The Cactus Garden in Guatiza

If you think that after climbing around the Rofera rocks, or walking through the market in Teguise, or maybe running around a volcanic crater would knock us out for a six, then yes, you would be absolutely right! After all, we’re not so young anymore wink-wink. We were really pooped so we headed back to our holiday appartment, and guess what, the driver, yours truly, left the highway one exit too early. This meant driving through one or two villages hoping to get see a sign that said “yay, you are nearly home”. None of that! So just as we were contemplating to make a u-turn and go all the way back to the highway, we saw a huge, big huge, eight metres high huge, metal cactus thingy on the side of the road, and a windmill sort of behind it. Wow! Stop! Yes, the brakes were slammed on (easy when you’re driving like a snail heehee) and we found somewhere to park…in a muddy puddle of water, but hey, whatever. We first walked around the outside of the fenced-in park “just to take a photo of two of the windmill” but then that “curiosity-killed-the-cat” thing got hold of us so we paid and went in. Suddenly there were no tired feet nor big teary yawnings, instead just open-mouthed awe at what greeted us behind the entrance. Cacti in all shapes and sizes!

The Jardín de Cactus is worth a visit for cactus lovers and also if, like us, you appreciate the works of Lanzarote’s very own, and internationally renowned artist, the late César Manrique. This garden was apparently the very last landscape masterpiece he created in 1991, the year before he tragically died in a car accident.

One can argue about it being too small or boring, or about the price of the entrance fee, but come on, there are at least one thousand different species of cacti from all over the world in there. Some are pretty, others a bit ugly and there are strange ones too, and this is what makes it all the more interesting.

Oh, and the singing birds, the fishies, the juicy cactus fruit and again, the windmill.

Then there’s the amazing César touch to be found all over, some quite naughty…oops!

 

 

 

 

Castillo de Santa Bárbara

Not long after we left the rock formations of Rofera, we saw this imposing building sitting on an extinct volcano. You simply cannot miss it. We did not think that it was a tourist attraction as we did not have any information about it, but meandering through the busy market in the historical town of Teguise, you look up, and there it is. We decided that it was worth a visit for after when the market closed. We wanted to walk all the way up, but the heavy and dark clouds were threatening to burst, again, and besides who wants to still exert themselves after eating some delicious ice-cream. We went up by car. Good choice when the weather is not so good, and bad choice because parking space was precarious and non-existant due to so many visitors. We were very lucky though. Just as the right front wheel of the car started dangling over the “cliff” a car right in front of us moved out and we quickly slipped into the parking space. Whew! The passenger could breathe again and there would be no need for a helicopter to lift the car out of the crater.

The Castillo de Santa Bárbara (Saint Barbara Castle) was built as a fortress to ward off danger especially when pirates kept on attacking the island. It also served as a refuge for the locals during hostile invasions. As mentioned before, it sits on the rim of a crater in an extinct volcano, the Mt. Guanapay. It is really worth a visit, especially for the views.

 

 

 

The entrance is via a draw-bridge and not free of charge. We only had an hour before closing time so we whoosh-whooshed through the stone hallways, getting lost too, but we managed to find the exit to the top…

 

 

One could argue if it is worth spending a few euros each per person to enter the castle as there is not much to see inside other than a small pirate museum that would interest children more. Oh, okay, so maybe some adults too, but the only way to get up to the top to enjoy the vast views is to pay an entrance fee to the museum.

 

After they closed up, we decided to walk around the crater. It was bigger than we expected so we panicked…well, one of us did, because…what if they close the road and we were not able to get out. Hmmm…Anyway, we climbed, we trotted, we ran, we got wet. Yep, it started drizzling. When we were about halfway through, they boomed on the megaphone…don’t know what, but we took it that it was time to leave. No problem, we made it to the car, almost on all fours, but we made it. In retrospect it would have been better to walk around the castle and the crater instead of going inside. The views were just as amazing.

Teguise – Sunday is market day…

Lanzarote was probably named after an Italian seafarer, Lancelotto. The village of Teguise was named after Princess Teguise, who was the great-granddaughter of the aboriginal inhabitant and ruling king of the island when Lancelotto arrived. Teguise is one, if not, the oldest Spanish settlement of the Canary Islands and sits almost in the middle of the island, (east to west) yet only about ten kilometres from the coast. Every Sunday morning, Teguise hosts one of the biggest and important markets of the Canaries, where you can find lots of local crafts, ceramics, cheeses, wines and other interesting stuff, like freshly pressed cactus juice. When we were there, a local brass band played lovely music from Western movies. Unfortunately there are also lots of stalls selling cheap knock-offs and those “made-in-…” rubbish fabrics. Does not matter, because we were only interested in all the local products and experiencing the amazing and vibrating atmosphere at the market. We really enjoyed every single loud and crazy moment!

Below are photos of the entrance to the market, their lovely church, freshly pressed cactus juice and the biggest sweet potatoes we had ever seen.

