We were staying in Matagorda, about halfway between the capital Arrecife and the resort of Puerto del Carmen. To be strictly correct, Matagorda is a suburb of del Carmen but it does have an identity of its own. It’s off the main road – the busy Avenida de las playas (Beach Street) – and has bicycle and pedestrian tracks only. The beaches are less busy and there are fewer sports bars, restaurants and tacky shops. And I would say that it was quieter but, thanks to the large number of Irish tourists who shouted at each other almost continuously rather than stand within quarter of a mile of each other to hold a conversation, it wasn’t. Don’t get me wrong, on the whole they were pleasant company and a great laugh. We met some grand people and there was no trouble. But loud isn’t the word.
While I’m mentioning the Irish, it was also immensely frustrating to watch their complete ease with the local currency. It was just us British types who fumbled our change as we desperately tried to figure out the difference between a 20c piece and a 10c. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again … give us the bloody Euro. We’re now isolated within Europe and are the only idiots who have to buy currency whenever we go on short haul holidays. Everyone else we met - the Irish, Germans, Spanish, French, Dutch, Italians, and the local Canarians – all just simply brought their own.
Over the course of the fortnight the only trips we did were to the marina at Playa Blanca and the geological wonder that is El Golfo (just because they’re so photogenic). We spent the rest of the time swimming, walking – at least five miles a day – and snorkelling in the warm sea. Lanzarote is not famed for its exotic wildlife, which seems to consist mostly of dull grey-brown lizards that live in any crack in any wall they can find. We saw hundreds of them and sometimes had to avoid treading on them as they scuttled under our feet. There were surprisingly few gulls and a single pigeon that we reckoned had got lost but we did see a hoopoe once behind the perimeter fence surrounding the airport, which was very attractive. The bird, not the fence. Oh, and Lanzarote has the tiniest ants, about a fifth the size of our smallest garden ants back home. Our first forays with masks and snorkels revealed nothing more exciting than the plain sandy seabed and two varieties of rather drab looking fish. It was a whole week before we found anything really colourful. We decided we’d try snorkelling in a different spot near some semi-submerged rocks. And it was a good decision. We discovered a marvellous little reef full of live sponges, colourful anemones and corals and a huge variety of fish. Some were very striking indeed, from spiky yellow-green pufferfish and orange things like mullets to a large bass-like fish patterned in horizontal lines of bright yellow over silvery green. At one point we found ourselves floating above a school of around forty of these foot long fish as they tore at the rocks and the weed below. Most striking of all was a small jet black fish, something like a wrasse but with electric blue flashes on its head and flanks.
Oddest brand name? I was going to go for a local brand of bread called Bimbo but it was pipped at the post by an ice cream made by the Kalise company. It looks like a Cornetto but is called Pivot. The strangely incongruous name reminded me of that old Monty Python sketch where Michael Palin is doing a voice-over for a bizarrely named lager called Treadmill’.
So, two excellent weeks of sunshine and relaxation; two fantastic weeks’ worth of writing under my belt (while Dawn pampered herself in the pool, on the beach or by catching up on her reading) and a fortnight mercifully free of mosquitoes. This little volcanic island has no natural water supply (hence the lack of soil and grass – all water comes from desalination) so there’s nowhere for the little buggers to breed. Hoorah! It was also blissfully free of pollen as I don’t think that there’s a deciduous tree or a blade of grass on the island. But a little hay fever is a small price to pay for being home. You forget just how green a garden can be.