The Canaries, day 3

April 27, 2022 • 11:30 am

[NOTE: Day 1 has not been fully documented yet, though I did show photos of the Botanical Gardens in Puerto de la Cruz.]

These pictures are going to be a bit messy for two reasons: I am using two cameras: my regular Panasonic Lumix and my iPhone camera, and below  are mostly the iPhone photos, which are easy to transfer to my computer because I can email them. But I prefer using my regular camera, and you’ll see more from that equipment later.  Further, once I get behind on a daily posting—as I am no—then it becomes confusing because I forget stuff and have to look it up.. So bear with me.

Our ship (photos below) is the M/V Sea Spirit, registered in Madeira but owned, I believe, my a British company, Poseidon. It holds only 114 passengers so it’s much smaller than any ship I’ve been on, and very comfortable. It was built in 1991 and then modified later for Antarctic cruises, so it has an ice rating of, I think, 3—smaller than the Amundsen’s, which is the highest for a cruise ship (6).  I believe the Sea Spirit does Antarctic trips, but much less often.

You can see our position at any instant at this site: right now we’re heading north away from the Canaries and toward Madeira, which is Portuguese (the Canaries are part of Spain). Then we head east again to Morocco.

The ship from the bow: (Click on all photos to enlarge them)

And from the side:

The dining room, with great views, fantastic service and generally excellent food (they flubbed with the paella, but most dishes are great):

Omelet man! I am eating an abstemious breakfast (and skipped dinner completely last night), but tomorrow I plan to have an onion and smoked salmon omelet for breakfast. Will it match the perfection of Barney Greengrass in Manhattan? (Their scrambled eggs with smoked salmon and onion are ethereal.)

The two-page breakfast menu. It is easy to pig out at breakfast, but I resist. If you want espresso or lattes or other fancy drinks, there’s 24-hour espresso/latte/cappuccino machine in the bar. I get my usual: cappuccino with an extra shot of espresso, and bring it to breakfast,

Breakfast today: Salmon eggs benedict. It was good. But who was Benedict:

I see I am writing mostly about food this morning, but I have tons of sightseeing photos which I’ll work in as I get time. Time for posting is very limited on this trip as we’re either eating or gone all day traveling on a bus and walking.

Yesterday we visited the volcanic island of Lanzarote. All the Canaries are volcanic, but this one is almost all volcanic, with almost no vegetation. The locals are mainly engaged in  tourism, and were hit hard by the pandemic

Lanzanote in the Canaries:

From Wikipedia:

Lanzarote (UK: /ˌlænzəˈrɒti/Spanish: [lanθaˈɾote]locally [lansaˈɾote]) is a Spanish island, the northernmost and easternmost of the autonomous Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean. It is located approximately 125 kilometres (80 miles) off the north coast of Africa and 1,000 kilometres (600 miles) from the Iberian Peninsula. Covering 845.94 square kilometres (326.62 square miles), Lanzarote is the fourth-largest of the islands in the archipelago. With 152,289 inhabitants at the start of 2019, it is the third most populous Canary Island, after Tenerife and Gran Canaria. Located in the centre-west of the island is Timanfaya National Park, one of its main attractions. The island was declared a biosphere reserve by UNESCO in 1993. The island’s capital is Arrecife, which lies on the eastern coastline. It is the smaller main island of the Province of Las Palmas.

We first visited Jameos de Agua, an auditorium, swimming pool, and restaurant designed by the local artist César Manrique, who is much revered here. The entire complex is set in lava tubes and is underground. It also harbors a tiny, blind, and endemic “squat lobster” in a salt pool inside the tubes. That species is the site’s symbol.

The bar, in a lava tube:

The auditorium, which seats 600, in a lava tube. The acoustics, I’m told, are wonderful:

A panorama of the auditorium:

A few lights make things dramatic:

Before you enter the auditorium, there’s a natural pool where the blind lobsters live (see below):

Reflection in the natural pool:

More photos of the caves later, except that one pool before the auditorium contains a blind lobster. They are tiny. From Wikipedia:

Jameos del Agua is ecologically important as it is home to a unique and endemic species of squat lobster: The blind lobster Munidopsis polymorpha, a yellow-white and blind crustacean that is hardly one centimeter in length. These squat lobsters are very sensitive to changes in the lagoon (derived from sea water), including effects regarding noise and light. They are also very sensitive to oxide, which can even kill them, and therefore, it is forbidden to throw coins in the water.

