Springtime hike on Lanzarote
Let me show you the cheerful springtime face of Lanzarote with lush vegetation and flowers as we saw it on our 4-day carneval hike in late February.
The end of February is carneval time in the Canaries and a week-long school holiday. In 2020 it was the last festival people could celebrate freely (though we chose to do a cycling trip on Fuerteventura despite the calima). This time we were still in Phase 4 of the state of emergency with tourists far and few between. We could only leave the island “for justified reasons” (including organized tourism, funnily). We wanted to get lost in nature for a few days, moving on our feet or on wheels, and it had to be Lanzarote.
The year started with an exceptional amount of rainfall and almost the entire island turned green by mid-January. Soon the spring flowers appeared in millions on the otherwise brown and black volcanoes and in the arid valleys.
It rained from time to time in February, keeping the vegetation alive, so we decided on a hiking trip. We wanted to experience freedom after all the restrictions so the obvious choice was camping. I planned a five-day trip in the north half of the island but there was one hitch: the lack of water.
Water has always been a crucial issue on Lanzarote and local people invented clever methods to collect and store it. There are no rivers, brooks or lakes. You’ll find no springs (well, almost). You see a puddle in a hole on the road and you feel like a 19th century explorer. We needed water to drink, cook and also to wash at the end of the day (we are clean hikers). Finally, I came up with the solution: we “planted” 5 litres of water and some canned food, rice or pasta and perhaps a bottle of wine near the places we were planning to camp. A friend helped us with his car the day before.
Day 1: Mala – La Quemada de Orzola (25 km)
The original plan was to start the trip in Guatiza and follow the valley of Tenegüime but we couldn’t get up early enough for that (it’s a longer route). So in the end we took a bus to the next village, Mala, and started hiking uphill from there. I chose a friendly-looking flank of the mountain on the satellite map and it turned out that there was an old trail there. I guess it was used by the locals on their mules or donkeys in the past. We met no mules only a runner this time.
The mountainside and the valleys were still cheerful green with countless flowers and big hairy caterpillars. We sure stepped on a few as we were taking in the views. The highest point of the island, Peñas del Chache, is just 672 meters but we started from sea level and in an hour we were a few hundred meters high. The old trail led us to the asphalt road just below the radar station on the peak. We got lost a bit there and in the end we had to wade through the vivid yellow flowers.
Finding your way is not so easy when everything is covered in flowers. Including our shorts: only the washing machine could remove the little yellow spots.
Passing the fenced off area of the army, you suddenly find yourself on the other side of the island. Risco de Famara, the northern mountain range, ends abruptly in a 600-meter precipice here so the views are truly breathtaking. There are a number of trails to choose from – we turned right and walked by the edge for a few kilometers.
The bosquesillo and Haría
After a parking lot and a popular playground and barbecuing area (if only people took their garbage with them), trees appear. Pine trees. This corner of the island is the last surviving bit of the forest that once covered the highest regions of the mountain range (there are plans to restore it), called the bosquesillo (little forest). What a feeling it was to take a few steps in the shade! Not that it was so hot but “wild” trees are almost non-existent on Lanzarote.
Our next stop was Haría, a lovely small “mountain” town with a well-preserved old town center. We descended from the ridge along a narrow valley. It was now so full of vegetation after the rains that we felt like being in a jungle. Then I glimpsed something glinting among the bushes. We soon found a natural spring as it emerged from the rocks and followed the tiny stream till it disappeared again. What is an ordinary sight in most of Europe is such a gem here!
By the time we got to Haría we had eaten a few handfuls of mallow weeds that we picked along the route (and three figs). It was around 3 pm and we were still far from our planned camp. Anita had a drink in a bar, I drank a Coke on a bench in the park because we couldn’t all sit at the same table. Maximum two people, whether you live together ot not. How logical! (In the end Aron used the time to draw a sketch of a house.) Then we bought some water and kept walking towards Maguez.
The last bit and the volcano
The dirt road we took skirts the mighty Corona volcano and offers great views of the north-east of the island. We were getting quite tired and the smaller volcano, La Quemada, was still so far! Aron had a good idea at one point to take a different route up north but I didn’t realize it at the time so we approached our destination from the south. Luckily, the water and the food we left in a bush the day before was intact and we arrived in the crater just before sunset.
Our friend, Fausto recommended us La Quemada as there are some old terraces inside its crater, ideal for camping. It’s amazing how the guanche (the original inhabitants of the island) cultivated every square meter with traces of soil. These terraces turned out to be very useful to prevent erosion from destroying the fragile ecosystem.
We set up the tent and quickly had a shower on our portable “bathroom” (a large garbage bag) while it was warm. Then we cooked spaghetti with tuna and tomatoes and had our dinner under the stars. The volcano protected us from the wind but we had some rain at night.