We had landed for the first time in Lanzarote two days earlier. It wouldn't be the last.
As we approach Uga, the unexpected sight of a colony of dromedaries detached from the roundabout that precedes the village surprises us.
We walked along the entire southern edge of the village's white houses. After which we find ourselves between Uga's and Yaiza's neighbor.
Once again, we are at the door of the town. The right course dictated a drastic change of direction.
Henceforth, with the mountains yellowing in the back, pointing north of Lanzarote, we entered a vast domain of rough and black land.
The straight line through which we enter it undulates and shakes us according to the whims of the lava mold on which it rests.
A few kilometers later, the rawness of the Dantesque panorama so gripped our minds that the recent astonishment caused by the stone camels no longer fits in them.
The Secular History of Dromedaries, the Tractors of Lanzarote
The dromedaries arrived in the Canaries with the first incursions of the archipelago's conquerors and settlers to the African continent, during the XNUMXth century.
Faced with the lack of other draft animals, the settlers imported these camelids, mainly from the west coast of old Berberia, now Moroccan.
It is said that animals were often towed rather than brought on board. The vessels on which they were supposed to be transported proved to be too unstable to support the weight of dozens of specimens in constant motion.
Had they been camels, dromedaries or both, the live specimens that we sometimes glimpse parked on the left of the road, today perform a new function: carrying visitors to PN Timanfaya on their humps, on a short tour between the mountains and craters of fire that endows more than 50km2 from the southwest of the island.
We touch the echadero de los camelos. Having secured some photos, we chat with Fatah, who is also the conductor of the animals, dromedaries by the way. “Look, I started coming here to work for a while and ended up moving from Morocco instead.
The work here was guaranteed. Later, I was able to bring the family. Now we have a privileged life.” he tells us as he adjusts the drooping currents of a sleepy dromedary.
Towards the Volcanic Core of PN Timanfaya
Then, we resume the route to the entrance of PN Timanfaya. For a few more kilometers, dunes and steep slopes of hills obstruct our view to the left of the road.
On the other side, by contrast, the corrosive immensity of lava made the reddish glow of the first caldera that we could see in that volcanic flood, the Caldera del Coranzoncillo.
We continued until we came face to face with El Diablo, the symbol-statue that César Manrique, the omnipresent artist in Lanzarote, created the park's identity.
On this inaugural trip to Lanzarote, we submitted ourselves to the program followed by the vast majority of visitors to PN Timanfaya.
We advance to the Islote de Hilário, previously known as Tinecheide (mountain of Hell), the term used by the natives majes of Lanzarote, the same authors of timanfaya (mountains of fire).
The Refuge and Operational Base of Islote de Hilário
He dictated the location of the Islote de Hilario that would serve as the operational center of the national park, its car park, restaurant, gift shop and starting point for regular bus tours through the so-called mountains of fire.
For, despite being in awe of Timanfaya's geological exuberance, we ended our tour as any photographer would feel: frustrated.
Even if the kindness and understanding of the driver allowed us some extra-program photos, whenever he opened the bus door in special places.
A year and a little later, we returned to Lanzarote and PN Timanfaya. This time, prepared.
We were able to pre-authorize a car route monitored by a park inspector. Eva Acero, a Galician guide based in Lanzarote, takes us.
With Eva at the wheel, we were able to stop the car where we wanted and we photographed with open windows, in an itinerary broader than that of the bus and which included a stop at the Miradouro da Montaña Rajada (350m).
Montaña Rajada and the Extraterrestrial Panorama of the Sea of Lavas.
There, even though alerted by our apparition, two crows refuse to take off from the lava landing from which they are watching us. We arrive at the stone wall that separates the top of the viewpoint from the rocky cliff below and from one of the almost unlikely volcanic extensions of the PN Timanfaya.
As the crows had become accustomed to contemplating, we unveiled the rugged plain of the Sea of Lavas, gutted by a sinuous furrow opened by the flow of lava in search of the Atlantic.
Aligned with this furrow, the craters of Montaña Encantada, Pedro Perico and Halcones stood out. Further south, we could still see Maria Hernández.
This set of craters collapsed on itself formed a panorama that the ocean floor was blue with drama. In such an extraterrestrial way that it helped us understand why NASA used images of Timanfaya during astronaut training for Apollo 17, the 6th and last manned alumni mission, in December 1972.
