I woke up cold in a wet tent. I ejected myself out the side door and into a red and pink world, the sunrise silently working its magic. My tent is so low that I have to remain almost horizontal whilst getting out and that morning I exited into a plank position, before doing squats and leaping about trying to get warm.
I’m not overly prone to exercise and this was an emergency measure routine in lieu of the marvellous invention called DUVET but it was a surprisingly fun way to start the day.
After two days without making a fire, I was pleased to be able to make porridge and took my time eating, enjoying the surroundings and the early morning light show.
I left the barranco and it seemed so much harder getting out then going in – partly because I was going uphill but partly because I had been fueled by determination last night and now I just wanted to be back on tarmac.
Reaching the road I began the climb to Pájara which was way easier than I thought – a slow steady incline with a few drops and amazing views, first of the valley and the reservoir and then of undulating mountains and orange, otherworldly terrain.
On the final descent to Pájara I saw a guy on the road, wearing a hiking jacket which made me think he was a foreign traveller, and wheeling a cart which marked him out as more than a day hiker.
I was flying along and shouted out hola at him as I passed, turning to smile at him and absorbing at the very same moment that he was young and goodlooking and seemed more Latino than Germanic. He returned the greeting enthusiastically. I had already sped by though and kicked myself for not hitting the brakes. Surely disc brakes are made for such situations.
I resolved to chat to him in town and went to wander around, soaking up some of the friendly laidback Pájara vibes. It’s a small place, not much to see but the main street outside the church is lined with mature trees that dappled the sunshine to perfection and are home to what sounded like hundreds of birds all chirping ‘life is goooood’ in harmony.
I went into the church and got into conversation with a woman there. She told me about her children who had been studying abroad and learning English. She clasped my hand and told me about her nephew who had died recently and had died young.
She was suddenly overcome with emotion, being pulled by a tide of it as she gasped and started crying. I didn’t have words in English let alone Spanish. I stood and held her hand.
We stood like that for a while, my heart swelling in my chest, until she finally shook herself and dried her eyes, going back to her prayers as if nothing had happened.
I stumbled out into the sunshine, saw the boy in a café and headed over declaring with great enthusiasm:
‘Te vi en el camino, caminando’ (I saw you on the road, walking)
to which he replied:
‘Te vi en el camino, pedelando (I saw you on the road, pedaling)
This pleased and amused me and we got talking about el viaje and la vida (travel and life) immediately finding lots in common and enjoying talking in our lingua franca of Spanish.
He was Italian, from Venice and loved to walk. He was currently walking around Fuerteventura. Work was a means to travel and his boss was understanding of his nomadic nature, frequently telling him “go on Michael, get out of here, you need to go travelling”.
We ate tapas and talked till late in the afternoon eventually saying buen viaje and hasta luego, our journeys continuing in different directions and at different velocities.
I went to Ajuy a little fishing village with a black sand beach, limestone cliffs and huge magma caves. It’s one of the most unusual and lovely places on the island.
When I arrived I saw a woman walking on the cliff, scanning the beach below and looking worried. She came over and I was soon involved in the hunt for her missing dogs. I wasn’t much help and the dogs returned when they were ready to go home but she acted as if I had personally rescued them from the sea.
The sea at Ajuy is often wild, with crashing waves and a long rolling pull out to sea. Today it was calmer and people were in the sea. I watched as they navigated the entry with the sea pulling and dragging the pebbles and grabbing at their feet.
I waited for a break in the bigger sets and launched myself in, gasping at the cold water and trying to get to the calmer waters beyond where it was breaking. I felt a little like I was in a washing machine. I needed a good spin cycle after a few days on wet wipes.
Afterwards I walked around the backstreets in this fishing village of just 56, observing life behind the tourist restaurants: a group of guys fixing a car, a woman cooing over her friend’s baby, a man trying to light a bbq.
I paused by the bbq which was actually a bathtub with a grill over it. The guy had chucked a whole palette inside and was trying to light it. I was tempted to intervene… where is your goddamn kindling man… move aside.
He saw me watching and invited me to join the bbq mentioning that there would be a pig on it later and he owned multiple houses and he was currently single and it was hard to find a woman in the village, did he mention he’s single and one of the houses is really quite big and it will be a whole pig.
I backed away slowly and went to make a camp. I asked a local woman walking her dog if she thought it would be ok for me to put a tent up by the beach. She was very enthusiastic and wanted to make sure I got a good place, out of the wind, practically ushering me to a place with a little washing line and a table that the fishermen used in summer months.
I couldn’t have felt any more at home. It was a welcome change to be camping in view of houses and to be assured that no one would mind me being there. As night fell there was no one around, just the rush and the roar of the sea as I slid into my tent and felt grateful for all the random encounters and experiences, feeling utterly in love with this strange mode of travel.