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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Languid Lanzarote

We had a ripping sail from Mohammedia to the Canaries.  With 15-20 knots of wind on the aft quarter Bandit just raced along at a consistent 6-7knots.  We were thrilled that she seemed to grow legs on her first ocean passage and she was very comfortable.
The tiny port on Graciosa





Graciosa

Graciosa is the smallest and northernmost of the Canary Islands and a weary crew anchored there just on sunset, poured a huge Dark and Stormy, had a bowl of hot soup then bed.  After a solid 10 hours sleep we were off to explore the main town of Caleta del Sebo….a tiny settlement on a tiny island.  No roads here just a few sandy tracks serviced by(t)rusty Land Rover taxis.  What a magical place but unfortunately, there was no room for us in the marina.  The friendly port police let us tie up on the ferry dock for a few hours so we had a quick look around…..but could have easily stayed longer.
Grape growing Lanzarote style


Another rip roaring sail around to  Costa Teguise, about halfway down the east coast of Lanzarote.  Anchored in a small harbour but it was a rolly and miserable night as the swell crept in and Bandit did her utmost to stop us from sleeping.  We were off at first light and with winds gusting down off the mountains it was a vigorous sail to Rubicon marina at the bottom of the island.  We had gusts of 30knots at times so pleased we had reefed the main, but we seemed to be constantly reefing the genoa – out, in, out in….but made fast progress.
Lanzarote vineyard and house


Great to get into a marina and have internet (to update blog), supermarkets (fresh food) and catch up with fellow cruisers….including a good few Kiwis. 

Lanzarote looked intriguing from the sea so we hired a car to explore the interior.  What a place!  With recent (1800s) volcanic activity the entire island is a pockmarked lunar-like landscape – piles of red and black scoria, amazing rock formations and of course dozens of craters and volcanic peaks.
View from a volcano on Lanzarote

We stopped at a winery, fascinated to see hardy vines growing in the scoria surrounded by rocks.  We learnt that the vines are planted in volcanic ash and receive enough moisture from overnight dew to survive.  Yields are low but the wines we tried were simply delicious.

In the very north of the island is Mirador del Rio – an amazing spot sculpted into the rock by local artist Cezar Manrique, who is responsible for much of the astonishing architecture on the island.  Mirador sits at the top of a sheer 300m bluff and its huge windows overlook Graciosa, providing stunning views.  Carved into the volcanic rock in a sympathetic way, the spot is not visible from Graciosa – we had sailed right underneath it and not seen it!
The amazing Mirador del Rio


Cesar Manrique house






Intrigued by this Cezar Manrique we simply had to visit his house which is these days a museum and monument to his vision.  It is truly amazing – all carved into the rock and totally in keeping with the landscape, it includes water features, rooms with amazing picture windows and some fairly astonishing architecture.  Manrique’s touch is visible throughout Lanzarote.


Amazing mosiac
As is typical of Spanish architecture, houses on Lanzarote are low rise and painted white.  Gardens are sparse with palm trees, cactus and geraniums the only noticeable plants.  The volcanic soils in parts are fertile and crops are grown, but only a tiny fraction of the island is cultivated.
The west coast is reminiscent of Ireland’s rugged west coast – and with a big Atlantic swell running in it made for spectacular viewing.

Naturally we avoided the horrid holiday resorts along the east coast – we accidentally drove into one and, as soon as we saw the Irish pubs and English breakfast signs out, realised our mistake and got out of there fast.  Luckily for us, the swarms of holidaying English and German tend not to leave their resorts leaving the rest of the island free for us to explore!  

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