We submit to the park authority. We return to the foot of Montaña Rajada and to the stretch of Ruta de Los Volcanes Rural Trail usually traveled by bus.
In Circuit Between the Fire Mountains of Timanfaya
We wind south of the set of Montañas del Fuego, at a certain point overlooking the road that led to the park entrance and the Caldera del Corazoncillo, now with a good half of its interior exposed.
Slowly, slowly, we appreciate the gentle forms and warm tones of the slag and orange marc of El Valle de la Tranquilidad.
detain us hornitos, small ovens from which the Manto black and something ghostly of The Virgin And the mysterious entrances to different lava tunnels, treated in Lanzarote by James.
We also pay attention to another one of the hundreds of plants that found ways to develop in the lava ecosystem, which helped to justify the creation of the park and contribute to Lanzarote's UNESCO status as a Biosphere Reserve.
Finally, long after the scheduled time, around lunchtime, the park inspector arranges for us to return to the logistics base of Islote de Hilário.
The Gastronomic Refuge of the “El Diablo” Restaurant
We were handed over to Eva Acero and the host of the restaurant "The Devil”, the gastronomic heart of PN Timanfaya, also conceived by César Manrique and by his longtime collaborator Jesús Soto.
We noticed several details of the architecture and decoration of the establishment, characteristic of the creativity of Manrique, son of Lanzarote for whom the environmental respect and the unique nature of the island always led his work: the building that integrated the restaurant, which, in the distance, barely it distinguished itself from the rock platform on which it rests.
The frying pan-shaped lamps. The grill is installed over a volcanic chimney that brings to the surface the geothermal heat released by the magma and thus allows you to cook the house specialties.
And, of course, the surrounding 360º panoramic window that allowed us and the other guests to devour the scenery while savoring the meal.
We ate Canary specialties. Followed by desserts faithful to the volcanic thread that guided us, one of them a “volcano” chocolate with a Peta Zetas filling that explodes in your mouth.
The Geothermal Heat Just Below the Islote del Hilário
Back abroad, a year or so later, we went back to watching the mini-show there, repeated to exhaustion by park employees.
A geyser caused after pouring water through an opening right in front of the restaurant window. And the combustion of a bush placed in a walled hole, a few meters from the “geyser”.
The almost instantaneous fire only scares spectators until they are informed of temperatures recorded a little below, 610ºC at a mere 13 meters deep.
In another measurement, the incredible temperature of 277°C just 10cm below ground.
This underground furnace is impressive, not least because it survives in periods of volcanic inactivity. But compared to the long hell in the genesis of PN Timanfaya's scenarios, it is nothing but thermal.
1730 – 36 and the Volcanic Cataclysm that Generated the Extraterrestrial Domain of PN Timanfaya
Let's go back to September 1730. Lanzarote had three centuries of European colonization and a population spread over several villages.
At that time, the resistance of the indigenous majes it had long been repressed and the autonomous life of the natives nearly eradicated. The main concern of the colonists remained the attacks of the Berber pirates and privateers in the service of the British crown, in the case of Sir Walter Raleigh.
So it was until, as Father Lorenzo Curbelo recounted, “on September 1, 1730, between nine and ten at night, the land opened up at Timanfaya, two leagues from Yaiza…and a huge mountain rose from the bosom of the earth.”
Thereafter and for six years, the eruptions followed one another in different craters in the southwest of the island, which confirmed a unique volcanic cataclysm.
It is estimated that about two billion cubic meters of lava and ash were dumped on what were once arable land and settlements, part of torrents that entered the Atlantic and caused Lanzarote to spread to the south and southwest.
There were no human victims but a good part of the cattle perished as a victim of toxic gases. In time, nearly half of the island's inhabitants were forced to leave. Lanzarote has become more inhospitable than it already was.
The island has recovered. No longer are the villages buried, at least the number of inhabitants in recent decades, thanks to the intensification of tourism due to its newly formed volcanic and humanized landscape.
At the end of the day, leaving the park, returning to the lodge on the east coast, we passed some of the newest residents.
After the entrance to Yaiza, before reaching the roundabout de los Camellos,
Fatah led a long caravan of his dromedaries on their way to the farm where they spent their nights blackened by the lava soil of Lanzarote.