I woke in an excellent mood, mainly because the tent was completely dry so I didn’t wake with wet plastic stuck to my head. If only I was this easily pleased in everyday life.
I leapt over the dune and ran down to the shore for an early-morning swim. It was bloody cold so it was a quick swim and I was very awake afterwards.
With no tent to dry I got going early and rode to the habour to do some clothes washing. I hung my stuff on the bike to dry and headed off like a mobile laundry, setting sail down the west coast.
I was off-roading again, passing bay after bay of beaches I’d never seen before. Again, it struck me as completely ridiculous that I’d come to Cotillo plenty of times but had never ventured far beyond it. The beaches were wild and stunning and each completely different.
I reached the clifftop of Playa de Esquinzo and there were some serious waves. I’d only ever surfed at the beginners spots on the island (and by surf I mean try to stand up) so it was pretty inspiring to see people tackling real waves and popping out a 360 while they were at it.
I chatted to a guy on a mountain bike for a while. He was was very dubious about my tyres. “However you got here it can’t have been easy on those.” They did look ridiculously skinny compared to his, but I explained that I go slowly. Pretty much anything is possible if you’re not in a hurry.
As I left, I asked some surfers, “Is this the way to Tindaya?” pointing at a track that seemed to be going in the right direction. They smiled with raised eyebrows and one of them responded, “Yes… but it’s far away… and difficult”.
“Where did she say she was going?” another wetsuit-clad guy shouted across, I responded and he let out a rush of air whilst shaking his head.
Of course I was enjoying all this talk of things being difficult – especially coming from people who take on merciless ocean waves – but it did seem a bit over the top. Tindaya was the next village on a very small island but now it had been recast as Tibet and my journey a long and perilous one through the Himalayas.
I shrugged and gave my most nonchalant sounding ‘no pasa nada’. (Lit: ‘no happens nothing’ = ‘no worries’)
Turns out that pasa mucho. The track entered the barranco (ravine) of Esquinzo and kept on splitting. With multiple choice and no signs I just kept heading in the general direction.
This is a flat, open island, how hard can it be? I found myself going deeper and deeper into the barranco, with the sides getting progressively higher and the track disappearing entirely at times. I was considering turning back but played the ‘I’ll just see what’s around this corner’ game for a while.
I did some pushing, some lifting, some dragging and some cursing. I wondered if I should have asked “Which is the best way to Tindaya?” As if by not asking exactly the right question I’d been doomed to take the doomiest track of them all.
The day was getting late. I would have happily camped in the barranco – it was oddly beautiful with shrubs of crazy desert plants – but I didn’t have enough water to be comfortable for the night.
I breathed a sigh of relief when the barranco finally opened out and I came to a warehouse – there must be tarmac on the other side of that. Any thoughts of cutting through were curtailed by a sign warning ‘Dangerous Dogs on the loose’. A menacing use of capitals.
I continued glumly through the barranco, which was giving me plenty of short, sharp inclines with loose stones for me to sweat and swear over with my stupid skinny tires. As I pushed up a particularly steep one, with a rush of relief the mountain and village of Tindaya came into view.
Tindaya is considered a special, sacred mountain. The original indigenous inhabitants of Fuerteventura worshipped it. Today there are still rock carvings at the top and it’s prohibited to climb it. Plenty of spiritual people live in the area, drawn to the mountain’s energy.
Naturally, the local government asked themselves: “How can we monetize the magic mountain?” After chucking some crazy ideas around, they decided to go for the craziest idea of all: gut the mountain, create a big cave in the middle, charge €8 per person for entry, magical souvenir shop on exit – job done.
Fortunately the money that had been set aside to gut the sacred mountain was lost under mysterious circumstances. Mountain and Mystery 1: Stupid People 0.
I was buzzy and hyper at coming out of the barranco but soon felt soothed cycling past this big solid red rock. Whether that was because it was kicking out some awesome energy I don’t know, but I certainly felt that I was a mere ant in its presence, weaving about on my bike, my shadow a fleeting one, as it sat still and silent and steady.
I cycled around looking for a camp spot but didn’t see anywhere even remotely suitable. The wind was blowing hard and I couldn’t see a patch of land that didn’t involve an awful lot of volcanic rubble and/or an angry looking dog. I was getting bad vibes on the camping front.
It definitely didn’t help that I was tired, dehydrated, a little overwrought after the barranco debacle and it was now cold and looking like it was going to rain.
There was no one around so I waited for the local shop to open then asked the owner if he knew a good place to put up a tent… maybe a farm or someone with a garden? He seemed to think this was an unusual question but he picked up his phone and started ringing around, whilst advising me that this might take a while because he was stoned.
He ended up ringing the phone of a Spanish family, originally from Barcelona and now living on the island in a house they had designed and built themselves.
They weren’t so keen on the tent in the garden idea but said that I was more than welcome to come and stay – they let out one of the rooms on a B&B basis and would happily discount it for me.
This wasn’t really what I’d had in mind but I thought I’d at least go see them and maybe they would feel better about the tent idea after meeting me and seeing that I was reasonably presentable and unlikely to take up squatters rights.
I got the directions and set off to what was actually an architectural marvel. The entire house was curved. It was beautifully lit and had a mesmerising, undulating feel, using natural rock and painted a soft white.
Made out of the same natural rock as the rest of the house was a wide, gently curving staircase leading up to a circular room with a king-sized bed in the middle.
The curved panoramic windows showcased the mountain and the volcanoes surrounding Tindaya. The setting sun was peaking through the dark clouds, throwing out some crazy, stunning light which was spilling into the room from all different angles.
So yeah, anyway, this trip is all about embracing experiences not being stuck on one idea… like always staying in a tent, for example … so went my justification for this sudden and rather premature hit of luxury.
With my inner wanabee-hardened-camper satisfied I entered into negotiations, offering to make up the bed myself if she could knock a bit more off the price.
This is easy to do with zero shame when your original request (via a stoned shopkeeper) was “Howdy, can I put up a tent in your garden?”
She took me up on my offer and I was once again buzzing at my good luck as I put on the Egyptian cotton sheets in this magical turret of a bedroom instead of fighting with damp tarpaulin on volcanic rubble.
It was quite a contrast from my coffin-like tent and I gave thanks for this unusual turn of event. I tried to calm myself enough to sleep but lay awake, so excited by the day and with the thought that I had no idea what tomorrow would bring.