Tag Archives: Mountains

Gran Canaria day 3 – It all depends on your viewpoint

Sunday March 6 2022 – The day dawned with a great deal more sun in the sky and a great deal less wind in the air, which meant that the plan that Jane had formulated for the day looked a good’un. The idea was to hie ourselves swiftly down to the south of the island, taking up where we left off yesterday, and head up towards the central peak, taking in viewpoints and other items of interest on the way. As usual, we had a lot to get through.  As usual, we didn’t achieve it all. As usual, we had a lot of fun trying.

The journey down to the south of the island takes about 30 minutes, during which I managed to get almost entirely to grips with the cruise control on the Peugeot without, I’m glad to say, causing any accidents, at least none that I noticed. Having got back to Maspalomas, we headed northish to something that Jane had spotted on Google Maps, which was an aqueduct built out from the rocks, which looked like it might be quite interesting.  So we drove up to the point where the road became a track and then walked up the track.  It was so beautifully not windy that I could actually wear a hat as protection from the sun, which was obligingly shining fit to split any paving stones it happened upon. After a short walk, we saw the aqueduct, which  was indeed built out from the rock on to arches.

That was the thing we’d come to see, but whilst I was scrambling across the terrain to capture the photo from this particular angle, only getting lightly injured in the process, Jane had noticed that a little further up the track the aqueduct went across some further arches.  So we walked up and examined them, initially from a distance

and then decided that it might be possible to scramble up and take a look at the water course itself (Jane had seen a photo of water flowing along the aqueduct).  So, scramble we did, and we managed to get up to the arches, at which point we saw

that the water now flowed along a pipe rather than in an open channel.  While it makes a great deal of sense in terms of saving on evaporation and being more efficient, etc etc, it was a little disappointing to find.  However, getting up there enabled us to get a better view of the very enormous rock processing facility across the way,

and heading back down gave us some more photos of and through the arches.

On the way back down to the car, we noticed that there were some caves by the track.

We’re not sure of the provenance of them, but they look like they might have once housed people.

Our next stop was at a viewpoint a bit further up the into the hills, with the grand title of Mirador Astronómico de la Degollada de las Yeguas. It being a Sunday, and the mirador being up a twisty mountain road, it was very popular among the local biker population.

The use of “astronomic” in naming the viewpoint comes from its popularity for watching the stars – not like The Ivy or the Wolseley, I mean the night sky.  It apparently gets dark at night without getting cold, which makes it a good place to gaze at the heavens.

But even during the day, you get a pretty staggering view. It’s a huge panorama.

Our next stop was a necropolis.  Sorry about the focus on death here, but it can be interesting.  Just up the valley, near the village of Fataga, is the necropolis of Arteara.  This is not a vast and impressive spread like the one we saw yesterday or in Menorca, but we thought it worth investigating anyway.

There were signposts to the site, but it turned out that the necropolis itself is quite subtle and not at all easy to spot until you know what you’re looking for. There is a track of sorts, which leads you to a viewpoint

from which, an information board tells you, you can see many many tumuli (burial chambers) among the rocks.

No, we couldn’t spot them, either. However, once you know what you’re looking for, you  can begin to distinguish them.

There’s one pretty near the centre of the photo above – look for a hole in a pile of rocks.  Here’s what it looks like close to.

Bodies were laid out on cists (platform slabs) and then covered with more rocks.  The local reddish stone is easy to break up to be able to do this, we are told.  After a bit, you can see tumuli all over the place.

and you can begin to understand how it is that there are over 200 tumuli in total across the site.  Jane had seen some pictures of a neolithic cave network, but we couldn’t find that.  What we did find instead were some traditional beehives, constructed from the trunks of palm trees

and some very fine views over the area.

The palm trees are further evidence of the neolithic community that once lived here.

