John Edward Cooper’s Notes

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Saturday 6 April 2013

[Friday 5 April 2013]

Warning: Spoiler!
If you plan to visit Cueva de los Verdes and don’t want to know in advance what its “secret” is, leave this page now.

I was awake before 6am, the time I’d set the clock’s alarm to go off, and woke Janet up. She had 15 minutes’ “recovery time” before going to the bathroom. She helped me again in the bathroom today, because my feet were very sore again. A scribbled note says “changed”, perhaps meaning that I changed the multisite dressing on the right heel. Then down for the booked early breakfast. It was expected to be “Continental”, but towards 8am “English” items started to be brought in, so I had some bacon and baked beans. Back to the room, then up to Reception at 8am for our “Natural Wonders” tour. Waiting there also was a couple with a young son from a nearby holiday establishment.… The coach arrived, and our guide introduced herself as Cheryl. There were three other pickups at other nearby hotels before we headed north. In total we had ca.30 people in our party, though there was room on the coach for 50-odd. The sun broke in diverging beams through a cleft in the clouds and the sea was lit up brightly where they ended. I took a photo (09:33:34), but it looked unimpressive. Decided to keep it and see if I could make anything of it with Photoshop after deleting several other attempts because they were equally unimpressive or blurred.


The lava field from Monte Corona in the north, being three or more thousand years older than the one we saw in the south, was no longer bare and barren, but vegetation-covered.

09:43:26 Vegetation covers the lava in the north.

09:45:10 Vegetation covers the lava in the north.


The running theme of Cheryl’s commentary throughout the day was local artist César Manrique, who born in Arrecife, Lanzarote, and returned to live there after knowing people like Andy Warhol in the USA. First stop was at Cueva de los Verdes, named not because it was green but because the family that used to own it were called (what in English would be) Green. I think it had been developed for tourism by Manrique. It was part of a 7.5km lava tube from Monte Corona, which included a 1.5km extension under the Atlantic. There were in fact two tubes, or perhaps a tube within a tube, for after going along one gallery, we retraced our steps somewhat, then mounted flights of steps to one above it. The lower gallery was visible at times through gaps in the floor. Or I could say, the upper gallery had been visible at times from the lower through gaps in the ceiling. Entry to the system was gained via a jameo, a local name for a place where the roof of a cave had collapsed. There were two cave-mouths visible, first an upper, then on turning left a lower; we entered the system by way of the lower one, and when we came out I realised it was through the upper one. Cheryl said there was a “surprise”, or “secret”; if anyone knew what it was they weren’t to say. In centuries past, hundreds of the island’s inhabitants would hide from time to time in the cave-system from pirates. Once, though, after over thirty galleons with thousands of pirates had been seen on the horizon and they had hidden, they were running out of food, so they sent a young man out to look for supplies. The pirates caught him; they convinced him that they were only interested in replenishing their food stocks and he led them to the fugitives, whom they slaughtered. We had to retain the tickets that Cheryl gave us, because they would get us into two other locations we’d be visiting. 

09:56:44 Cueva de los Verdes: This proved to be the exit.

09:57:00 Cueva de los Verdes: Entrance





Photo above: the lava still looks liquid.


The farthest we got was a spacious place used from time to time as a concert hall, with several rows of wooden seats and a capacity of about 500.

10:28:00 A natural auditorium



Photo above: tiny stalactites — of lava, not water-borne calcite, for there’s effectively no water percolating through these rocks. We retraced our steps a short way, then mounted flights of steps to the upper gallery.



As we gathered together at a certain spot, Cheryl requested that we not use a flash for photography here. The caves were lit by coloured lights that were just about sufficient to take photos without a flash, which I proceeded to do. Cheryl repeated her request to me, and I asserted that I hadn’t used the flash. She replied that she’d seen a flash. In fact, that was the doing of the man next to me; he “confessed”, but she didn’t hear him. (Janet later had a word with her to clarify that I was “innocent” in this matter. There was also another embarrassment today: we were sitting just behind her on the coach, and at one point she told us that our talking while she was addressing the party was distracting.)


We stood on the rim of what appeared to be a gaping hole to the lower gallery.


When a stone was thrown down, though, there was a splash and the “gaping hole” broke into ripples. That was the “surprise” or “secret”. It had taken me completely unawares.

10:47:00 The “surprise”: the lower cave is, in fact, a reflection in a pool

10:47:00 Same photo, uncropped



As we approached the exit, Cheryl warned us to look down, not at the daylight. The photo below fairly illustrates why. I’d survived the multitude of steps and sometimes rough and uneven path, though it had been a struggle and an effort to do so. Some of the way had required bending where the ceiling was low — no hard hats, and fortunately no bumps!

10:57:30 Heading for the exit

We returned to the coach for the short trip eastwards to near the coast, to visit the “Jameos del Agua”, a development by Manrique of some jameos in another section of the same lava tube. More uneven paths and steps! Manrique seemed to favour spiral staircases. And dry stone walls were in evidence all over the place. On previous days I’d noticed the same elsewhere on the island, e.g. wind-breaks for vines, walls dividing fields.

11:13:16 Jameos del Agua

11:13:50 Jameos del Agua: The entrance door is an old ship’s rudder.

11:18:06 Looking back from the cave entrance

11:18:44 Cave with saltwater lagoon…

11:20:12 …home to the Blind Albino Crab (Munidopsis polymorpha)

11:22:58 Far end of the cave

11:25:14 Looking back

11:28:38 Swimming pool on the next level up


We had a drink in the bar overlooking the ocean — mine was perhaps a bottle of San Miguel.

