The Bubbles and the Buttocks
Stella (cruise co-ordinator) joins us on each excursion and is there with helpful advice and to make sure the carefully orchestrated enrichment programme runs smoothly. Today she introduces us to our effusive guide and it takes me 30 mins to decide that he’s good fun rather than in need of a straitjacket. We were about to explore Tyterogaka (thought to be used by natives because of the islands predominantly ochre colour) but most know it as Lanzarote. Our visit to the Timanfaya National Park gave us a literally hands on encounter with the geothermal activity that still persists from the currently dormant volcano. Just a shovel depth down a few lava pebbles placed in your hand are far too hot to handle for more than a second or two. Then we saw straw thrust below the surface which, in seconds, burst into flames. Perhaps the most spectacular, however, was when a bucket of cold water was tipped down a borehole and returned seconds later as an explosion of steam. An exciting demonstration of nature’s latent power. It’s quite surprising that vineyards exist on a volcanic island but due to the skilful use of the lava rock to help with hydration and protection from the wind, thrive they do. So a spot of wine tasting to sample the local produce is only fair to reward their sterling efforts. Then onwards to Taro de Tahiche, the former home of Cesar Manrique, now a foundation in his honour. This child of Lanzarote is a bit of a hero on the island and his large mobile type sculptures appealed to me most, but this house was also a bit of a wonder too. The rooms are actually chambers created by bubbles in the lava flows and now house works by Cesar and other artists. Our day ended with a stop at El Golfo where the spectacular scenery and sounds of waves smashing into craggy basalt caves is supplemented by the emerald green pool that sits behind them. Apparently the colour comes from algae in the water.
Our final stop prior to returning to Gran Canaria is Fuerteventura. Officially the second largest of the Canary Islands but at low tide some of the land that has slipped into the sea is exposed, making it the largest island. I loved our guide’s analogy that ageing volcanic islands are like people in that, as they get older, they get a little shorter and wider at the base. Our visits started with the statues of the Majorero Warriors, in honour of the island’s original inhabitants. Following our guide’s very enthusiastic description of the 6 packs etc. on these statues, most were content to grab a photo holding hands with the giants, but some felt the need to check out the buttock firmness instead. I’ll mention no names! We moved onto Bentancuria, a beautiful hamlet that was the capital of the island until 1834. The Museo Artesania is set on the opposite side of the courtyard from the 17th century Iglesias de Santa Maria church and shows an impressive slideshow of the island’s landscape and environment. Traditional tools and handicrafts were on show and demonstrated plus we got the chance to sample some local produce. Also available here is the locally produced goats cheese. Although most of the islands produce goats cheese, the Majorero from Fuerteventura walked away with a number of awards at the the last cheese festival in Oxford. Further into the island we visited an Aloe Vera factory where the process of farming and production was explained and demonstrated. Despite the absolutely foul taste of neat Aloe Vera juice, it has purportedly many health benefits and can be used internally or externally. Many of the resultant products were on trial but alas none made an impression on my crevassed profile (perhaps we should have gone to a plaster factory).
It’s worth mentioning that the shift in the tides in this part of the world sometimes mean the boarding ramp is set to a very steep angle. That combined with the small number of stairs needed to access all areas of the ship mean that customers with mobility issues need to check with Variety if this cruise is suitable for their needs.
Islands discovery is a good title for this cruise. On top of being fed, watered, pampered and some engaging company from our fellow passengers, we gained a considerable amount of knowledge about the individuality of each Canary Island. So next time we wish to escape the plunging temperatures of home, we’ll know which island(s) are worthy of further exploration. The welcome aboard Harmony V was music to my ears, so let’s end with a song.
In 1973 Elton John included harmony on his ‘Yellow Brick Road’ album and I’ll use some of the words from the song to sum up. “Harmony and me, we’re pretty good company, looking for an island in our boat upon the sea, harmony, gee I really love you.” Thanks Elton.
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