IS THERE LIFE ON MARS?
Lanzarote is often compared to Mars. If Mars becomes habitable then I think it could be something like this island. It is strangely beautiful. Away from the tourism you can dive into the depths of culture and friendly island life.
Sea-salt is an export from here and has been for many years using tried and tested methods. It's very captivating watching the salt pyramids grow taller each day you pass by the brine lake.
Women have played an important part of keeping the island producing and exporting goods while men worked away at sea fishing. How similar this is to our own fishing ports in Cornwall.
This and the pic below are on the wall of a local restaurant
Slowly the temperature is dropping and now we see 24C instead of 30C which make life much more comfortable. We still head out early on the bikes to avoid the midday sun and we are covering large distances. Our longest to date was 75 miles. This is a great way to explore, see wildlife and generally have fun with the challenge of climbing the ridiculous mountains. We try and eat at local cafes which give us some much-needed calories.
From first impressions of Lanzarote you'd think wildlife was all but non existent but after a few bike trips in the outback it's surprising what's out there particularly birdlife eking out an existence somehow.
After a couple of weeks we began spotting Great Grey Shrikes around the marina looking for their next lizard meal (hooked beak meat eater the size of a starling that impale their prey on thorns before dinner).
Great Grey Shrike doing what it does best (not our pic)
Then we noticed Kestrels were pretty common out in the hills as well as Barbary Partridges, Trumpeter Finches, Laughing Doves and Ruddy Turnstones on the shoreline (none of the above names made up!)
Unfortunately, quite a few squashed hedgehogs on the roads. Yes, even here the poor hedgehog is up against the car. However, we did see a live one late one night close to the marina. They enjoy the cat food that's put out in the cat stations. Shelter, water, and food.
Hedgie heading home
Our friends at Port Navas Sailing Club gave us a burgee to take with us. I'm trying to find as many strange landmarks on our journey to take a picture with the burgee.
This is the Timanfaya Devil said to take the souls of the natives on the island. This might explain why visitors outnumber the locals!
Zephyr has had a recent bottom check; Lucy came over for a few days and we went out for a successful sail. Testing the SSB radio, thank goodness we finally made contact with Distraction once clear of the radio interference in the marina, great relief for Mike and Emma and us. Even I got excited with it all. Hopefully that will put an end to endless conversations on why it doesn't work!! With lucy on board we made for an anchorage and dived into crystal clear waters to investigate Zephyr's bottom. As you can see from the photos she's looking good, having sailed 1400 miles and being at anchor for 4 months then here in the marina for 6 weeks. Great fun having Lucy with us. She even got dad in the water.
Rudder, keel and anchor chain in the distance
Our underwater surveyor distracted by fish
Colin in his natural environment (not)
Our time in Marina Rubicon has become a great way to reflect on our trip. We were advised by our insurers that they would not insure us to go beyond Easter Island and on to Patagonia without a prohibitively hiked premium and a number of restrictive conditions regarding dates, number of crew etc . This pulled the rug slightly from under our feet as its what we have spent a year planning for. With time and many conversations and inspiration from fellow sailors we have put together a new itinerary. It's equally exciting and more importantly the insurance company said yes to it. 'Phew!!'
This is just an idea of what to expect from us over the next 18 months:
Caribbean exit via Panama Canal early 2024
French Polynesian via Easter Island & Pitcairn Island
Cook Is, Tonga & Fiji
Arrive Queensland Coast mid 2024
Cruise Australian east coat to Darwin before Indian Ocean Crossing
Arrive Durban / Richards Bay South Africa late 2024
Depart Cape Town to Caribbean via St Helena, Ascension, Brazil early 2025
Depart Caribbean May 2025 to home via Azores
Lastly, I would love to introduce you all who don't already know Distraction and her team Mike and Emma. Fellow Cornish and Helford friends who are also embarking on an epic voyage around the world. They too are currently in Lanzarote up north in Arrecife. We spent an entertaining day with them to do some chores and some light entertainment. Please enjoy reading the following post by Mike. I think those of you that know us well will relate to some of the familiar characteristics:
Colin and Bec's go to the beach
Thu Sep 07 2023
Colin and Bec's are already in Lanzarote having had an epic sail from Cornwall, chased all the way by howling gales, and have been tucked in at Rubicon since arriving a month or so ago. But coming to a big city like Arrecife was undoubtably a big thing. When I say big, it's about half the size of Truro, but when you live in the wilds as they do, it's big!