11:41:42 Bar on the upper level


We saw our only lizards on the way out: one scuttled off into a crack between two stones in the wall, but I photographed a second. We’ve been naming lizards Eddie (after comedian Eddie Izzard), but we named this one Henry — after first thinking it looked a bit like a short-“beaked” crocodile — because it reminded me of the charmingly ugly Staffordshire Bull Terrier that we used to know when we lived in Barcroft Street.

12:01:54 “Henry”

12:01:54 Detail of 12:01:54

12:04:32 Monte Corona

From there we went south-west to Haría.

12:30:40 Haría

12:30:54 Haría

12:32:38 Haría

We parked in the grounds of the Restaurante El Cortijo. There, the people on an all-inclusive tariff had a buffet lunch provided, and the others were invited for a payment of €10 each. We, however, went off to find an ATM. There was a pedestrian-street, Plaza León y Castillo, with cafés along the left side with tables and chairs outside, and market stalls along the centre; and we saw and used an ATM in the wall of the first building on the right side. On the corner of the street we’d just come out of, Calle la Silla, was “Snack Bar Cafetería Ney-Ya” so we went there. (In the photo below, that’s the building in the centre; Plaza León y Castillo is out of shot to the left.)

12:45:26 Calle la Silla, Haría

I had a beer, and Janet had two 20ml bottles of Coca Cola Light in one glass. The menu was multilingual, but when I asked for a “beef baguette” the waiter didn’t seem to understand, and clarified by asking, “Chivito?” That was the Spanish word above “beef baguette” on the menu, so I agreed. When it came, though, it had ham as well as beef, and a layer of egg. That was in one piece in each of the two halves of the baguette I was presented with, so I was able to peel it off and leave it on the plate.

12:50:32 “Snack Bar Cafetería Ney-Ya”

Although the place was a bit lacking in salubriousness, I gave “Manuel” a tip of €1.

We went back to where the others were, the Restaurante El Cortijo. We got a drink at the bar, but weren’t allowed to go through to the dining room; I think we were expected to go outside, where there were tables with umbrellas. Janet didn’t want to go there, because it was windy. We were permitted to sit in the corner by the bar, though; I sat on a low wall against the main supporting wall, and Janet used my tripod stool.

13:33:08 “Restaurante El Cortijo”

Below: View through the coach windscreen; Cheryl looks for a couple who failed to return at the appointed 1.45pm.

13:46:28 “Restaurante El Cortijo”

From there we went north to another Manrique construction, “Mirador del Rio”. Outside, it was dry stone walls (a round window made me think of a hobbit-dwelling); inside, smooth white plastered walls, rounded and cave-like. We went up spiral staircases, via a restaurant, then a gift shop, to a observation point giving a panoramic view of the island of La Graciosa to the north and Monte Corona to the south. I felt a bit wobbly on the way up, because there was no handrail; on the way down, which I’d feared, I discovered I was able to steady myself by leaning on the white-plastered central stone column of the stairwell.

14:10:28 Mirador del Rio


14:14:00 Island of La Graciosa

14:14:10 Island of La Graciosa



14:25:00 Mirador del Rio: entrance hall

14:26:22 Mirador del Rio: entrance


Our final stop was a place growing and making products of Aloe Vera, “Lanzaloe”. We were handed over to a young woman with a somewhat comical German accent. We were standing around, but I was able to make use of the tripod stool at need. With the aid of a rather inept young “volunteer” from the party, she demonstrated the potting and cultivation of the plant. She got someone to come out and smell the yellow sap from the edge of the leaf; he had no sense of smell, though, so his wife did the honours: it was like sweaty socks. Apparently, it’s a very severe laxative. Most of the leaf, though, which she sliced, was composed of a translucent, colourless gel. She diced this, and handed out the pieces. I took one, and ate it; it was very slimy, and completely tasteless.

14:49:12 Demonstration of Aloe vera at “Lanzaloe”

14:49:12 — detail





We were led into the shop, and there were free samples of an Aloe Vera liqueur. I set up the tripod stool outside while products were being demonstrated. We had no spare weight in our luggage for taking any extras. There was more on Manrique as we returned south to our hotels. His lobbying of government was the reason why there is only one high-rise hotel on the island, in Arrecife, though as we’d seen he undertook many projects to encourage tourism. We passed Manrique’s former house on the way back, built (though we did not see this) in volcanic caves. During his lifetime, he moved out and it became the “César Manrique Foundation”, a tourist attraction and art gallery. He pressed the island authorities to build a roundabout close by, where he considered there to be a danger-spot for motorists leaving the estate. His plea was ignored — till after he himself was killed in a car accident there in 1992, then they built the roundabout! We in fact went round it on our way. We got back to the hotel, ca.5pm. Every step by now was very painful. I lay down on the bed and dozed. When I had to go to the loo, I was crying out in pain. I took some tablets. I was able to go down for dinner, ca.7pm, but I didn’t fancy any of the main-course food and contented myself with a plate of chips. I had my usual ice-cream cone, though — and bread and blue cheese as I finished the bottle of wine. We heard a saxophone playing jazz; it was someone in a corner doing it to recorded accompaniment. Transferred today’s photos to the “little feller”, 56 of them, and edited them (20:22–22:20). Didn’t make them into a PowerPoint presentation, though. Janet wrote: “We both went to bed just after 11pm.”

[Sunday 7 April 2013]

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