FUERTEVENTURA 3rd-12th Jan 2015

FUERTEVENTURA 12th Jan

On my way down to the harbour for the ferry to Lobos I came upon more signs that the surfing community are work shy. What is it about the enjoyment of that particular element that makes it so militant in its urging that we all drop out. You don’t get that kind of rhetoric from climbers or hang gliders. I don’t know about pyromaniacs.

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Anyway if no one works, whose gonna grow your food dude.
Came across a nice guy busking with his sand sculptures.

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In the harbour a man who I’d seen collecting rubbish was throwing loads of bread rolls to the fish which were plentiful and big.

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A busy harbour with the ferries to Lanzarote, sports fishing boats, sailing boats and some with glass bottoms.

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I nearly missed my boat to the island because as the time for departure arrived I was standing on the quay next to the Los Lobos vessel as featured on the info, waving at the English walking group id met yesterday who were about to depart on, as it happens, a glass bottomed boat when the crew started to gesticulate for me to join them. I guess there’s not enough people around for both operators to be running so they doubled up.
15 mins later I was heading off on the very last little bit of the GR 131 on Fuerteventura, and it turned out to be a microcosm of it, with a volcano, sand and resilient people.

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My first little detour was to see the salt pans that had been built in the 50’s just before refrigeration made them redundant for preservation. Big clay lined stone walled ponds for evaporation and then crystallisation. Clever stuff but actually nothing compared to what had been going on for century’s on this little dry volcanic lump of land.
The inhabitants had been utilising whatever resources they had to grow barley, wheat and lentils on mass. In other irrigated bits of volcano they grew hemp and flax for rope, they had an industry of salt production and , of course, lime.

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Hard to imagine in a landscape like this.
I learnt about a few of the wild plants growing in specialised environments and photographed a lot but no room on this posting. There were a lot of Euphorbia Balsamifera and I got their sticky sap all over me.

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At the northern end was the lighthouse that marked the end of the trail but a loop took me around in a circuit.

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After passing saltmarches and little shelters and camps I suspect the surfers of making I came up some giant pebble steps to the tiny El Puertito.

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A strange little place with fancy modern wood clad restaurant which was shut and a collection of little houses.

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Back around to the little harbour with enough time to visit the information centre and get some.
On the return voyage I went below decks to marvel at the wonders of the undersea world but I couldn’t really see any.

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Quick turnaround to the Lanzarote ferry had me over here by 3.30 but still to late to pull out of town to find a place to sleep rough in. There was only one thing for it.

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FUERTEVENTURA 11th Jan

Coming down from my hilltop eyrie in the soft dawn light, listening ,fittingly to Sigur Ross as I crossed the lava fields, I looked across the stone walled fields to the mountains beyond and thought I could be home in Western Ireland.

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Moving down the trail I passed more signs of recent settlers. Some nice new traditional style and modern looking buildings with Adobe walls and clay and straw roofs, unpainted and blending in to the colours of the surrounding landscape. Well tended plots and more windmills and solar panels. I guess the’re off the grid out there. An English horsebox, smart stables and fine looking horses next to a sign advertising Finca Julie riding centre. Right next door another sign for an Eco Farm and the standard collection of buildings, vans and growing spaces. I wondered what drew them to this particular spot. If you feel the urge to leave it all behind there is a parcel available.

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Here’s the number to call.
When I got to the road on the approach to Lajares I discovered a mini suburb of shacks and sheds, caravans and vans and a couple of converted shipping containers on what looked to the unfamiliar eye to be waste ground. A call to the wild without much cash ?
Or maybe devoted surfers, there’s certainly plenty of the vibe around. Surf schools, boards, wet suits and branded clothing- it’s all here. And the posters, signs and bumper stickers exhorting you to give it all up to the ocean.
Next door to the Clean Ocean Project
Which looked like it did positive work promoting clean seas, and selling surf gear was the estate agent…FreeLifeFuerteventura – Property and Life.

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A good looking bar cafe restaurant gallery on the way out of town was definitely tuned to the lifestyle and it did look attractive but I’m here to walk so I turned my back on it all and gave myself an additional big climb by detouring up a volcano to see the crater.
The sun which had been sulking behind clouds all morning briefly came out to light the scene.

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At the top the view was too wide to be able to do justice with my phone.

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I was joined at the top by a group of English retiree hikers, one of whom was 86. It gives you hope.
So it was nearly all dirt road walking today and mostly cloudy. In fact even a little bit of hesitant drizzle.
The lava landscape was quite interesting and there was another caldera right next to the road ( could have saved some legwork).

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The final approach into Corralejo was a bit dispiriting. I had a view of Lobos ,the little island I hike around tomorrow, behind an empty expanse of failed development dreams.

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So that’s Fuerteventura from end to end. I apologise to anyone reading this looking for a route guide. There are two forms of rambling, and I do both.

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FUERTEVENTURA jan10th

Today was a long(28km) day but a good one. I learnt somethings about the settlers on the land , both historical and recent.
I left the shelter where the table displayed the graffiti of “Misty Mountain Man who had walked all the islands in Jan 2012, and carried on across the stony plain as the sun rose behind the mountains to the east.
On the outskirts of Tefia I came upon an intact old windmill.

