We stayed for a week in Puerto del Rosario, known until 1956 as Puerto de Cabras (The Port of Goats – where we enjoyed the best goat cheese and stew). It was our first encounter with the authentic life in the Canaries, as although this is the capital of the island, tourism is not at home here.
We had such a fantastic time wandering around the beautiful town and the neighbouring beaches. Two hundred statues sprinkled around and the colourful graffiti gave this port town a gay spirit and to the visitor a sense of discovery at every turn.
It was interesting to find out from Jose B, who works at the Tourist Information Office (and had an obvious passion for the Islands), that eleven out of the two hundred sculptures were the creation of a Romanian artist from Targu Mures.
One day, rambling on the sea shore and talking pictures of the omnipresent lime kilns Sorin says to me: “Come! There is a big lizard on the rock.” In a controlled manner, I rushed in that direction to hear him saying with surprise “Oh no, it is a squirrel!”. In the leaflet picked up from the Tourist Information Centre there was a mention to squirrels living on the island, but who would have imagined they would be living on the sea shore, sheltered amongst the volcanic rocks?! The cute rodents were as daring as the ones in Hyde Park and did not hesitate coming our way, surely in search for some treats…We had none!
We visited the ‘Casa Museo Unamuno’ commemorating Miguel de Unamuno’ (Spanish writer and philosopher) stay in Fuerteventura while in exile in 1923. Away from the hustle and bustle of civilisation, the author’ short stay on the island represented an opportunity for reflection and self discovery. During his time in Fuerteventura, Unamuno fell in love with the place and its inhabitants (not strongly enough though not to move on to Paris after three month!..). He celebrated Fuerteventura’s unspoiled beauty through his poems in the book of sonnets ‘From Fuerteventura to Paris’. As the author beautifully puts it, Fuerteventura was an oasis of purified waters that rendered his spirit stronger, enabling him to continue his travels through “the desert of civilisation”.
The only drawback of this anchorage was the inaccessibility of water. Understandably though as the the eastern islands are dependent on desalinisation plants for their water supply.
After a week we moved south on to Grand Tarajal, on the east cost of Fuerteventura. As we were progressing down the coast the scenery became more and more dramatic – high steep dark brown rocky shores. Since the wind was still strong and the anchorage in the bay was not well protected we went into the marina.
The usual chores and a day trip to Las Playtas. We had passed Las Playtas on our way down and it looked pretty enticing from the water. To get there we had to cross a few mountain picks. On the way we ‘met’ the goats (the goat seems to be a national symbol on the island) and saw an aquatic vulture that rocketed down with its body parallel to the horizon but swivelled at 90 degrees. Hard to picture it, I know, but I never seen a bird flying like that before!
It was worth the seven kilometres walk up and down the rocky mountains (and the few blisters) to get there. Las Playtas, a small fishing village, is a conglomerate of white dwellings; most in a valley and a few nestled on the rocks surrounding the small bay and its black sandy beaches. To the west of the valley there is a large fitness resort, popular with professional sports teams in training.
After two nights in Gran Tarajal we progressed south, with Moro Jable as our final destination in Fuerteventura. On the way we had our first ‘opportunity’ to be exposed to a wind acceleration zone. This is where wind funnels around and between the islands, increasing the forecasted wind strength by up to 25 knots in a matter of 200 metres. A sailor would appreciate that this is a lot…It is like the difference between a comfortable drive on the motorway and being in a rollercoaster!
Being aware of the existence of this zones in the Canaries, before leaving the marina in Gran Tarajal Sorin asked me how much sail to have out. As ever, we ended up with a compromise!
As we left Grand Tarajal, the wind was just right for a comfortable sail. I was contemplating the beauty of the surroundings and telling myself how that was really paradise on earth, the sails started flapping. Hmmm, this was an indication that the wind either changed direction or died. The latter was the case… so we had no choice than to start up the engine. With no warning whatsoever of what was to follow…
Within minutes the wind picked up and suddenly the change in the sea state was pretty dramatic. White crests everywhere. Ups! We did take advantage to turn the engine off, being only powered by the reffed in main sail. But even with one riff in the sail the wind seemed to be too strong, gusting up to 30 knots. The waves were breaking over spotless Mehalah, after Sorin had spent almost a day cleaning the mini salt/dust mountains that had formed on the hull, and to some extent on the rigging. So much work done for nothing!…
After about 90 minutes, as we turned the corner at Faro del Matorral the wind dropped again – to a comfortable level this time. The scenery changed too. From our experience, we imagined that Fuerteventura is so not touristy – an oasis of unspoiled landscape. For most of it this holds. But not on the south coast! Here the holiday resorts with the specific agglomeration and buzz abound.
We anchored on the east side of Moro Jable Marina, where there were two cruising boats anchored and plenty of catamarans with tourists for the day.
The first night was a struggle for both of us. We were tired and I doubt we did not sleep at all, but we must have woken up enough times to feel that we didn’t have any sleep…Not an encouraging experience when the plan was to be there for just under a week (when the weather would permit a safe passage to Tenerife).
The following day we had a chat debating the option of going in the nearby marina for the remaining period. We both agreed that we better toughen up, as the prospect of spending the rest of our voyage hopping in and out of marinas would be unsustainable.
This happened in the morning when the wind had dropped, but soon after it picked up again, bashing us about. By late afternoon we were warned out. Since no one was responding on the phone and the VHF radio, Sorin jumped in the dinghy (even that was a struggle given the rolling seas) and made his way to the marina to ask for a berth. Sadly there wasn’t one available…Sorin had to use his charm (in this case more his theatrical and linguistic capabilities!) to persuade the Harbour Master that I was sea sick, etc. and he must help us. It worked in the end! Sorin was offered a spot for an overnight stay in an auxiliary marina on a pontoon with no water or electricity. ‘The second interval’ was to follow the next day when we went to the marina office with the paperwork. In the end, we managed to obtain a stay for another three nights.
Tomorrow we are off to Tenerife (in one go or with an overnight stop in Gran Canaria) where we will be meeting Sorin’ s parents.