The Church of our Lady of Guadalupe (Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe) dominates the town and is the tallest building in Teguise which can be seen from any vantage point. There’s a big square in front of the church, the Constitution Square (Plaza de la Constitución) with two bronze lion statues and sculpture of a dancer from the group Rancho de Pascuas.

The famous granary building, called the “cillas” (below – top left) was built in 1680 to store all the grains that the townsfolk were forced to tithe from their harvests once a year to the clergy. The building was renovated in the 1980’s.

Palm trees are plenty, and the typical white-washed facades which can be found all over the island.

“The Palacio de Marques is the oldest building on the island, dating back to 1455 when it was finally completed after a lengthy 32-year construction process.” quoted from the official website of Teguise. The government headquarters of Lanzarote for about two hundred and seventy years it’s now a wine and tapas bar (see below)

Oh, and when we thought that another storm was brewing, the thunder-clapping kind hahahaha, it was “only” this aerobatic squadron flying over…ooh, the noise!

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ps: The market opens at nine in the morning and closes five hours later. We arrived just a bit more than two hours before closing time so had lots of time to see all the stalls and visit some important historical buildings. As soon as the clock strikes two, they all start packing up and people leave the town. An hour later you’d wonder if there’s any life in the village, that’s how “dead” suddenly becomes. This was our opportunity to explore a bit more, especially as one could see the architecture much better!

 

 

Rofera de Teseguite

One of the most surprising things in life is when you come upon something you just never expected to see. This was one such moment when we were on our way to a Sunday market in Teguise.  Shortly after jumping off the LZ-1 main road and before reaching the nearby village Teseguite, seemingly out of nowhere !whoa-what-is-that! there they were, strange yet amazing rock formations jutting out of the landscape. So we scree..ee..eeched to a halt and got out to explore. This was the only place we’d seen something like this in all the time we had been on the island. As Lanzarote is an island of volcanic origin, these rocks have apparently been, over many many years, been weathered down from volcanic cones…Maravilloso!

 

Don’t these below look regal and proud??

The whole landscape is in a sort of ravine, with this huge volcano (left) on one side

Nothing was too high or too “dangerous” to climb for a good photo…hmmm…

Punta Mujeres

Punta Mujeres is a pretty little village on the north-east cost on the island of Lanzarote. It does not seem to be overfilled with tourists as there are many locals living here. We rented a two-floor appartment with a huge rooftop terrace which could be reached from the main bedroom. The building had a sea view to the front and the volcano views at the back. One extinct volcano, the Monte Corona could be easily seen from here. Our neighbours were all locals, so we had very loud ones to our left and a charming old lady who loved talking to us on the right. The village is very lively and there are many restaurants to go to for some typical local food and conversation. Our Spanish is not great but we still manage to “talk” and laugh with everyone. There are also a few rock pools where everyone seemed to swim in, except us of course…no time…We found it easy and comfortable travelling to all interesting (for us) points on the island from Punta Mujeres, and it’s also not far from the main airport.

Here are a few photos of our appartment and view. The main bedroom and the view from the terrace, with our first sunrise and at the exact same time, a rainbow at the back. How is that for wonderful???

 

The “flora and fauna” were also interesting, especially the cats…oh, and does this white heron have green feet??

 

Lovely painted wall murals

 

Look closely and you will see the name of the village on the windmill. The clouds over the village looked scarier than they were.

 

 

Islas de Cies

Sunday, 5th of June and a trip to another island was on the cards. This time one more “wild” and “isolated” and only accessible via boat or ferry. The Cies Islands (Islas de Cies) is only a forty five minute ferry ride from the port of Vigo. If you intend to visit it, tickets should be booked in advance, either via internet or directly at the harbour. The reason for this is that only a certain number of people/humans are allowed on the island at any given time, so it says wherever you read up or ask about it. The reality, in our eyes, is somewhat different. We did the right thing and asked our hotel receptionist to pre-book our return ticket. We felt sooooo lucky to have gotten two places on the ferry. When we arrived at the harbour, we were amazed at the crowds waiting to embark. People en masse, with prams, cooler boxes, umbrellas and bags, lots and lots of bags (looked like an entire household had been packed). Yes, we did not expect the whole city to migrate to the best beach in the area, and most of all we did not expect thousands to be on an island that was declared a natural reserve in 1980 due to “the deterioration it was suffering by human activity”.

The ferry was packed to the brim, so one of us (the scared of living water one) sort of cowered in the corner nearest to the life-belts, while the other put his arms around her as assurance. The ferry ride was smooth and loud. No, not the engines, but the animated conversations all around us. We could call it excitement, but no, it is normal as Spanish is a very fast (zoom-zoom) language and mostly spoken out loud, which is so amazing. After disembarking, we decided to walk up to the highest point of the island, and so did almost everyone. It looked like everyone wanted to first check out the “scenery” before settling down on the beaches. The later it got, the emptier the walkways, the fuller the beaches. The island is beautiful, but not as “wild” as we expected as the paths, though very stoney at some parts, are all pre-determined. It is also possible to camp on the island.