The nearby village of Fataga had a couple of restaurants and so we thought we’d try our luck at getting some lunch.  Remarkably, we were able (a) to park the car and (b) to get a table in a very busy restaurant called  El Albaricoque. They managed to fit us in and served us a decent lunch with, mirabile dictu, plenty of vegetables, a constituent that has largely been missing from most of the meals we’ve had here; and we’re of an age where getting one’s veg is almost as important as getting one’s Earl Grey tea.

The restaurant was next door to an art gallery which looked like it would have been fun to visit, had it not been Sunday and therefore closed.

Time was beginning to motor on by this stage and so we decided we’d better do the same, therefore ditching a couple of the optional sites to visit in favour of basically hightailing it back to the hotel across the middle of the island.  Since the middle of the island is a fucking great very substantial mountain, we had quite an intricate journey along roads that Jane is fond of calling “intestinal” – narrow, twisty and occasionally making one shit oneself. However, the route went through an attractive town called Santa Lucia, and I couldn’t resist stopping to take a few quick photos.

And as we wound (a very apposite description of the roads) our way towards home in the setting sun the light gave us some absolutely marvellous views along the way.

We arrived back at the hotel well after sunset, and, as ever not having quite hit all the targets we had originally planned.  But it’s been a good day and I managed those twisty roads without damaging the car in any obvious fashion, which is good.

Jane’s plan for the morrow involves going to the north of the island.  Hitherto, the weather in the north has not been brilliant, but the forecast for tomorrow is good, so we shall sleep well and optimistically tonight with the prospect of another good day tomorrow.  So please come back to these pages soon and take a look at how we get on.

Lanzarote, Day 2 – A Salt Course

Saturday February 26, 2022  – The hotel breakfast was the first opportunity we’d had for A Decent Cup Of Tea since 4am the previous day, so a couple of mugs of Twining’s finest Earl Grey were a welcome part of our breakfasts. We’ve brought a decent number of tea bags with us, and I think we’ll end up taking quite a few back with us, as the opportunities for cups of tea seem to be limited to breakfast time this week.

After breakfast and a short pause to work out whether the weather was going to be right for a day’s relentless tourism (it had rained pretty copiously overnight, it seemed), we decided to get out and get on with the gawping. This turned out to be the right decision, as it was a very good day, full of rewarding sights, or, as I think of them, photo opportunities.

Jane constructed a route based once again on the “Walking in Lanzarote” book, which, those of you who followed the link in yesterday’s effusion will know, suggests some driving tours as well as walks. Our first destination was El Golfo, which has a rugged coastline upon which waves regularly smash themselves, driven by a ceaseless and brisk wind.


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A short walk along a coastal path brings you to a view over a green lagoon, the Charco de los Clicos) .

The green colour comes from particular types of algae which grow there.

The next stop was a place called Las Salinas, which – the clue is in the name – is the site of very extensive salt pans. Very extensive.

It’s difficult to do justice to the place through photos, but it’s striking sight.

Our next stop was to be a volcano called El Cuervo, but en route via Femés, which gave an opportunity to visualise how windy the place is:


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we stopped to see a couple of interesting sights, such as a roundabout with huge camel statues on it.

This roundabout marks the start of an area called La Geria, which offers a striking insight into the local wine-growing, which is a significant part of Lanzarote’s industry.  Almost wherever we went, we could see the traditional near-circle walls constructed from lava rock.

Each circle surrounds a deep pit filled with lava gravel. A vine is planted in each circle. The walls offer protection from the north-easterly trade winds; and the gravel (because it’s volcanic and therefore somewhat porous) leads water into the soil to irrigate the vine. And you can see that the circles are extensive, stretching right up hillsides.  Interestingly, also on show was a more modern take on viniculture.

Straight walls are replacing the circles, and are more efficient because less wasteful of space, and also easier to harvest using mechanical aid.

Our route continued through a desolate, rocky landscape.

This is reminiscent of the lava fields we saw in Iceland; and, similarly, the only thing that can grow here appears to be a lichen.