A photo, also from Wikipedia. Endemic, tiny, blind, and unpigmented, they show typical features of many animals that live in caves.

This is what you actually see in the cave. The white dots are the animals. Try seeing them! No dice, and photographing them is impossible!

The pool complex past the auditorium, also below ground level but now open to the sky. The water is natural, and is probably seawater as there is little fresh water on the island. They have a desalinization plant, but before that water was brought in or collected by the locals as condensate on the outside of the island’s many volcanos.

The obligatory selfie:

Like all the Canaries, Lanzarote is volcanic, formed successively as the tectonic plates moved over the Canary Hotspot, a gash in the earth through which hot magma arises. (See here for more information about how the islands were formed.) Volcanoes on this island are still active. At 15 million years old, Lanzanote is both the youngest and most active of the islands. Everywhere you look there is lava or volcanoes.

The epicenter for observing the calderas and lava is Timafaya National Park. I have more photos; these were taken from the bus with an iPhone  From Wikipedia about the park:

Timanfaya National Park (Spanish: Parque Nacional de Timanfaya) is a Spanish national park in the southwestern part of the island of Lanzarote, in the Canary Islands. It covers parts of the municipalities Tinajo and Yaiza. The area is 51.07 square kilometres (19.72 sq mi), and the parkland is entirely made up of volcanic soil. The statue El Diablo by César Manrique is its symbol. It is the only Natural Park in Spain which is entirely geological. Timanfaya National Park represents a sign of recent and historical volcanism in the Macaronesian Region. The last volcanic eruptions occurred during the 18th century as well as on the 19th century

A caldera:

Before the tour we had lunch in the park’s only restaurant, El Diablo, where the meat is actually grilled over a volcanic vent.  This must be nearly unique

Small boiled potatoes with red (hot) or mild (green) sauce, are a local specialty. I love them.

A huge salad (for two!)

Beef, pork, and chicken, with more potatoes and veggies. This is for ONE PERSON. I couldn’t eat it all, and even had to skip dinner that night. The magma-grilled chicken was fantastic. Note the boiled potato with yet a different sauce.

And dessert, consisting of ice cream on top of some delicious granular pudding. It must be a local pudding as well, but I have no idea what it is. Perhaps some local can comment below:

Later we visited the home (now a museum) of César Manrique. That is a post in itself, but do read about the man.

All the houses on the entire island are low and white, with one exception that I may mention later. All the villages look like this. Lovely, no?

Oh, and the lounge where I lecture. Five screens!

32 thoughts on “The Canaries, day 3

  1. Lanzarote looks like quite a place. The lava tube bar, auditorium and blind lobster pool are breathtaking.
    Food grilled over a volcanic vent sounds amazing.
    Beautiful and enticing photos.

  2. My parents once got bawled out for swimming in the water with the endangered crustaceans – there’s a swimming pool nearby and they apparently misread the signage. Typical of their behaviour, though (the parents, not the shelled creatures…)!

  3. Yep – what I expected – unexpected amazing new stuff about something I thought I knew already! And comestibles!

    The pano of the dining area works really well for some reason.

      1. When writing about things like the small potatoes, it would be great and interesting to use the Spanish name and translation papas arrugadas con mojo picón. (Wrinkled potatoes with Moho sauce)

  4. The bar, in a lava tube …

    Looks kinda like the infamous grotto at Hef’s Playboy Mansion, although there seems to be something missing … give me a minute; I’ll think of what it is …

  5. Parque Nacional de Timanfaya is often referred to by (British?) English-speaking tourists as Fire Mountain(s). The volcano-based restaurant is excellent (I seem to recall the staff demonstrating the heat produced by dropping tree branches and buckets of water into a nearby vent, but it was a long time ago, so my recollection might be off.)

    The underground trail through the lava tubes elsewhere on the island is stunning, as is Cesar Manrique’s former house (also constructed in bubbles in the lava). Manrique’s death was very convenient for development constructors whose plans he opposed and conspiracy theories about it abound (or at least did when I visited). For example, he succeeded in getting a prohibition on buildings taller than four storeys near the coast, which was swiftly overturned after his untimely demise.

    1. In Spanish, appart from the oficial name, is called also “Montañas Del Fuego”. Your recollection of the demonstration with the dry branches and water is entirely correct.

