It was such a good night’s sleep and I woke feeling immensely grateful for the shelter. It’s a nice way to start the day, a vibrational ‘thank you’ coursing through your body, cells humming with life, chest warm, open and at ease.
I unzipped the tent to greet the valley. The sun wasn’t up yet but I didn’t want to overstay my welcome.
Once I was packed up and ready to ride out of there I couldn’t resist unrolling the yoga mat for a short practice in this beautiful setting.
I rode into town then decided to go for a walk, locking up the bike and heading into the hills, loving the freedom not to plan, just letting the day unfold. By the time I arrived back in town the roadside café was open and I got my coffee/electricity/wifi fix plus another Majerero Spanish lesson.
I began the ride to Pajara, feeling that joyful freedom of simply rolling away with all my belongings. The ride was a steady descent through a picturesque valley and I kept braking to take it in more slowly, reminding myself that it was hardly a ‘waste’ of a downhill. I wasn’t on a lycra mission.
I arrived in Rio de Vega Palmas and stopped to look at the pretty plaza and church. It was the kind of place you’d drive through, thinking ‘oh this looks nice, we should stop’ but by the time you’ve formulated that thought and opened your mouth to say it, you’ve passed through it already.
My earlier google fix had alerted me to the presence of the hermitage of the patron saint of Fuerteventura in the valley, hidden away in a crevice in the rocks, behind a reservoir and a copse of trees. It all sounded very unusual and I really wanted to go explore.
I asked the owner of a restaurant about the possibility of going there by bike. She gave me an emphatic ‘no’ and her facial expression was an 8 on the wtf scale. I was still unsure, because really people are not to be trusted when they say that something isn’t possible. But anything over a 7 on the wtf scale and I begrudgingly listen.
I left the bike in the plaza and set off on foot, walking through the barranco in search of the hermitage. I asked the first person I saw (not the duck) whether I was going the right way even though there wasn’t really another way.
I realised that I’d got so used to asking people questions about the way and the condition of the road and the existence of water that I’d started to ask out of habit. People always seemed happy to help and I enjoyed the opportunity to speak Spanish, and let’s face it, to speak full stop.
The walk was a delightful mix of crazy rocks (geologists dream) valley vistas, green exotic plants in red earth, not to mention the reservoir and woods. Seeing more than ten trees clustered together in Fuerteventura is a very odd sight, as is an inland body of water.
I was feeling very excited about all these elements and later, when a French couple I met mentioned they were thinking of doing the walk, I almost knocked them down with enthusiasm as I slipped into raptures about the rocks and the trees and the water. Having recently arrived from verdant France they may have been somewhat disappointed.
The track turned to steps and I realised that the owner of the restaurant was quite right to give me an 8 on the wtf scale. If anything she’d been conservative in the height of her eyebrows. Yes, taking a bike would have been insane.
I still managed to up the ante though by happily going the wrong way and ending up down in the barranco with the hermitage above me.
No problem, I got to climb the big, smooth rocks up the centre of the barranco, past pools of water with shoals of fish and long reeds of grass.
I wrote in my diary that evening that it was ‘easily the best walk I’ve done in Fuerte, probably one of the best walks I’ve done ever!’ Admittedly I was a teensy bit high on nature and spontaneity and adventure and doing whatever the hell I wanted, but it was also, really, really beautiful.
I stopped to sit on a rock, absorbing the scene whilst people at the hermitage did ‘how the hell did you get there? I want to get there!’ hand signals at me. I ate a sandwich regally; feeling excessively pleased with myself considering my good fortune was down to my truly terrible sense of direction.
After a leisurely laze on the rock I continued my journey to the centre of the earth (barranco) and reached the hermitage – a small white building, like a little church on the outside and a shrine on the inside. People had written their names and wishes on the walls and in simple notebooks that were stacked all around the room.
I stayed for ages reading them, getting emotional at all the outpouring of hopes and dreams and wishes.
‘please let me be happy’ ‘please may my children be healthy, let them have all the good in the world’ ‘please help me to find love’ ‘help me find work’ ‘help me find peace’ …
Some people went into more detail but the thread was the same: health and happiness, for ourselves and others. All the human hope written into these dusty notebooks was choking me up. At times poetic and profound as they beseeched the patron saint to help, at times refreshingly pragmatic:
‘I want to be a La Oliva taxi driver’.
A call out not just for any job but a taxi driver job, and not just anywhere but a particular municipality on Fuerteventura.
Back in town I was unsure what to do, where to head. I’d been ages, it was getting late. I decided to head into the barranco to make camp. It did involve lifting the bike over some rocks but it was a pretty barranco with a little stream and lots of trees so I thought it was worth the effort.
My back wheel fell off at one point which was slightly disconcerting. I felt bad that I’d wounded my steed and berated myself for being so stupid and not taking better care of it. What was with this bloody off-roading obsession?
I found a great camp spot which gave me shelter but also a wide open view of the valley.
The sky was so full of stars that night that I drew a breath and swore. I don’t have much of a swearing habit, let alone at the beauty of nature, but it was beyond ridiculous, so much so that a soft, breathy, incredulous ‘Fuck off’ seemed like the only way to respond in the face of the enormity and magnificence of our universe.