Shortly thereafter we arrived at El Cuervo, a volcano which is worth a visit because you can actually walk into the crater.  It’s about a mile from the car park to the volcano, and you can walk around the whole of the outside of the volcano if you want.  But time was running short so we headed straight into the caldera,

which is quite impressive.

We made a note to visit a neighbouring volcano, called Caldera Colorada, because – again the clue is in the name – the rock is brightly coloured. However the light wasn’t going to be too favourable, hence it will be better to visit another day. However, we decided that we could make time to visit a wine museum, somewhat north of La Geria.

Exiting the La Geria area takes you through a village called Masdache, where the lava flow was of a different sort, pahoehoe lava, characterised by surface ripples created when molten lava flowed beneath the solidified outer crust. (The caldera at El Cuervo, by contrast, was built up from “spatter” – rocks thrown up during an eruption and settling back into a volcano-sized heap.)

And so it was that the El Grifo wine museum was our next stop.  El Grifo has been a site for wine making on Lanzarote since 1775 – it is the oldest working winery in the Canary Islands (and one of the ten oldest in Spain). The existence of the museum is down to our man César Manrique, who prevailed upon the owners to preserve old equipment and create the museum during modernisation.  It’s an interesting place to wander around.

There’s a cooperage display,

many different types of wine press

and I’m particularly pleased with this picture. It’s a corker!

(Yes, a machine for inserting corks, itself inserted into one of the old wine storage tanks.)

El Grifo also has quite a remarkable cactus garden.

Our final call en route back to the hotel was at the Monumento al Campesinos, a museum
dedicated to the island’s farming history,

and also the site of a substantial work by Manrique, the Monumento a la Fecundidads.

As well as the view (above) of the museum buildings, the Manrique work also gives a pleasingly zen view back towards the road.

With the light fading and the threat of rain in the air, we headed back to the hotel for a light bite or two and a gin or two.  Thus ended a surprisingly full day – very enjoyable and with a good overview of some of the key sights on the south of the island.  We haven’t worked out a full plan for tomorrow, so you’ll just have to check back and find out what we did, won’t you?

Day 10 – Caught in the wind, darling, and the reindeer

Thursday 8th July 2021. The Fosshotel Austfirðir continued to not particularly impress over breakfast. Slow replenishment of items on the buffet, and staff not seeming to be particularly keen on keeping the selection refreshed. I think this hotel is definitely suffering from the pandemic-induced shortage of trained staff in the hospitality industry – just like the UK, really. I’m sure things will improve in time (just like the UK, really); but it’s interesting that the Fosshotel in Myvatn managed to provide a decent service (despite clearly being short-staffed) whereas this one, well, didn’t. Anyway, nobody died and we got a decent breakfast, so we were well set up for the day.

Oh, I nearly forgot to provide the utterly essential comment on the weather outlook for the day. It was good. Sunny and warm. Better than at home, so yah boo.

Before we set off on the day’s travels, Jane and I decided to have a walk around Fáskrúðsfjörður, which is a small town, but not unattractive. The hotel itself is photogenic.

We came across an extraordinary hanging basket of flowers.

The pot was originally used a century ago to melt liver in the the local whale factory, and then for salting fish, just so you know.

Also intriguing were the street signs, which were all in both Icelandic and French.

Apparently the town was a centre for French sailors and fishermen, back in the Good Ol’ Herring Days, so this street-naming is a tribute to their history, and the hotel itself combines historic buildings previously made for French fishermen in the years between 1898-1907: the French hospital, the Doctor’s house, and the Chapel.

The town has a nice little church

and several other interestingly decorated buildings.

and I was able to get a decent reflection photo at the small harbour.

As with yesterday, churches would figure quite large in the day. The first town we passed through, Stöðvarfjörður, provided not one but two Interesting Churches for our collection. One is the old church, Kirkjubaer, now used as a guest house.

and from which you can see the new church,

which is quite a striking building.

