Part of being on holiday is relaxing and today was a chill out day. After breakfast we wandered round the pool looking for some sun beds that hadn’t already been nabbed by the early morning towel brigade. Luckily, as it’s out of season and the hotel is by no means full, we managed to find two beds in a quiet corner by a little pool with tinkling fountains and a fringe of umbrella plants. We set out our blue towels and Commando settled down to sunbathe.
Being blonde I’m not quite as big on the sunbathing, although I don’t mind a little as long as I’m slathered in sun cream, so I chose the bed slightly shaded by a tall palm. There were some canopies and comfy chairs nearby too. At first I couldn’t settle and, looking around, I noticed a little archway and wondered where it led so I got up to explore. I found a small labyrinth of narrow alleys bounded by brown black stone walls some toilets and changing rooms, which was handy, and a small courtyard with palms, bougainvillea, banana plants and an old wooden cart decorated with bright red and pink geraniums, delightful. Crossing the courtyard I came out into a games area dominated by a giant chessboard.
Retracing my steps I decided to have a little walk along the beach that we’d seen the night we arrived. In front of the hotel the beach is a mass of huge igneous boulders, black, ochre and deep red, where tiny pools have formed. The sand along the shoreline is black and gritty as I knew it would be but, further up the beach, it changes to pale gold, flecked with black as if someone has sprinkled it with pepper. Across the bay I could see the marina where Commando went running last night. He said it was filled with little shops and restaurants.
After picking up the obligatory interesting stone or two for my stone jar at home I wandered back towards the hotel. Grand Melia Salinas was designed by none other than César Manrique, the first hotel in Costa Teguise, the little town grew up around it. Having seen his house I now understand the concept, inside the huge atrium is made up of three circular gardens, just like larva bubbles, filled with tropical plants climbing their way up towards the skylights. The gardens are wound through with paths, pools, little bridges and running water just begging to be explored. There will be photos at some point I promise. Outside the gardens are also wound through with paths and bridges, tall palms and tropical plants. Strolling through the outside gardens I stopped to take pictures of the hibiscus, some tiny pink starbursts of flowers growing on low succulents beside the paths and some unidentified orange trumpets on a small shrub.
After my little exploration I stripped down to my bikini, slathered myself with the obligatory ton of sun cream and sat in the dappled shade of the palm with my iPad to finish writing about yesterday’s adventure. Lets face it, it isn’t often I get to spend the day doing nothing other than laying about writing so I guess I deserve it.
So, back to yesterday. We’d had our tour of Taro de Tahiche and a little sit in the cafe with our cafe con leche and a chocolate muffin. It was time to leave. When we had walked past the ever changing coloured mobile and were back out on the road again, Commando said, “are you sure you don’t want to get a taxi back?” I didn’t hesitate for a second, I wanted to walk, not just to work off the wholemeal croissants and the chocolate muffin either. Walking I knew I could get a better view of the volcanic landscape and maybe a photo or two of the mobile on the roundabout. This turned out to be a brilliant plan.
Out in the car park, Tahiche had one final gift before we left. A huge white stone mobile, all triangles turning in the wind. Then it was off down the road, walking on a narrow strip of Tarmac towards the roundabout. The sculpture stands in a circle of black gravel on a two tired round podium made of the black rock. It is a thing of beauty, a column of wire spheres within spheres, the little dishes, like satellites or moons orbiting this way and that. On the triangular island leading from the roundabout a domed house, reminiscent of an igloo in negative had me wondering about its purpose. Behind it another tower of wire spheres moved with the ever present Lanzarote wind.
The distant line of volcanoes were a reminder of how this island came into being and of the turmoil going on beneath our feet. Below us, under a thin crust, the magma flows and boils. As we walked the volcano in front of us grew ever larger, looming above the little village of white buildings. “I’m not sure I would want to live right under that,” Commando said and I agreed. I suppose the people who do don’t think about it much and, if they do, they must be fatalistic.
As we came closer we noticed that the pointed top of the mountain was flattened, evidence of the explosive power of the last eruption. The huge boulders we passed must have exploded out from there and rained down on the ground below. The little ridge at the base came into focus as layers of brown and black like the rings of a tree, each showing events that happened centuries ago. It seemed strange to see a bus stop right there beside this still active volcano.
When we got closer still there were steps leading up towards this ridge and we decided to explore. Why come all this way and not? The steps led to a fissure where a little island of rock had separated from the mountain leaving a wide canyon. When we looked we could see how the puzzle pieces fit together, the way the striations matched up, and it showed the amazing force of nature that had rent the two apart. Although my shoes were filled with the tiny, sharp red stones I carried on up the slope, fascinated by the stripes in the rock, particularly one black vein topped with a pale wavy line that showed how the earth had buckled and contorted when the volcano had erupted. On the horizon, the other peaks formed an unruly line stretching away into the distance and below the white buildings of the little town were like a cubist sculpture.