Oh how happy and relieved we are that we made it up the zig-zig path all the way to the very top of Alto Montefaro. Okay, so it was only a climb of 175 metres, but a climb it was, and it was very hot, despite all the clouds!

The views from the top were amazing! We also walked to other interesting points on the island, but unfortunately did not manage to see everything the island had to offer, even though we were there for seven whole hours.

The flora here was quite interesting too. We think that we “discovered” an unusual orchid (the red one) but not so sure as there is no information to be found anywhere.

Beautiful natural rock formations which seems to be a popular photo setting for many. There are warning signs everywhere forbidding anyone to climb on them, but gee, who notices or reads these signs, or who cares! Every single person that came to this rock (even children were pulled up) seemed to have one reason and one reason only, and that is to take a photo of themselves standing in or near the “hole”. We had to wait for ages to take these photos sans people.

The island also boasts a huge colony of seagulls and at the moment they are all in the middle of their breeding season. There were many chicks to be seen. It is not difficult to spot them, but when you hear a sudden shriek or bird “roar” near to you, then you just happened upon a mother sitting on her chicks. She is warning you to either stay away, or to be careful…See how one of the mother’s giving us the eye 😀

Apart from these two lovebirds in the first photo, it was the saddest drama that we’ve ever experienced. On our way to another viewing point, we passed these two lovely little chicks who were, on loud instructions from mama, cowering in the corner of the rock. When we returned about thirty minutes later, we noticed that the mother was making “distressing” noises. We also noticed that one chick was missing. Then we saw it in the brush below. The poor little mite must have slipped off the rock. The mother kept on encouraging it to climb back up, at the same time also making sure that her other chick stays put in the corner. As the chick seemed to have nearly reached the top, a sudden whoosh and another seagull grabbed the little one by the neck. OMG! The mother attacked back with all her fury and thankfully her other baby squeezed itself into the corner and was safe. We saw this sly seagull and thought it was the father sitting there and “doing nothing”. By the way, all photos were taken with a zoom lens, so we were not invading any seagull “space”.

Apart from seagulls there were also many lizards sunning themselves on the rocks. Most were tiny black ones, and these green ones were bigger and shyer.

All in all a very happy day, with sore feet and tired legs. Believe it or not, but we walked a total of 12,3 kilometres!

Isla de La Toja

Saturday, the 4th of June: The sun was shining, again, and it was going to be another hot day in Vigo. Hmmm, we could just laze on the beach and burn ourselves to crunchy crisps, or visit the Toja Island. Imagine us lazing on a beach and doing nothing for a day. Hahaha! Not going to happen…The island is about an hour’s drive from Vigo where the highways are almost empty, which could be due to the “geez-another-one” toll gates (ka-ching!) After crossing the bridge and entering the island, we were amazed at how quiet it was. Quiet meaning no crowds, no circling block after block and praying for a parking space. We only left our car standing after numerous checks that it was okay to park there, and that it was really free.

This is a very unusual church and to some the only attraction to be found here. It is called Ermita de San Sebastián, and if you look closely, you will see that the whole facade, really everything, is covered in local sea-shells!! It is such a pity that people do not have respect for such beauty, because most of the shells on the bottom half of the church have names and graffiti on them. The church is situated in a small park which also boasts a playing ground for children and very large rose trees…

This promenade covers only about a third of the island and found near to the fancy hotels.

We also walked off the beaten track, more along the water’s edge. Here you can see the bridge in the distance, and the town of O Grove, the one nearest to the island. There were lots of fish to be seen in the crystal clear water, but unfortunately nothing near the couple in the photo…They did not seem to have a care in the world anyway…

The rest of the island with it’s beautiful gardens and walkways. La Toja seems to be quite an “exclusive” island for the rich and famous of Galicia, or other Spaniards. You notice this by the swanky houses and the high security, who patrol in and around every corner, so behave 😉  Seriously though, this is a place where we could easily retire too, it’s just so beautiful! …and suitable for and “old” couple like us. We could play golf and tennis, swim, fish, hike, ride the island choo-choo or simply just get pushed around…Perfect!

The trees are all huge, some are eucalyptus, and lovely to sit under and have a picnic. There are also various types of flowers to be seen.

Donkeys on Isla de la Toja, Galicia, Spain

…and not forgetting the fauna…uhm…these two donkeys were the only animals, other than barking dogs and chirping birds that we had seen…oh, and fish…

This was taken when we got back to Vigo. Nooooo…we only walked around for hours on end, exactly 8.4 kilometres in total (some-one has an app) so we were not tired…ZZzzZZ that’s why we still had some energy left to explore our very own beach…the one in front of our hotel…and look for somewhere to eat…