Each of them chose special things to travel with. Bec's packed a handful of pegs and some chocolate, Colin, somewhat unusually, chose his favourite 3.8kg gas cylinder and tucked that into his rucksack. They caught the bus up to the airport where we found them, stuck like rabbits in the headlights, in awe of all the huge planes and buses, wandering around with mouths open and looking a little bit like children on a first ever visit to a zoo. Not wishing to draw anymore attention to themselves than they already had we quickly bundled them in the back of the car and whisked them away.
Unfortunately the process of leaving the airport at speed was flawed when the navigator temporarily stood down from her duties and me, as the driver and unable to do two things at once, managed to take a wrong turn. But Google was at hand and it wasn't long before we had been rerouted around a go-kart track, across the runway, over some fields and dirt tracks, where the car completely left the ground on more than one occasion, and in no time we were back on the road, all sitting in different seats, but finally heading in the right direction.
It took some while for navigation to return to its former strength as the chatter between one of the passengers and my Co-pilot was incessant. Giggling, chirping and huge bursts of laughter meant that any assistance with directions was totally lost. Nonetheless, the ever resourceful Colin stood in and using latitude and longitude from a marine navigation chart he'd found screwed up in his rucksack it wasn't long before we were well and truly lost. However, going round in circles and passing the same building on several occasions gave Colin and Bec's the illusion that Arrecife was much much bigger than it really is. This made them hugely excited.
To calm things down, we returned to the boat in an attempt to relax and slow the pace a little before planning how to spend the afternoon. Colin and I spent a useful hour making absolutely no sense of the SSB radio that had been installed on the boat at some considerable expense over the winter.
An SSB radio's primary purpose is to be able to perform long distance radio communication all around the World. So, for example, when you're on a cliff walk and you pass one of those garden sheds that has wires running to and from it and an Ariel about 100 feet high tied down to various pieces of equipment in the garden, then it's highly likely the occupant of the shed has an SSB radio. And if ours worked as it's supposed to, and we had the inclination, it should be quite possible for us, anywhere in the World, to talk to these folk. It's not clear what you'd want to talk about, after all it's unlikely you'd ever met this person, you like sailing and they like hanging around in sheds, so if ever we get that far I'll let you know.
But SSB radios are no ordinary radio. For a start you can't operate one unless you have a licence to operate one. And to obtain a licence you need to pass an exam. And to pass the exam you need to go in a course. And to find someone who runs such a course it's highly likely to be 200 miles away and takes 5 days to complete. But at least at the end of it you have your bit of paper that says you now have a licence to operate. We both have licences.
Fat lot of use they turned out to be! We took the course in November and now it's September. How on earth are we supposed to remember how to operate it? Colin is an expert, and I suspect Bec's is too, she talks it down like it's a foreign object that's just landed in her trifle. But I think she knows more than she's letting on - and for those of you who know her, you will appreciate, that if she had her own trumpet, she'd never blow it.... Modesty bring her middle name.
But whatever we did in that hour achieved very little. Nothing appeared to get the response we were looking for and eventually we turned it off and had lunch instead. It's a vital piece of equipment for the voyage we have coming up, let's hope we can sort something soon.
Lunch was devoured at high speed and it was clear that no-one had eaten since the previous day. Beer was also produced and consumed with some vigour which only helped fuel the chirping and giggling from the girls.
As it was now close to the hottest part of the day we agreed to leave the comfort and shade offered by the boat with its cool breeze blowing freely across the decks and instead get back into the tiny little car and drive inland on an adventure.