It wasn’t until we were on our way back down that we noticed the ring of boulders, too regular to have arrived there by accident. Commando clambered into the ring to have a closer look and, gingerly, I followed. The red gravel sloped down into a hole with a chunk of rock the size of a small car sitting in the centre. Commando climbed inside and, after putting my water bottle and my phone safely into my rucksack, I followed. I am not known for my mountain goat like agility, there have been incidents in the past, a memorable twisted ankle on a climb down the Atlas Mountains outside Marrakech. Commando, frowning, helped me down into the chasm.
This was a larva bubble, just like the ones Manrique had used to build his house. In one direction a dark cave had obviously been used by local youths as a hang out spot. Unfortunately, they hadn’t taken their litter home with them. Opposite, Commando had descended into a deep tunnel that seemed to go on and on. Maybe, if we’d been braver, we’d have gone deeper and found out if there were more bubbles or if it came out somewhere else but it seemed foolish to wander too far here in the middle of nowhere when no one knew where we were. This chance discovery put Manrique’s house into context and I’m so glad we decided to see where those steps led.
On our way back to the road a glint of white against the rock caught my eye. When I went to investigate there were bones. They looked like a very large bird, maybe a turkey or a very large gull, probably a meal for one of the people who’d been inside the bubble leaving litter. They took my mind back to the bones on the wall in Manrique’s house. We’d seen the house and now we’d seen the the raw material, the seed that had germinated into his idea.
We walked back to Teguise Playa contemplating all this. The wind kept us cool and, whenever we opened our water bottles to drink, it sang. What an amazing place this is, stark and barren on the surface but the closer you look the more signs of the tenacity of Mother Nature you see. Tiny succulents grow in sheltered crevices, cacti spring from the bare gravel. When you kick a pebble it skitters across the paving with a hollow, porous rattle like a dried pea and the wind sings.
Now, the sun is high in the sky, it’s shortly after midday and I’m getting too hot, so we’re going to leave our blue hotel towels Commando’s magazine and my Lanzarote guide on our sun beds and go off in search of food. I’ll be back later.
Commando wanted to explore the little marina and I must admit I liked the sound of that, so we made ourselves decent, and set off along the beach, sandals in hands. The soft golden sand was hot underfoot so we moved a little closer to the sea where the sand was damp, firm and, most importantly, cool. The beach was filled with people on sun beds, paddling in the sea, playing beach games and generally enjoying a beautiful sunny October day. Within less than a mile we’d reached the marina where lots of small boats seemed to be milling about rather aimlessly.
At first it was all Irish Bars and English pubs, full to overflowing with English tourists, which is really not our thing at all. We strolled to the end of the marina at a leisurely pace, making note of all the different eateries, on the lookout for something local or at least not British, glancing at all the tat filled souvenir emporia as we went. Personally, I prefer my souvenirs a little more tasteful, preferably locally crafted, not something with ‘made in china’ stamped on the bottom, then again, maybe I’m just a snob.
Eventually, having come full circle, taken some photos of the wooden windmill right on the edge of the water along the promenade, a pretty orange hibiscus to add to my collection and some curious wooden poles, splashed with orange and ochre paint we were back where we began. After a quick stop to take a photo of a fairly large catamaran bobbing about in the bay, we began to look around for somewhere to have coffee and maybe something to eat.
Bypassing the heaving British establishments once again and, slightly reluctantly, the frozen yogurt shop (maybe tomorrow) we settled on Nud d’Naplun, an Italian place. Not local but at least the coffee would be good and it looked so pretty with white and blue painted tables and pretty coloured napkins wrapped around the knives and forks and tied with purple string. There were little galvanised pots of herbs on each table.
The place was empty and we were served quickly by an Italian surfer dude type, pleasantly chatty and eager to please. We ordered a small margarita pizza to share and two coffees. Sipping our coffee, dubbed ‘the best I’ve had in Lanzarote’ by Commando we sat back and watched through the window as our pizza was made. I saw the chef knead the dough with my own eyes and the resulting pizza was delicious. I’m pretty sure they had cloned my iPod because every song was one I have on it, Jason Mraz, Adele…
Surfer dude came out to chat with us for a while when we asked for, ‘la cuenta por favor.’ It seemed such a shame that a wonderful little place like this should be so deserted but he assured me it was busy at night. He came from Milan and we talked for a bit about the unemployment problem in both Italy and England, especially for young men. I guess his solution was to come and live in Lanzarote.
After a wander back along the beach with a last, regretful look at the frozen yogurt shop, we spent the afternoon toasting ourselves beside the pool again. I confess I got a little pink around the edges despite the liberal application of sun cream but, thankfully the hotel shower gel and body lotion both contain aloe vera and now it’s time to go down to dinner the pink has turned a light golden brown.