Thursday, November 29, 2012

Canary Islands

We had a day at sea before arriving in Lanzarote, Canary Islands (also belonging to Spain) and pronounced Lan-Za-Roe-Tae.  This island reminded me of the Big Island of Hawaii since it was mostly volcanic in nature. 

Our destination from the coast to the higher elevations was Jameos del Agua Cave and Mirador del Rio.  All buildings are no more than two stories high and painted white. It was almost blinding in the sun.

The Jameos del Agua is part of a 6 Km long lava tube that formed about 3,000 years ago when the Montaña La Corona erupted. Molten lava continued to flow as the surface hardened, which in turn led to the formation of the tubes, which run down under the Atlantic.

The word Jameo is used in this context to refer to the large openings in the tube which formed when parts of the roof collapsed, due to a pressure build up caused by the volcanic gases. It is these open-air caves which Manrique used as the centrepiece for the attraction and which have given it a name.

You enter the Jameos by climbing down a stone-staircase into the first cave known as ‘Jameo Chico’, which has been turned into an unusual bar / restaurant, with views over a small lake.

This natural lake has extremely clear water — regulated by the Atlantic Ocean — and is home to a species of blind albino crabs known as ‘Jameitos’, which are only found on Lanzarote. These crabs have been adopted as the symbol of the Jameos del Agua. 

I took a picture of these crabs that are no bigger than your thumbnail but you really can't see them in the dark water.

Nothing is quite like walking out of the dark tunnel to be faced, suddenly with a huge open-air cave lined with tropical plants and the most fantastic swimming-pool you may ever see.  This crystal-clear, turquoise pool is truly paradise, even if you can’t actually use it, as swimming is forbidden.

From the far end of the ‘Jameo Grande’ you can access the auditorium, which has been constructed in part of the volcanic tube running down to the Ocean. The auditorium has unbelievable acoustics and has been the setting for some memorable concerts.

Mirador del Río is an attractively designed observation point / lookout, built over several levels anchored into the volcanic lava-rock cliff face. It overlooks the nearby Canarian island of Isla Graciosa and down the North West coast of lanzarote.  In 1974, César Manrique (iconic Lanzarotian artist and designer) transformed the site into its current form. The combined use of modern materials such as white-painted concrete, gigantic panoramic windows and abstract sculpture contrasts with the natural beauty of the coloured lava rock face that it is hewn from and the platforms tessellated with volcanic paving stones.

We headed back to our ship for our last stop for a week in Tenerife, also part of the Canary Islands.

Tenerife is a very busy port and our ship was met by an ambulance. I was just amazed at the number of people seeking medical attention and becoming seriously ill. When we were in Nassau a couple was removed from the ship. My understanding is there was some sort of "domestic violence." He was in the brig and she was confined to her cabin. Someone saw Security in the cabin with her directing the packing and removal of their things! I don't know if they were turned over to any authorities or just removed.

Our tour on Tenerife (Ten-Er-E-Fay) was Pyramids of Guimar. This is a step pyramid complex oriented astronomically to the summer and winter solstices. These show great resemblance to those found in Egypt, Mesopotamia, Sardinia, Sicily, South American and other parts of the world.

Thor Heyerdahl moved to Tenerife to study these pyramids and disprove the thinking that these were mere rock walls built by farmers removing rocks from their fields. If that was the case, these were some very talented farmers or had lots of time on their hands to build something so accurately that they have stood for centuries. The authorities are still out on their origin.

The port, Santa Cruz, where we docked was very modern and had a beautifully built art museum.   It reminded me of a cross between the art museum in Milwaukee and the Sydney Opera House.  Unfortunately we did not have time to visit it.  We were heading out to sea for six days. 

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