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A sign told me about the reservoir made here in 1946, the biggest on the island, when they also brought in 30 families to la parcelas. Each family was given a house, 2hectares of land, water rights and some money for farm machinery. They mostly grew cereals but also veg and alfalfa and corn for animal fodder. I don’t know if it was drought or the lure of the city but nearly all left in the 50s and 60s for the capital or Gran Canaria.
A little further on was the Ecomuseum, something like Bunratty folk park, but these looked like restored original houses of the parcels colony. The land around the buildings displayed the old wells and reservoirs, clay topped haystacks, eras, the circular threshing floors and many other facets of husbandry that you probably don’t want to know about. I’ve got a thing about old style husbandry.

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On through Tefia where I had been hoping to get water for the days walk but the restaurant mentioned in my guide was shut and for sale. Now you can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need.
So, carrying on a couple of km I find the Happy Plant Nursery with a stranded ship of the desert outside.


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I called in to ask for water and following voices past beautiful flowers and plants in a dazzling array of colours after all the mute sand I found the owners in a big shaded growing area. Originally from Wales, they had set up about 15 years ago. We had a good long chat about many things husbandry related and I realised it wasn’t just water I needed. I hadn’t had a conversation for a week.

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After perhaps another 6 or 7 kms and a long gradual climb I found what Paddy Dillon describes as a “curious dwelling”.
Or rather a collection of structures with lots of covered spaces and shading. I stopped for a drink and snack and a lady with an English accent asked if I was ok. So we had a chat (I’m getting giddy by this stage). German couple living there making art and wine. She told me that there had been a lot of rain in December. Full of talk I hiked on to Tindaya with its sacred mountain and yoga centre.

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I think it looks a little like Ireland’s sacred mountain Croagh Patrick.
I stopped here for cafe and tortilla in Diana’s cafe and what do you know….pictures of the lady Di on the walls and Andrew Mortons biog on display.
On to la Olivia where the smart southern suburbs had designer villas that kept their trees warm in fashion.

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Into town, meal in bar with cards and football and shouting men then out through the less well off area with cars on blocks and broken windows.
The road turned to track that made its way into the islands most recent lava field ,10,000 years old. A chaotic jumble of moss and lichen covered rock in many places dug out and planted with prickly pear.

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As I gained height and left civilisation behind I came upon more signs of blow in colonies. Finished and unfinished home build projects, caravans and trucks, veggy plots and a young couple with a child on pony back.
Good luck to them all I say as I make myself at home in what I’m assured is the last trail shelter.

FUERTEVENTURA 9th Jan

There must be some glum faces on the sun worshipers of the Costa today and slim pickings for the lounger rental crew. The cloud was fairly thick and threatening, in fact it was shedding its load somewhere because there was a rainbow ahead of me as I mounted the crest of the mountain above Betancuria to reach Corral de Guize at 588mts. There’s a statue up there of Guise and Ayose,the last Guanche chieftains.

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Pretty rugged looking guys. I’d say the Norman conquistadores had their work cut out.
From there I could see the flat plains I’d be crossing to the north with Montana Bermeja rising solitary from them, where I was planning to spend the night in the last trail shelter I knew of.
A long but gradual descent brought me down and out of the Betancuria Natural Park and onto Tarmac all the way into Valle de Santa Ines where I stopped for breakfast.
I was joined by a large (what’s the collective word for cyclists ?) Lycra of German spokespeople. It’s a very popular sport/ hobby in Spain and I have often been amazed to see them pumping their way to mountain tops. They probably feel the same way when they see me doing it without the benefit of wheels.
Leaving the cafe I passed by more barking, chained dogs. It seems each house in Spain is obliged to have at least three, even if they are the kind of breed that would normally live in a D and G tote bag in Beverly Hills.

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This kind of cable drum kennel is popular canine real estate here with a plank removed from the inner circle offering secluded bedroom accommodation and also allowing for an outside covered porch surrounding the property.
Whilst on the subject, not long after I spent awhile walking past a much needed development of 60’s Americana Flinstone houses on big plots, most of which are, unbelievably, still available.

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Quick going on the flat, but as I moved along I became aware of something slightly amiss with my right heel. You become highly attuned to any nuance when reliant on shoe comfort for getting you there.

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This poor sole hadn’t made it.
When looking back over the distances travelled by foot I always get an amazing sense of power that motorised transport never supplies.
Onwards across the stony flatlands open and isolated again. For some bizzare reason the shallow barrancos have been used as bottle dumps and the occasional floodwaters had carried them twinkling far into the distance. It may be something to do with the last farm I passed whose main crop seemed to rubbish, which covered a few acres. Not the sort of view us Eco walkers want. He also has 3 horses (what do they eat) that have supplied the dung that attracts the flies that are the only downside to my accommodation.

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Facing west away from the wind, with a sea view, what’s not to like? In fact the sun’s come out, they’ll be smiling on the Costa and there’s still time for the lounger crew to earn a few euro.

FUERTEVENTURA 8th part2

I discovered that my last posting was missing a section from the end for some unfathomable reason. One false move of a stubby finger over a tiny but sensitive control pad can wreak havoc. So I’m having another go before I hit the trail.

