Gracious Living

Lanzarote seems to pride itself on its suitability for cycling and arrangements for cyclists. I’m not a great cyclist at the best of times, despite briefly acting as Minutes Secretary for Highland Cycle Campaign last year, and I wouldn’t fancy cycling round the island. True, there’s not a lot of traffic and we drivers are encouraged to look out for our two-wheeled friends, slow down in their vicinity and try to avoid forcing them onto the thorn bushes, jagged lava or cactii that line the twisty roads. Even so, being a cyclist here must be a challenge: all the aforementioned risks, along with what seems a constant breeze (always against you when cycling, I seem to recall) and plenty of hills.

Today, Mrs M and I drove to Orzola in the north of the island and took the ferry to La Graciosa, a small island nearby. According to Jimmy Wales the population is 681, 679 of whom live in the island’s only settlement Caleta de Sebo. He remains silent as to the whereabouts of the remaining two inhabitants.

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Caleta de Sebo

The crossing took half an hour and was very pleasant. We had, no doubt romantically, imagined a tiny boat skippered by a taciturn Graciosero, who stood squinting gnomically with half-closed eyes over the foam-capped waves, fine tuning the set of the outboard with one hand and holding the dog end of a tarry fag or bottle of some unnamed local spirit in the other. What we got was a slick smart modern passenger ferry, one half of a pair that criss-crossed the intervening sound on a regular basis. This was a relief to Sonia, who can be subject to sea-sickness.

In a similar vein, the village was more substantial than we expected: true, the shops were small and carried limited stock, the roads formed of sandy potholed concrete, the inhabitants mostly uncommunicative, but there was more commercial bustle than we had imagined. There is, however, almost no traffic apart from a handful of minibuses that transfer visitors around. When the ferry berthed, we debouched onto the island and headed straight into a nearby cafe for coffee / tea.

By the time that was over, the bike hire shop was totally depleted but, despite the lack of any helpful hints from the woman in the shop, we found a second place hidden away in a back street and headed into the hinterland.

What small amount of traffic there is is limited to 30kmph, though it does tend to raise quite a bit of dust as it passes. We passed a few diggers and other heavy construction machines apparently making a new road: I hope this will not lead to another Playa Blanca or similar. Sonia noticed information about the local wildlife and is optimistic that the powers that be will take the route of ecotourism rather than grabbing the quick buck that kills the goose with the golden egg laying habit.

Half an hour’s cycle took us to Playa de las Conchas: I had feared it would be all shells and rather uncomfortable to walk on, but what we found was a glorious bay of lovely pristine sand: true, there were quite a few people but the beach was large enough to absorb them and still leave a feeling of emptiness. The wind of the last few days seemed to have dropped, so the crossing and cycle had been pleasant and being on the beach was a delight.

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La Playa de las Conchas

After a wee while, I left Sonia sunbathing and nipped up a nearby hill. It was only 150m high, so the round trip didn’t take long. The less than lofty eminence is called La Montana Bermeja, the last being a new word for ‘red’. New to me, that is.

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From the top of La Montana Bermeja

After cycling back to the village, we tucked into langoustines in the cafe and then took the last ferry back to our waiting hired car. The journey back was uneventful and I managed to negotiate all the roundabouts without danger to life, limb or sanity.

We have had some very enjoyable days here, but in many ways this been the best so far.

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