Walking on the Moon

I don’t know how to suck eggs and my grandmothers have long since shuffled off this mortal coil so its not my intention to teach them or anybody else this mystical art, but I’ll start with a little history.

The Canary islands are volcanic and in the 1730s a number of eruptions hit Lanzarote. A large area of the island was covered in lava and ash which destroyed swathes of countryside. A century or so later, the inhabitants now reconciled to the changes wrought to their island, there was a recurrence. The area most affected now forms Timanfaya National Park.

Timanfaya is an other-worldly landscape. Predominantly grey but with streaks of ochre, red, orange and yellow, the rocks are sharp and jagged as two or three hundred years is too short a time for much erosion to have happened. Rock sizes vary from heaps of car sized razor edged boulders in higgledy-piggledy heaps to the so called ash (picon in the local parlance) made up of match-head sized grit that covers everything for miles. The rocks are pockmarked with bubbles, like carbonised Aero.

Near the entrance to the Park is an excellent – and free – visitor centre. Models, simulations, explanatory display boards, multimedia presentations, sound recordings etc. abound and we spent quite a while wandering round, with me forgetting as much as I learned. The simulated eruption, held in a small underground room with lava walls, lots of red lights, a hint of the ground shaking and booming speakers was perhaps a little underwhelming, but modern audiences with their acquaintance with VR, CGI and so forth must be hard to satisfy.

Nature is reclaiming the area: bushes and other small plants that like the conditions have appeared and colonise patches of hillside, insects and birds can be seen – allegedly – and an occasional palm braves it out on the skyline.

After an hour or so at the Centro de Visitantes, we drove a few kilometres to the Park entrance where we joined a long queue of cars. Visitors are actively discouraged from wandering around: this is, I guess, on both environmental and safety grounds. It would be virtually impossible to make progress over the rocky terrain without lacerating hands, knees and soles. Besides, plastic bottles,crisp packets and soiled baby nappies – for example – would rather spoil the effect. The queue of cars moved relatively efficiently and we were moved up the tarmac road at a reasonable rate in 10 car clumps until we reached the car park.

The circular restaurant is on the top of a small rise and features lots of glass giving good panoramic views of the lunar landscape. Outside, staff give demonstrations of the subterranean heat, pouring buckets of water down boreholes and being rewarded by geysers of boiling water and steam shooting fifty feet or more into the air. Others throw straw into pits and fill the air with smoke, whilst one area is dedicated to grilling food for the restaurant. The price of entry to the Park includes a circular bus trip: this was good, but the number of people and reflection from the windows made photography difficult.

I don’t want to sound like a Trip Advisor review, but I’d definitely recommend a trip to Timanfaya.


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