Another feature of the town is “Petra’s Stone Collection“, which is a good example of how far short a name can fall in describing something. Petra Sveinsdottir collected stones and kept them in her house. You can go and see them. This is true, but doesn’t prepare you for the impact of the place.

There are literally tons of stone samples, from all over Iceland, which Petra personally collected over the many years of her life and which are now on display in the house – and the garden.

All of the outdoor stones have to be cleaned every year, which looks like it’s a massive task. As well, there are quirky items on show, such as this animal made from various odds and sods

It’s a magnificent tribute to a magnificent obsession – I commend her story to you. There are some very lovely things on display; Jane was very taken, for example, with this small but perfect piece.

Stone actually was a key factor at and en route to our next stop, just along the coast. Iceland provided some typically dramatic rocky scenery as we went.

We stopped along the side of Berufjörður to look at an unusual geological sight – “Green Rock” (the Google Maps description, not mine; I would have sought something a little less literal and a little more, well, intriguing).

Whatever the key mineral was – we never found out – there was plenty lying around on the beach.

The next stop was a waterfall. Well, it’s a while since I showed you a waterfall photo, so here you go:

This waterfall is set on the river Fossá, and is one of several along the river. I suppose that’s why the river is basically called “waterfall”. Anyway, it’s a nice sight, worth a few minutes to set up the long-exposure shot.

By this stage, the idea of lunch was beginning to appeal, so we stopped in Djúpivogur. Before we could eat, though, there was another Interesting Church to add to our collection.

as well as a very striking artwork along the edge of the harbour called “Eggin í Gleðivík” (“The Eggs of Merry Bay”).

This is an artwork by the popular Icelandic visual artist, Sigurður Guðmundsson. There are 34 eggs, each representing a local bird.

We had a nice lunch in Hotel Framtid (“Hotel Future”), in the dining room which seemed more like someone’s living room from the past – very homely and comforting.

The rest of the afternoon was spent staggering about in whistling gales around a kind of “East and West” matched pair of mountains, Eystrahorn

and Vestrahorn.

We spent a lot of time scrambling around and trying to keep our balance in the windy conditions to take several different views of Vestrahorn, but actually the first one I took, above, with the lupins, is the one I like most. Note the “Batman” rocks to the right of the picture:

Also on offer to the unwary tourist at Vestrahorn is a visit to a “Viking Village”. This was actually a film set for a film about Vikings to be directed by one Baltasar Kormákur, who is a recognised Hollywood director and was briefly related to our guide Dagur until his (allegedly frequent) philandering caused a marital split. Anyway, we trudged over towards it

only to find that the years of neglect (we don’t think it was ever used) have taken their toll and it’s rather dilapidated.

There’s evidence of the nice touches that were used, for example the authentic-looking carving around the doors.

so I guess it was worth the visit, but only just; it could really do with a lot of maintenance if they wish to charge the entry fee they do.

As we exited the Vestrahorn site, Jane suddenly asked Dagur, urgently, to stop. Her sharp eyes had spotted something that’s quite rare in Iceland these days – wild reindeer.

It was good to see these creatures just pottering about without being spooked by anyone and it was a nice end to the day’s relentless tourism. All that was left was to get to a nearby town called Höfn and check into our hotel, imaginatively called the Hotel Höfn. We had an agreeable evening meal, with good service from a waiter called Philip, from Prague, whom we learnt has spent the last five summers working in Iceland whilst he studies for his degree in International Relations. Whatever that entails (other than talking to foreigners…)

We are now in South-eastern Iceland, officially in the southern region, and distinguishing features of the area are mountains and glaciers. Tomorrow we are promised a ride on a Zodiac RIB and a glacial lake, which is either going to be fascinating and fun or freezing cold and wet. Tune in tomorrow to find out how it worked out, eh?