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The track down to the ancient capital city, founded by Normans (didn’t know that they were in these parts) was tranquil after the exposed ridge above and I was able to admire the crops of prickly pear and agave or aloe.
There was also some almonds blossoming already.

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Aloe Vera is a big deal here and there were many products for sale in the tourist souvenir shops. The coaches and rental cars come to admire the restored old stone buildings and I was lucky to meet Tomas, who had restored and converted his old sheds into accommodation.

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And so to bed.
But I’ve lain abed too long. The cosy nest has delayed me.
Vamos !

FUERTEVENTURA 8th Jan

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It was a journey into the green and lush (by comparison) interior today. I left the pretty and well kept village of Pajara down a wide barranco past acres of shade netted veg plots. Another contrast to home where we need poly tunnels to increase the heat.
Back out past the shelter id had to abandon last night and on up into the hills. These were the best built and managed trails so far. The local council must be very track proud and have a few euros to spend on them because they were pristine. Not a rock out of place. Wooden bridges across the barrancos, stone and cement gullies to take away flood waters and a neatly built stone wall running along side. As we climbed higher there were even sections where they had cut steps out of the rock.

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There were abandoned terraces high into the mountains, though not as high as yesterday where they reached 500mt.
The bug seemed to have gone and it felt like I was starting to get “track fit”. The pack felt manageable and I was walking to my musics beat. ( thanks for the sounds Bill and Sarah.) When hiking these mountains nothing gets me up like Donna Summer (ahem , showing my age there) and Fat Freddys Drop has got me down safe.
So good walking up and over coming down into a valley of palms and windmill water pumps.

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On the flat for awhile with easy going past old mule driven well pumps (actually haven’t seen any donkeys or mules, maybe they were people powered)
Into Vega de Rio Palmas where the Virgin Mary appeared in 1497 and to where pilgrims come to her shrine from all over the island on the 3rd Saturday of September.
I don’t know if it’s the presence of all the water or the Virgin Mary but the area seemed quite prosperous. The town has a fine church and square with covered bandstand, nice cactus gardens and fine clay oven,like a lot of the houses around.
After the easy stretch came another long and steep climb eventually leading through what passes for a forest in these parts.

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Down to an area recreativa where I was tempted to stay the night after the exertions of the climb but it was too early and the no camping signs put me off. So on upwards till cresting a ridge I was hit full on by the howling northeasterly. Fine views across the northern half of the island but a slog to the peak and down the other side and a relief to turn westwards again towards Betancurria now looking close below.

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Tranquil again I was able to admire the crops of prickly pear and aloe, a big crop here with a multitude of aloe Vera produce for sale especially in souvenir shops of which there were plenty in Betancurria, the ancient capital created by the Normans. Lots of historic old buildings , one humble one I’m in tonight. I met a lovely man , Tomas , who has converted his sheds into original style accommodation.

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And so to bed.

FUERTEVENTURA 7th Jan part2

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Sitting pretty at this stage.

As I gazed out over strange rounded bare hills toward Pajara I could see some examples of the modern Canaries way of hanging on to water that runs off the hills. Big diggered ponds that now were mostly empty. There must have been a lot of rain at some point recently though as the track has been washed out a number of times. In fact, unfortunately the formation of the track has sometimes created a run for the water and it has become a deep gully that is best avoided.
A lot of effort is made to hold on to as much water as possible whereas I have recently been spending a fair bit of time trying to get rid of it. Ah well, the grass is always greener, and it doesn’t get any greener than at home in Ireland.
Amazingly FUERTEVENTURA used to export a lot of grain and was known as “The bread basket of the Canaries”
Hard to believe now in this parched landscape. I’ve walked past some fine examples of how they did it back in the day.

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Another reminder of home I’ve seen on the trail a few times is limekilns. Next to grain it was the biggest export from the 16th century till the 60s.
It might not interest you but I’ve got a bit of a thing about limekilns and recently drove half way across Ireland to see one working.
You may or may not find it fascinating to discover that the small rural domestic kilns were fired on gorse. No gorse around here now and the kiln I explored was full of goat carcases.
So after climbing through some dramatic mountains

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I arrived at Pajara intending to move on to the next trail shelter for the night. It was not to be.
As I hiked up the barranco out of town I had a nagging feeling i was making a bad choice. I thought it was because a comfy room would be nice or because I wanted more wifi (it’s getting compulsive) but I overrided such thoughts as I wanted to push on further.
Luckily it was only about 5 km to the shelter because as I got there I was struck down suddenly, and fairly violently by what i can only describe with any decently as a “tummy upset”.
So I had to make my way back to the village as quick as i could in case of a repeat performance, to freshen up.
Lesson learnt… Listen to your inner voice.
An angel of mercy at the full Casa rural found a room for me and a taxi to get there, and as I got in the cab…it started to rain and was no night to be sleeping out in roofless shelter.
So was my intuition about the tummy upset or was it about the rain? Or was the tummy upset sent by a higher power to get me out of the rain because I hadn’t listened the first time?
We’ll never know.