Week 6 17th to 22nd January 2011

Monumento al Campesino near San Bartolome

17th to 22nd January 2011 La Santa to Arrecife, Lanzarote

We were packed and on our way again, this time for the balmy touristy south east coast. We will miss the sound of the crashing waves and watching the surfers in the morning. La Santa, the surfing centre of the island, is a bit basic. No DSL so no cheap internet or wifi, no paper down the toilet and so far no Surfers Against Sewage. Some of this has been mitigated by our great little Kindle 3.

Through the whole of this tour our daily paper has been delivered each morning, and it has been free. Admittedly it was an unpleasant culture shock reading the free Telegraph for two weeks. But at least the Independent and the Times did something to restore our faith in the broadsheets. The Guardian is not yet available on Kindle.

The Kindle also has a basic internet browser so we could do our emails and look at some web sites. All of this is also possible with our Android phone or would be if we could afford the £300 a week that 02 would charge. Kindle is free once the device is bought.

So we were off up the hill and across the island in some very hot sunshine. There was also no wind and even after five weeks here we were certainly feeling the heat. We had also made a rather softies late start which is unwise on a hot day.

We made it to the Casa-Museo al Campesino near San Bartolome by about lunch time. This is a restaurant and artisan centre designed by the famous Lanzarote artist and architect Cesar Manrique, based on preserved old farm buildings. We chilled out for a while with a beer and chatted to four Danish women cyclists doing the same.

We have met many Spanish on this trip and, particularly away from the mass tourism centres, they have been very friendly. We have also met people of many other nations, all here for the winter sun. Fortunately for us in any mixed race gathering English is always the common language.

We had an amusing and animated conversation with the Danish ladies. They of course were proud of their Viking ancestors and their conquests. We castigated them for raping and pillaging and they justifiably criticised us for the many bad deeds of our predecessors. It was all good fun and a pleasant way to while away an hour in the shade away from the midday sun. The ladies would have fitted in well with the Weymouth CTC group.

From San Bartolome we had a long descent towards Arrecife. Undaunted even as softies we chose another short steep climb rather than taking the busier but flatter road. The long descent into Costa Teguise showed it in the unpleasant light we suppose we should have expected. It is an urbanisation which straggles along the coast from the oil refinery at one end to the uncompleted urbanisations at the other. In the middle there is a good number of the kind of buildings Cesar Manrique had in his lifetime successfully campaigned against.

 The museum of Cesar Manrique’s work

Once we reached the urbanisation it was clear that there was a huge under occupation of the accommodation. The businesses still trading clearly had few customers though amazingly one building site was still operating.

This is the only substantial building work we have seen going on during the five weeks we have been here. It stinks of the corruption which is rife in Spain and even worse on Lanzarote. It was a prime site but no one would even think of investing here. Money laundering or corrupt subsidies come to mind.

We had unfortunately booked into the three star Los Zocos Club Resort used by First Choice and other travel agents. The apartment was very pleasant but almost everything else can only be described as indescribably awful. One would have to go a very long way, further than we have been on this trip, to find somewhere more unpleasant to stay. Not only that but the gullible clients are charged extra for everything, even for the most basic things other hotels include for free.

The highlight of our stay in this part of the island was a ride to the museum of Cesar Manrique’s work. Prior to his premature death in a car crash in 1992 he converted his opulent house on the edge of Arrecife to a museum. The most impressive part of the visit is the house itself which he cleverly designed to fit into a lava field left over from the 1730 to 1736 eruption.

We visited this house before, in 2006. This time we benefited from our new found knowledge of lava fields gained on our guided walk. The upper parts of the house are designed to blend with the field but the lower floor, including the shady swimming pool, is interconnected lava tubes. The whole house merges the inside with the outside brilliantly. His sculptures and three dimensional art is ok but we did not like his paintings much.

A close relative of our house sparrows?

It was a pleasure to leave the Hotel Los Zocos Club Resort to ride to our final one night stay 4 kms from the airport. Because of family commitments we very reluctantly have to return home a week early by air rather than cargo ship.

Our short ride from Costa Teguise to the airport was surprisingly very pleasant. Once away from the centre of the urbanisation we stayed near the coast, either on the promenade or on minor roads near the sea. The idea of not cycling on the prom here and in most of the rest of Europe would cause disbelief.

After a short stretch on a busy road we again arrived on the prom in the centre of Arrecife. From here we cycled a further 10 kms to our hotel on the properly surfaced traffic free promenade. To our surprise the route even passed to the seaward side of the airport, underneath the flight path.

It was such a relief to find that the Apartamentos Guacimeta near Puerto Del Carmen is a low key place. There are just fifty or so nice apartments at two levels around the pool. There was no bongo music, rifle shooting or other pointless activities. We suppose with such a decline in demand this type of place has little chance of survival but it is a great shame.

We were able to reorganise our stuff for travelling home and the management even had time for a swim. We then took a leisurely stroll to a local restaurant for our final night’s meal and a bottle of rioja. After suffering the dreadful offerings of Los Zocos it was particularly enjoyable to get a really nice hot meal. Even if the restaurant had had a microwave it would not have been needed.

We arrived at the airport soon after 8am having ridden the 4km from the apartment. Lanzarote airport must be one of the easiest to get into and out of by bike. The easiest way in is to approach along the coast and follow the southern perimeter to the entrance. Leaving the airport it is easy to turn right at the exit and soon right again and onto the beach cycle route at Playa Honda.

 Time for a final swim

It took about an hour to pack the bike for air travel and you can read all about this on the Return page. We then joined a short but very slow moving queue to drop the bags. This proved to be something of a trial and the stoker vowed once more never to go by air again. Just for once the management was unruffled and the bags were checked in just inside the 40 minute deadline.

Because we were so late we went straight out to the aircraft ahead of the main queue having paid for priority boarding. The management used his railway seat winning skills gained over many years of rail commuting to board second and claim emergency exit seats. This gives the stoker sufficient legroom to avoid the more unpleasant effects of her thrombosis.

Despite their reputation Ryanair provided a clean and comfortable aircraft with helpful flight attendants. Everything on board has to be paid for as does the luggage but the total cost for both of us was still very reasonable. Despite the rumours the toilets are free and everyone gets a seat.

The flight arrived on time and we took the shuttle bus to Bristol Temple Meads rail station in good time to get something to eat before catching the 16.49 train to Weymouth. The management assembled the tandem on the train. We cycled home in the cold arriving almost exactly twelve hours after leaving our apartment in Lanzarote.