I had an interlude for a couple of days. I had to return to Corralejo because my gears weren’t working properly and this was the closest bike shop. Even though Corralejo was three days of experience away for me, it was in reality just up the road.
I was momentarily disappointed to be back at the beginning but actually it was a good opportunity to get rid of some things that I didn’t need and take some that I did.
I set off again on a different route this time, through the volcanoes from Corralejo to Lajares.
It took me a while to find the route out of Corralejo. After a few false starts I found a track and a guy working on the road beside it. I double checked that it was the route to Lajares.
“Si pero sube” (yes but it goes up)
“No pasa nada, no tengo prisa” (no worries, I’m not in a rush)
“Asi es, pasito” (that’s the way, little steps)
The volcano route did go up, and down, but with the wind at my back I was even zipping up inclines. The landscape was of well worn volcanoes, more undulating than dramatic. It was a different world from the tourist bars of Corralejo, yet just a couple of kilometres away.
Immediately I felt decompressed to be back out in the wide-open landscape, my eyes roaming freely from rich red volcano to deep blue sea.
I emerged into the overgrown village of Lajares. Lajares feels a little wild west after Corralejo, with one long main road and very little else spreading out beyond it. But this is a surfer town not a cowboy town and the shops and cafes are more cool boutique and espresso than swinging doors and whiskey.
I headed on to the traditional town of La Oliva, circling the pretty white church and plaza. A few locals were sitting outside a simple bar with their cortados, watching the world go by and it seemed to go by pretty slowly.
I joined the pace and stopped to rest on the wall of an aloe vera farm, watching a few lone fluffy clouds flowing across the blue sky on this windy day. Yep, pasito.
I continued on to Tindaya, and although I’d expected to get a little further I suddenly felt the urge to camp there and see the stars over the mountain. I’d gained a glimpse of the magic of Tindaya on my night at the family’s house but I wanted to experience it directly, unwalled and in the wild.
I cycled around the mountain, enjoying the views and looking for a good spot. Most of the land around there was farmed but I found some cracked and uncultivated earth tucked away beyond some ridges.
As sunset approached I headed towards it but was disconcerted to see a man on the path. He didn’t have a dog and seemed to be wandering aimlessly.
“Is that Tindaya?” I asked, pointing to the village, fully aware that it was Tindaya but wanting to have a little exchange to give my instincts a chance to read him, and to make him think I was going to Tindaya. We chatted briefly, he seemed a little vacant but harmless… probably just a little wary of a strange girl travelling alone by bike.
I waited for him to continue on and when he was well out of sight I looped back to the camping spot. In the early days my only tactic for feeling safe enough to wild camp was to make sure no one had seen me.
I’d set up and was inside the tent when I heard footsteps and “Que coño!” (what the hell!). I unzipped the tent and sprung out before my nervous system had the chance to freeze me. It was the vacant guy, now less vacant.
“I thought you said you were going to Tindaya?”
“Yes I probably am. I just wanted to look at the stars for a bit and then go to Tindaya” (pretending to be casual, in control, quietly freaking out)
“Right. Well, you might as well just stay here. Enjoy the mountain.”
“Maybe. If I can be tranquila here?” I said my voice rising up an octave or two as we got to the crux of the issue. I fixed him with a deadly questioning stare, as if the burning intensity of my eye contact would make him confess to any planned wrongdoing.
“Well yes, I’m the owner of this land, you can be here. Tranquila.” His eyes regarded me benignly. This was a mini-drama for one.
“This is your land!’ Oh I’m sorry’ Are you sure it’s ok for me to be here? I’m sorry I didn’t ask permission. I didn’t know.” I tripped into bumbling English person overdrive, finding my faux pas more horrifying than any other potential wrongdoing.
“Yes of course it’s ok. I was just worried because you said you were going to Tindaya and then you didn’t go. Are you sure you’re ok?”
I assured him I was and content that all was well, off he went. I couldn’t believe I’d been busted but I was glad I had. Now I was camping with (belated) permission and was confident that this ‘strange man’ was actually concerned that I was ok and that I enjoy the stars and the mountain.
Feeling way more relaxed I sat on the ridge and watched the stars come out. The wind had dropped and it was all quiet and peaceful, the lights of Tindaya twinkling in the distance. The mountain looked even more majestic, with the life around it faded to black and the stars studding the sky above.
This was an experience of Fuerteventura I never dreamed I would have – camping out alone under the stars by the sacred mountain of Tindaya. I stayed for a long while, feeling grateful to the man for his easy way in the face of my oddness.
This was something I’d grow accustomed to, from fisherman in Ajuy to farmers in Andalucia, time and time again people welcomed me onto their land and, like this man, were touchingly eager that I should enjoy the stars, the mountain, the lake, the local cider or whatever their slice of the world happened to hold.
Looking at the stars that night I didn’t know that this little adventure would even make it off the island of Fuerteventura, but I sensed that I was onto something special and was willing and ready to see where it might lead.