The adventure took us to a small town high in the hills to a house once owned by Omar Sharrif. In fact, it turned out that he had won the house in a game of cards and was then daft enough to gamble it away again. In fairness to the rest of us that was probably a good thing as it was later acquired by a wonderful architect with a name like Ceasar Manrique. The house is truly extraordinary and is quite literally carved into the hillside. The hillside in this case, like most hillsides in Lanzarote, is made up of Lava and it turns out they make really wonderful rooms. And it is clear that the architectural flair has made this house truly beautiful. We wandered around the house enjoying the surprise that each new room brought and leaning on the many balconies that look down across the island and it's plethora of volcanos.
Emm, who'd spent a second day at the gym throwing bears from one end of the Marina to the other, was once again feeling the effects of sudden exercise following a long period of relative inactivity since leaving Falmouth in July. And as our little group weaved its way through the many rooms and numerous flights of steps we realised Emm was not in our midst.
We waited for a while in the shade of one of the many courtyards admiring the extraordinary features of the house, it's simplicity and yet incredible level of detail. As the minutes ticked by and Emm had still not appeared we re-traced our steps, climbing slowly through each of the rooms until finally, nearing the top of the building, we could hear a gentle vibrating sound, not dissimilar to someone sawing through a tree trunk with 6ft saw blade. As we closed in we could then see Emm fast asleep on one of the beds. Allegedly having sat for a moment to rest her aching frame she had leant back and......the next she knew of it we were waking her. We quickly got her back on her feet, mopped up the dribble stains on the sheets, and made a speedy departure before any further embarrassing scenes could unfold.
Next up was the long awaited trip to the beach. Along dusty tracks with bumps and potholes we drove the little car as Colin and Bec's had their faces pressed hard against the window barely able to contain their excitement. No sooner had the car stopped than the doors flew open and like two playful dogs who'd been shut up for a while they were gone. Running just as fast as their legs would carry them, tearing their clothes off in complete abandonment as they went, screaming with excitement at the top of their voices, and straight into the turquoise blue sea where they splashed and frolicked around like the happiest children you can imagine.
We set up camp on the beach and then joined the pair of them as they leapt about and dived into the waves. But barely had we got wet than Colin decided to have a COMPETITION! Who could body surf the furthest? And within a heartbeat he was off sliding through the waves like a long slippery eel until he was pushed part way up the beach into the dry sand some 50mm away.
We all had a go with varying degrees of success, Bec's joining Colin on the same wave but holding his legs to drag him back behind her. Emm, in her own special style that kept her head above the water, and her bikini bottoms around her ankles. But soon we were exhausted and made our way back to our camp just a few metres from the beach.
Whilst we sat and chatted, recalling the magnificent surfing challenge, Bec's managed to catch the eye of a playful dog that came running from a nearby camper truck. Although a puppy, with a tail about a metre long and it's body the size 3 sacks of spuds, it too made a B line for Bec's. Together they rolled and played in the sand, the dog licking Bec's face and Bec's giving the dog a good old rub when suddenly Colin noticed some brown marks on Bec's pristine white shirt. That was quickly followed by Bec's noticing the strong smell of baby poo now covering a large part of her shirt and hands. The dog had clearly found a used nappy and had enjoyed rolling in it moments before spotting Bec's. The joy of playing with the puppy ended in a heartbeat as Bec's tore away at high speed diving head long into the sea thrashing her arms and frantically rubbing her shirt in an attempt to clean herself from the dreadful smell.
Bec's was then made to sit in the boot of the little car, squashed up with their colourful buckets and spades, until such time as she'd had a proper wash and clean up. This was achieved at a delightful tapas bar and once Bec's had been scrubbed head to foot normal service was once again resumed, the girls chirping at full volume competing with a 1,000 birds in a nearby bush, but still managing to drown them all out.
But as night fell it was time to return the adventurers to the airport bus stop. Both now fairly exhausted from all the days activities they walked slowly away towards the bus. Bec's mysteriously covered in pegs and Colin clutching his 3.8kg gas cylinder as if it were a bag of gold coins.
Fort near the marina
On-line ukulele practice
Bike tyre pump and tool station on a cycle route here
Another trip up the mast to replace a broken anemometer