  6. Wow. As much as I enjoyed Antarctica (although it made me feel cold!) this trip is even better. Keep up the good posting, it is very enjoyable. The Canaries are much more appealing than I’d previously thought. I’d imagined it as Cancun for fat Europeans on the beach – hehehehe. Sorry friends. 🙂
    But there’s much much more and the food looks fantastic.

      1. The 2 Eastern Canary Islands, Fuerteventura and Lanzarote are basically deserts. extensions of the Sahara?
        The islands more to the west of Tenerife, La Palma. El Hierro an La Gomera, are reputed to be lush and heavily vegetated with lots of endemic species.
        I’ve been told that ‘Canary’ refers to large dogs (Canis) that would have roamed the islands. Note, I do not buy that.

        1. You are almost right on everything. Fuerteventura and Lanzarote are, yes, an extension, kind of, the Sahara. But I think it’s just the are older, and almost flat, which doesn’t trap clouds an so rain.

          But as I said in another post, the western islands are mountainos, but only lush and green on their north side, which is the one whot gets all the wet and cold winds from the north.

          And yes, Canary refers to the dogs which the aboriginal inhabitants had with them.

    1. That part of “Cancun for fat europeans” it’s in someplaces true, and as it its the cheaper model, it’s the most known. I met some time ago some british girls who were interested just in doing what the did back home, get drunk at a pub, because alcohool here it’s so much cheaper, but having the option to go to the beach at day. Fortunately, the touristic model in the islands is very diversified, there’s for example an important rural tourism sector, in which you can stay at old country houses, which are beautiful and each one different. There are lot’s of cultural and sport activities (cycliying it’s a big thing, also parapenting), and so on…

      Starting June theres a UA direct flight from New York, three times a week, making the Canaries a shorter trip than Hawaii. So all you East Coast americans, come this summer and get to know this place.

  7. The entire complex is set in lava tubes and is underground. It also harbors a tiny, blind, and endemic “squat lobster” in a salt pool inside the tubes.

    There is over 1.6 km of explored tube behind this visible part of it, and world record cave diving penetrations have been set there (I think the Nullabor of Australia hosts the record at the moment, not that it really matters). The opportunity doesn’t arrive very often – because of the crustaceans, the divers can only get access as support technicians for biologists studying the fauna of the tunnels. (Obviously, that goes line-reel-in-hand with surveying the system, seeking Caverns Measureless to Man.)
    There has been some extremely gnarly diving happen in that tube.

  8. Say what you will, Bill Nye has a very clear, concise, memorable demo of volcano formation in this episode :

    Specifically at 3:50 – he calls it the “drifting plate magma plume simulator of science”. He notes – for Hawaiian islands, “the rocks on the northern island are older than the rocks on the southern island.” Thus, the direction of the plate’s motion can be known. Perhaps PCC(E) said it already – if his current subject Lanzarote is oldest or youngest – being northern and easternmost. I could not tell from the Wikipedia article which says “The island, along with others, emerged after the breakup of the African and the American continental plates.”

    … but of course, I’d be glad to know of any other video demos. It is exhilarating to know, and think about how islands like these formed – I can almost see it unfold – powerful!

    1. Found it:

      “About 20 million years ago, the plate started to move over the “hotspot” that injected magma and began to create the first islands – now the oldest islands – of Fuerteventura and Lanzarote. La Palma and El Hierro are the youngest islands, at just 1.8 million and 1.2 million years old respectively.”

      There’s a great diagram on that El Pais article – I guess the plate is moving in a southerly curve as the oldest island is in fact Lanzarote.


  9. Thanks for sharing, this brings back memories! One as a Ph-D in geochemistry, we had one of our winter schools in La Palma (fall 2007), it was great. The combination of great lectures, workshops and visiting the islands was fantastic (and as geologists tend to do, we did drink way too much!).
    Got back in the Canaries a couple of years ago for cycling and, I must say, love those islands. Time to schedule a trip ! 🙂

  10. A technical tip. I recall you write on a Mac. If you do, there’s an app called AirDrop built in. When both your Mac and your phone are on the same network, you can easily move files around. From Mac to phone opening AirDrop, and on the phone from the share menu (a square with an up arrow icon).

    There’s not much else on the island, but with a bit of seaside and (sand) beaches in tiny volcanic rock bays, it’s not the worst places to stay a few days. The volcanic scenery is worth it alone. I loved the César Manrique museum / house that looks a bit like James Bond villain hideout built into a cliff, with an inside that might have inspired Star Wars interior design. It’s fascinating that there are some recognisably “unique” locations. I must have stood at some of the exact same places.

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