Despite our best intentions, and the confusion about what time it is (Gerry’s phone thinks it is one hour later for some reason – and usually so does he!), we left the hotel at our now standard 11:00am. Today’s agenda is 1) hike the Caldera Blanca and 2) wine tasting at the Stratus Winery. First stop: Grocery store for a picnic lunch (bread, ham, cheese, water – all for a whopping 5 euros – cheapest meal we’ve had so far.)The Caldera Blanca hike is one of the two alternative hikes recommended by the ranger yesterday and which we checked out before driving on to Femés. We decided to drive a different route, from our hotel to the trailhead is probably at least a half an hour. Today, the road we took took us across the interior of the island, away from the major roads.
What a difference a road makes! Now we were seeing agricultural land in production – lots more green that we have seen elsewhere, neat farms with fields and rows delineated by the low stone walls we have seen everywhere, set up to prevent erosion and protect the plants from the wind. Lots of vineyards, plus fig trees and prickly pear.
I’ll digress a minute here to elaborate on the agriculture on the island, because it is unusual and a dominant part of the landscape. Remember I mentioned the black gravel I was seeing everywhere? We learned today that that gravel, which is volcanic, is important because the stones act like a sponge immediately soaking up any moisture – most likely morning dew, less likely, rain. Plants, like grape vines or fig trees, are planted down in a cone dug out of the gravel. The cone helps the moisture to funnel down towards the plant’s roots. Sometimes, as you look out over a field, all you see is the black gravel and the often semi-circular walls of stones at the top. Yet, below the surface, if you are looking from the right angle, you’ll see the green plant at the base of the conical hole.
The other interesting aspect I find about the agriculature here is, with the exception of the wine, we have seen no figs or prickly pears offered for eating! Gerry commented that it seems that the prickly pears here have the same status as mangoes in Puerto Rico: There are so many of them that they are often left to rot on the ground. I need to ask someone though. When I lived in Italy, we used to eat prickly pears and they’re delicious. I often dream of eating one again! Actually though, the reason the prickly pears are cultivated here is the cochineal beetles – the ones used to make a natural red dye. The beetles live on the prickly pear cacti. I know this used to be an industry here, but I am not sure it still is. Another question to ask.
So back to the day’s events – we were driving through this very pretty region of farms. Here too the beauty of the towns with their white houses becomes apparent. You can see them on the horizon, and they look so clean, so pristine in the sun light. Black, white, patches of green, and a blue sky – It makes a very appealing picture!
The Caldera Blanca hike trailhead is off a dirt road in the huge lava field from the most recent eruption. You have to drive quite carefully – the road is dotted with the sharp lava rocks and heaven forbid your car should go off the track! You’d need to replace all four tires!
We parked in the parking area, noting that there were about 7 other cars (we saw no more than 6 other people), and began our hike. The path is carved out of the lava, which here is lots of jagged rocks of all sizes. It is wicked-looking! At times we were walking below the level of the lava on either side, but most of the time it was about waist high. The path took us down into very low areas, where the lava rocks towered over us. It is hard, even with a picture to convey how big the rocks are. The field is so immense that though we could see the cones of two volcanoes (our destination) rising out of the lava, we couldn’t get any sense of how far away they were. (As it turns out – about a mile!)
Finally, we emerged at the base of the first cone. Now the ground abruptly changes from the huge rocks to red ash. It is so interesting to see how the lava flowed around the base of this volcano, creating an island. The hike took us around the northern side of the cone to where the walls had collapsed allowing us to look, and walk, right into the caldera. Moving on, we began to walk up the outside of the cone, but we realized that the marked path actually took us around at ground level, again passing through the lava flow that passed between this cone and the Caldera Blanca (a separate mountain).
There is evidence of human use of this desolate landscape: Pens built by the piling up the stones, and lots of animal bones, probably goats or sheep, as if they were slaughtered and eaten here. We have also seen the ruins of house-like structures: Probably all this was abandoned when the area became a natural park.
Up the side of the Caldera Blanca, finally! The path skirts the outside of the cone, so the slope is gentle and the climb not strenuous. At the top: WOW! We’re looking down into the largest volcano crater on the island. It is amazing up there. The bottom of the crater has a star apttern created by the erosion of the sides. The wind pushes the clouds across the sky, creating immense patterns of light and shade to race across the the panorama. The colors and the view change as the light changes; like a kaleidescope, it is mesmerizing. And, the perfect place to stop and eat of picnic!
Gerry, of course, was a nervous wreck on the rim of the crater. Though he is not afraid of heights himself, he is afraid for everyone else. “Betsy, not so close to the edge!” (The edge is a good 20 feet away. Even I have a healthy respect for the precipitousness of the drop from the edge! The gravel underfoot doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence either. It is easy to imagine yourself sliding right over the e
We had our picnic – bread, ham and cheese tastes wonderful after two hours of walking in the sun – and then headed back, worried about our 4:00pm appointment at the winery. This time we walked over the lava flow between the two craters…picking our way carefully as this was not the “official” path. Boy, the way back seemed long! Especially the section (one mile) through the lava.
Back at the car, our time worry proved to be pointless as it was just a bit after 3:00pm. We took our time and arrived at the winery about 15 minutes before the tour.
We enjoyed the tour! Our guide, Angeles (who to me looked like “the girl with the dragon tattoo”), spoke pretty poor English, but she was very knowledgable about her subject – so deciphering her English was not a problem. The Stratus winery is the most modern winery in Europe, making very good wines, without chemicals, thanks to technology. It was quite interesting even if nothing was actually happening while we visited. We also got to taste some of the wines – quite good – and we bought some, too. Some we’ll drink before we leave and some might actually make it home with us.
Our tour group, there were 5 of us, had 4 women from the US midwest! And, up until yesterday we hadn’t even met another American in Lanzarote.
For our evening entertainment we hoped to catch a legendary Lanzarote sunset. We drove from the winery to La Santa. What we saw there was an incredible headlands of lava rocks shaped by both the wind and the water into fantastic shapes. The breakers from the ocean crashed against the rocks sending the spray meters into the air and the sound was deafening. It was a lot of fun scrambling around in the rocks. In many places the water had collected in pools, often a bowl formed in the rock by erosion, and around the edges you could see (and even taste) the salt left behind by evaporation.
We watched the sunset in La Santa, but there wasn’t much to it. Instead, we focused on dinner in a little restaurant just off the plaza, and were home and in bed by 10.
There’s still more to read! Click here to keep going.