Tag Archives: Salt

Lanzarote Day 6 – The Third Man(rique)

Wednesday 2 March 2022 – As yesterday, our plan was to explore more of the northern end of the island, ticking off tourist boxes as we went. That Manrique had a hand in much of the content of the day. It’s a tribute to the man’s vision, influence and energy that this will be the third day of exploring his works across the island.

So, to start: Jameos del Agua. The word “jameo” is of ancient island origin and refers to a hole that is produced as a result of the collapse of the roof of a volcanic tube. Jameos del Agua was the first Art, Culture and Tourism Center created by César Manrique, and it is the reflection of one of his creative pillars: the harmony between nature and artistic creation. The space includes a restaurant/nightclub, an underground lake, an auditorium and a pool; it’s quite a place, and a deservedly popular tourist attraction.  We thought it would be best to start the day here before it got too overwhelmed by bloody tourists.

Apart from the fact that it’s signposted from all over the island, the entrance is relatively easy to find.

After buying tickets, you go down stairs into the restaurant/nightclub part.

You can, if you wish, pause to stare down into the depths of one of the caves to some subterranean water.

There is a subterranean salt lake,

which is quite zen to stare at for a bit, accompanied by birdsong

provided by chaps like this.

In the water there is a unique and endemic species of squat lobster,  Munidopsis polymorpha, which is blind and albino.

The water is beautifully clear

and you can walk alongside it and look back along the tunnel from the other end.

After this zen experience, you emerge blinking to what looks like a swimming pool.  Well, it is a swimming pool, but, allegedly, only the King of Spain is allowed to swim in it.

The setting features a lone canary palm tree stretching over the water and several species of cactus (I won’t bore you with pictures – there are plenty of cacti shown later in this post).  At the far end is the entrance to the auditorium which is another zen sort of setting

which features several touches typical of Manrique, such as lobster door handles

and a remarkable light fitting (seen here reflected in the mirror which forms the back wall of the auditorium).

The auditorium section concluded our visit to this remarkable place.  Having been inspired about the aloe plant by our visit to Yaiza’s Aloe Museum, we thought it might then be interesting to visit an aloe plantation.  The company Lanzaloe has a showcase park near Orzola, at the northern tip of the island, where you can walk around and learn about the growing of the Aloe plant.  Quite large areas are given over to the plants. We’re not quite sure if they flower constantly, or if we were just luckily visiting in the right season, but the yellow flower spikes made quite a sight!

That the plants flourish in such numbers is due to a process labelled “fertigation”, which Lanzaloe are quick to explain is a natural and sustainable way of using composted aloe and goat manure, and vermiculture, to create an organic liquid that promotes growth.

The site also features some cute cacti

as well as some olive and argan trees.

After this visit, we decided that it would be a good idea to go for some lunch, erring slightly on the early side in the hope of avoiding full restaurants. We drove into Orzola and, mirabile dictu, found what looked like it might very well be a parking spot.  It was surrounded by blue lines, and we weren’t at first sure what this meant; but we found a sign which explained it all.

I find the self-reporting aspect of the parking rules to be rather amusing, and, indeed, somewhat charming.  Fortunately, Jane had pen and paper and so we were able to leave a note of our parking time on the dashboard and we set off into Orzola.  We didn’t get more than a few yards when we stumbled across La Nasa Restaurante El Norte, which looked to have tables available, so we went in and were very cheerfully and briskly served a decent fish lunch.  It was a nice lunch, but not a Nice Lunch, if you see what I mean – we were out in about an hour, but had dined quite well; Jane even had a parrot fish.  It repeated a bit on her later, but that’s another story.

Where we had parked was near the Orzola rocks, so we went for a wander among them to settle the lunch a bit.

Among all the lumpy bits of volcano which form the rocks is some actual sand-coloured sand, which is something I didn’t expect – I tend to expect black sand in such assertively volcanic places.  The ocean splashed pleasingly against the rocks, as you can see in the photo above.

