite a queue had formed I heard the clerk telling them that he had nothing now until Monday. I felt their disappointment and was about to approach the bike hire people when the car hire man shouted, “Señor Layfield, I have good news, one of our clients has not arrived to pick up his car so it is yours if you want it.”

I must have looked surprised as he followed it with, “It is you/ It’s just that I thought I recognised you from earlier!” What a star, how could I refuse?

So, after a bit of form filling and a credit card assault I’m on my way out of town to do a walk that I’d spotted on some literature about the island. It’s about 10km (6miles) and there’s a fair amount of ‘up’ some of it on loose scree so I’m slightly apprehensive as the forecast is for 60 mph gusts and it’ll be stronger than that on the top.

The first 2km (1.25 miles) is through the lava fields so it’s tough going. It’s also hard on the eyes as pumice dust sandpapers my eyeballs and the strong sun combine to create a forehead tension that’s anything but enjoyable. Between the latter and the chronic pounding of ankles and feet on the lava rocks, I’m wondering whether this is going to be as enjoyable as I thought.

By the time I get to the base of the volcano I’ve more than had enough and the new track up the cone is a relief in terms of being cobble free; however, it replaces that with incline.

I check the Outdooractive Map and it gives me no indication which is the route ‘up’ – or vice versa – so I spend a little bit of time analysing the routes and coming to the conclusion that I really needed to get to one of points part way up the steep cuts to see what the general consensus is with the walkers ahead of me.

It’s a bit of a scramble but well worth while and I opt for clockwise which I believe is the ‘natural’ choice that most people make.

/*ForInfo – I’ve read that the way to get the best rides with the least waiting is to adopt the opposite approach when walking around amusement parks like Disney etc because the majority will naturally turn left when they pass through the gate.

The walk up the flank is variously easy, then hard, and then scramble. The scramble bit is not what I want and reminds me of a day on Haystacks with the lovely Kathy who is my eighty-year-old (and a bit!) dear friend and inspiration when I struggle.

I arrive at the top well out of breath but thrilled and begin the walk along the edge against the wind which is coming in gusts and impossible to predict. It’s now I realise that the trek up the flank was in the lee of the volcano and I was protected from the wind (plus, the scramble towards the top probably exercised my mind rather more than any breeze). The gusts are coming irregularly so there is no chance of preparation; however, there is no danger of falling off the mountain as there is a fair amount of flat before the crater but that does nothing for my quickening heart rate.

The track is well-defined and at least there is no pumice scraping my eyeballs but there are plenty of tears due to the strength of the wind making them water in buckets. I head towards a fellow walker who I’d seen earlier on the scree. He’s much younger than me and hadn’t needed the short recovery period that I had chosen to take when we reached the top so he is now a couple of hundred metres in front but then he stops and looks back. I realise that he’s waiting for me and put a bit of a spurt on to catch him up and when I reach him he says, “I think we’ll go down together”. As I look down the track I can see he’s clearly thinking of me. His hand gesture indicates the track and it’s steep! It also seems to be a lot further down than when I came up.

My new found ‘carer’ has what I think is a German accent but I later discover he’s Austrian and he’s clearly a man of thoughtful generosity who is extremely helpful towards fellow walkers as we’re joined by a Spanish lady who adopts a similar compassionate approach.

I’d like to take a second to explore how other nationalities know I’m English. There’s no possibility of me wearing a Union Jack vest and I hadn’t spoken until I responded to him. It’s a mystery and begs the question, what ‘look’ is English?

The wind is howling over the edge and we all have to shout to be heard. Ana (now that’s a good name for a leader when conditions are taxing- what do you think Otto?) Ana points to a fork that will take us behind some large, I mean really huge, stones. It’s a little further but much safer and she gets a nod from both of us. I still struggle with heights although I have got better over the years so our adopted route is a godsend. When we get behind the rocks we’re shielded from the wind too so I’m a happy bunny.

The rest of the descent is high but on a track that’s as good as the ones on the North York Moors and whilst it’s a long way up, foot fall is on solid ground so we make good progress. At the bottom Ana and I take a short break and our new friend says his goodbyes then thanks us and is gone.

As we pick our way back through the lava field Ana tells me that she’d picked up that he was Austrian but didn’t know his name.

Walking back with company is wonderful and seems to shorten the trek.

Back at the cars about a dozen trekkers are gathered sharing their walk in as many languages but where a bridging language is necessary, it’s English, and I now wonder if the greeting etc that I spoke of earlier is not to do with guessing a nationality but more to the utility value of English as a bridge. Who knows…

Feel free to share for the ‘Armchair Ramblers’ who can’t now get about.

Love G x

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