Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Powers of hell ...

And grow hotter
Originally uploaded by goforchris.
A reminder of the power lurking just below the earth on Lanzarote hit us powerfully at Islote de Hilario,Timanfaya, where a residual chamber of magma remains close to the surface - what vulcanologists call a geothermic anomaly. Every ten minutes or so, a National Park employee in a strange, dust-coloured uniform entertains tourists with a demonstration of this power when he thrusts a scrub bush into a hole in the ground (see photo). Within seconds there was a strong smell of toast burning, and shortly afterwards it burst into flame - very hot flame. We also saw geysers produced by pouring water down a pipe in the ground, chicken being roasted over what looked like a well outside the restaurant but was in fact a pit of intense heat, and picked up small stones that were too hot to hold for any time.

All very entertaining - well, no, actually: more terrifying. There was nothing man could do to affect this energy - it just was. The smell of the volcanic dust was so prevalent that I can smell it still when I write of it, and the texture of the vocanic debris like nothing else I have walked on.

The Lanzarotenos (this should have a ~ above the second 'n', but I can't work out how to do it - Lanzaroteños - hurrah!) have an ambivalent attitude to this whole aspect of their island, protecting what was in effect a dreadful curse; everywhere we see evidence of the work of César Manrique who supervised the building of the Ruta de los Volcanes over which we were driven and designed the symbol of the park - and who decreed that no buildings should rise more than two storeys about ground level. This extraordinary level of control means that everywhere on the island you see little white boxes, with green window-frames (unless at the seaside, when they are blue). It makes our own National Park restrictions seem liberal indeed.

When I look back at the experience - we were on a walking holiday, and covered considerable ground on foot, along with an agreeable bunch of HF types - I feel that apart from the experience of summer weather in February there isn't much I'd go back to Lanzarote for. I feel it's a faintly melancholy island, with little going for it and a great deal to struggle with to make a living. I may be wrong - but that eruption in the 18th century dealt a blow that the island still has to work hard to recover from.

By the way - their roundabouts (on the roads) are magnificent. I kid you not.


  1. ñ = alt-n n on t'mac.

    Sounds like funky geology to me. Wouldn't mind seeing that :)

  2. Thanks - may edit in the morning...or may not!
    It's a fascinating place.

  3. Should you ever need it again, the ñ is Alt+164.

  4. Eamonn, is that on a PC? I shall try right now:
    ¡§¢ - hmm: not that then.
    ñ - and Tim wins! Hurrah!

  5. Alt+0241 on PC does the trick.

    Tilde next time....!