Our next item, again inspired by the Yaiza Museum, was cochineal; slightly to the south is an area around the town of Mala which grows large amounts of prickly pears in order to harvest the cochineal beetles that infest them in order to create cochineal dye. We’d read about the Cochineal Museum in Mala, so thought we’d visit. Reader, we found the museum. It was closed.  It’s all a bit bizarre – there’s a building with “Museo de Cochinilla” in large friendly letters on the outside, but its doors are locked and there’s no reference to it on Google Maps.  If Google Maps says it doesn’t exist then it doesn’t exist – but there it was.  A Schrödinger situation if ever there was one.

It’s clear that the area is still one where prickly pears are grown in profusion

and the beetle infestation is clear to see.

Not all plantations are so well-organised, though.

Mala is also home to another of Lanzarote’s famed tourist attractions, and another Manrique creation – the Cactus Garden. Again, the entrance is difficult to miss

and, once inside, you realise that it does exactly what it says on the tin.

For those interested in cacti, there is an extraordinary variety in different shapes and sizes.

(I have several dozen other cactus photos, but I won’t bore you with them.)  The garden features several typical Manrique touches, such as cactus-shaped door handles

and some attractive features among the cacti.

There’s a coffee bar with a decent view over the garden, which also features a very Manrique staircase down towards the exit.

Our visit to the cactus garden over, we had just one more thing to see – the salt flats at Los Cocoteros, just along the road a bit.  As well as the salt production facility, the village has a “Piscina Natural”, a seawater swimming pool.  I took a video pan across it – it’s a bit noisy and shaky because of the wind, but I hope it gives some idea of the facility, which is filled with sea water coming in through a couple of large tubes at one end, and has a beach at the other.

The salt flats here are nowhere near as extensive as the Salinas de Janubio that we saw a few days ago, but there’s still  lot of area given over to salt production.

These are new salt flats – there’s also an area which was once given over to salt production but that seems to be disused now.

This left just one final box to tick, and it’s not really a tourist tick box, just something we passed on many occasions, including our original drive to the hotel from the airport, and wanted to take a photo of.  Doing this involved exiting the motorway and parking on the slip road with hazard lights flashing whilst I dashed across the road. But that sounds more perilous than it actually was.  Anyway, here’s the photo.

For me, these buildings have overtones of Binibeca Vell, the artificial fishing village-cum-resort on Menorca.  Whatever, they’re very appealing buildings and it occurred to me that one reason they’re attractive is that they’re different from the norm in Lazarote, which is angular and blocky, like below.

We have no idea what those buildings are, but their difference from the norm is striking. I think that’s why Teguise has such a different feel, too – the buildings have curves and angles that are not 90° and so feel refreshingly different.

That concluded our day; for once we had formed a plan and largely stuck to it, although the existence or not of the cochineal museum was a small diversion.

Accordingly, we have Done Lanzarote (Timanfaya bus ride excepted), which leaves us with a day to laze about, check in for our Friday flights and find a final Nice Lunch somewhere.  It’s been a full-on six days of relentless tourism and gale force winds and it’ll be nice to take it easy before we travel on to Gran Canaria.  Lanzarote has been a revelation and we’ve had a great time exploring it.  As I say, the adventure continues on Friday as we go to Gran Canaria, and I hope you want to check back in later to see what we make of the place.

Day 5 – What the fox that?

Saturday 3rd July, 2021.  One gets to be obsessed with the weather while on holiday in Iceland.  It’s not a conversation-easer like in England; here, it really matters.  The forecast for the day was hopeful.

but the reality was much better.

Ísafjörður looked lovely in the sunshine; and Jane pointed out that it also has an unusual-looking church. It seems to be a thing here.

We set off into the sunshine with a song in our hearts and a long day’s driving ahead.

Then we ran into the fog.

However, Dagur Had A Plan, and so took us up into the hills, where we could get some good views looking down on the clouds, which is always nice.

Today, we learned the proper Icelandic word for the “Valley Fog” that we’d first noticed yesterday. It’s called “dalalæða”; “dala” means valley, if my knowledge of Swedish is anything to go by.  This is a form of sea mist, but it’s pretty much unique to Iceland, as far as I can make out. Every so often for the rest of the day we entered a bank of mist, or it figured as part of the view.  So, for example, we stopped at an outdoor maritime museum at Bolungarvik, and could barely make it out through the mist.

But the mist also provided a lovely backdrop to a photo of Ísafjörður.

Our next stop was at a museum dedicated to the Icelandic Arctic Fox.  Officially, this is the same as arctic foxes found elsewhere; but an interesting information film gave the impression that actually the genetic makeup of most of the Iceland population is diverging from those elsewhere. It’s an appealing place

with coffee and cake if you want it, and several (stuffed) examples of foxes, such as this, which we judged to be the finest specimen on display.

Both Jane and I were under the impression that arctic foxes had a winter (white) coat, which changed into a summer (dark) coat.  It turns out that we were wrong; there are two “morphs”, white and blue, and while their coats may change a little in colour, it’s not the transformation that we’d previously thought.

And outside, in a large caged-off area, they have a real, live, fox.

Arctic fox cub

It’s just a pup; a Bambi fox, because apparently it’s parents were shot. It’s not known what its future holds, but for now, it is supremely cute.

Further cuteness was on display a short while later, as Dagur suddenly braked, turned round and went back along the road we’d come along.  It turned out that he’d spotted a lone seal on a rock, and so stopped and took some photos.

There is an “official” place to view seals a little further around the coast, so we stopped there; but one really needed binoculars to see the seals; my general-purpose lens could barely pick them out.

and my phone couldn’t do the scene justice, either.

(though, once again, this image is a tribute to the imaging power of modern phone cameras.  I could barely distinguish between seals and stones with the naked eye).

Shortly after this, we had a scenery stop at Rjukandi, where there’s a pretty cascade. But this is Iceland, so it’s not a real waterfall.  We did venture off-piste to try for a photo of three others.

I particularly wanted to capture this as a wonderful demonstration, suitable for any geography/geology lesson, of water’s power of erosion.

It was time for lunch, and serendipity stepped in at this point, as we were near a place where we could see a round of Vestfjarðavíkingurinn 2021, the Icelandic Strongest Man competition.

It was slightly surreal to see these large chaps congregating

and I was lucky enough to get a little video footage of a couple of the contestants

after which they came into the restaurant for lunch.

The commentator is a very big name in Iceland – Magnus Ver Magnusson, who won the World’s Strongest Man competition four times.

After this unusual lunch stop, we next visited Saltverk, a small factory producing some of Iceland’s (apparently) famous sea salt in a 100% sustainable fashion, based on a geothermal source at Sudureyri.

This heat is used to evaporate salt water taken from the sea from its normal salinity of around 3.5%, in stages, to around 28%, where the salt starts to separate out in its tanks and sink to the bottom, where it can be collected.

and then put into drying racks before being packaged up.

The salt is mixed with other ingredients such as thyme, or smoked, or sold untouched by further processing.

The rest of the day consisted of simply getting to our hotel, and thus completing a journey of over 350km.  The scarcity of towns and villages as we travelled underlines how isolated these parts of Iceland are, and goes some way to explaining why some places are struggling – the distances are too large for any kind of convenience in living.

We passed a couple of noteworthy buildings on our route to the hotel:  a house that looks more like a small castle (unoccupied definitely, and abandoned, it would seem);

and another for our informal collection of unusual church buildings – this one at Holmavik with rainbow steps.

And so here we are at our hotel, at Laugarbakki – a modern and quite imposing edifice, with, as we’ve now come to expect, very good food in the restaurant.  Jane had a salad which included unusual-coloured pea pods:

She didn’t eat it, of course, as she’s not a Purple Peapod Eater.

So here we are at the end of a varied day. We have a similarly mixed programme of things to look forward to tomorrow, so I’d be very glad if you were to come back and Read All About It then. For now, good night!