Waking after a restful sleep I lay in bed listening to Charlotte building her bike in the next room. I landed here in Lanzarote yesterday afternoon and Charlotte joined me in the early evening before we headed out for dinner at a local restaurant. The sun is up and today will be our first day of riding the Granguanche an island hopping mountain bike route around the Canary Islands of Lanzarote, Fuertaventura, Gran Canaria, Tenerife and La Palma.
Drinking tea on the terrace whilst Charlotte battled with her rear derailleur I was feeling nervous about the day ahead. Since finishing work down in Cornwall all I'd been doing was eating biscuits and chocolate and doing very little exercise and no cycling. I knew that I'd be cursing myself for being so lazy well before the day was out.
Hitting the road and heading down to the coastline in Arrecife we grabbed a camping gas canister from Decathlon and started our journey the best way, with a breakfast stop. Tea, coffee and a Spanish omelette baguette by the harbour saw us basking in the morning sunshine and wondering if we even needed to ride our bikes.
Fully fuelled we began our mission to get to the start of the Granguanche route, Orzola, 55km to the north at the top of the island.
As urban cycle paths became gravel trails we turned inland to a dusty paradise. Scrubland and dirt singletrack snaked between the hills as we experienced our first taste of Lanzarote.
The trail was a million shades of beiges and browns, raw and beautiful and scorched by the hot sun. We were riding into a headwind and would be all day but without the breeze it would have been way too hot.
Popping off the trail by a petrol station we had a cold drink pit stop before heading back off-road. I've never ridden in such a dry and dusty place, Lanzarote gets very little rainfall and looks very much like a rocky desert. It felt so good to be somewhere completely different. This is my first tip abroad since returning from New Zealand in the first 2020 Covid lockdown and I'd forgotten just how incredible it is to be transported to another world with a simple plane journey. I've also never been to a Spanish speaking country before and don't even know where to start with the lingo, although my trusty riding companion definitely has some skills in that department :-)
Stopping by the ruins of an old house for a late lunch we reappeared from our shaded spot to find a car parked and a couple of local guys chatting on the land. The older man came over and started to talk to us, there was a lot of arm waving and smiling and I hadn't the foggiest what he was on about but I did a bit of smiling and nodding and looking at Charlotte to see if she was any the wiser. This went on for quite some time before we could politely get going again and as we wheeled our bikes back to the track I asked Charlotte what he'd said. Apparently there was some talk about people having lots of possessions but the valuable things in life were the places and people. He also commented on my blue eyes and that he also had blue eyes...he'd maybe had a little drink at lunchtime, who knows but he was happy and friendly and had us laughing.
Back on the trail we were surrounded by cacti. I love those spiky beauties and these were pretty big prickly pear, some still with fruit on.
Hitting the coastal town of Arrieta we had a nice little breather and took in the gorgeous views. The whitewashed houses and restaurants dazzled in the afternoon sunshine as the tide crashed against the rocks alongside the harbour wall, sending little crabs scuttling for cover or washing them back into the sea.
We were now on roads and I have to say that the next hour was my least enjoyable part of the day. The headwind seemed stronger and there was nothing to distract me from the monotony of following the white line and the ever smaller figure of Charlotte ahead of me disappearing into the distance. I felt knackered but just had to keep turning those pedals and telling myself that the first few days are the hardest trying to get bike-fit again. This is the time when I curse myself for doing very little riding and also tell myself that I should eat a bit less cake, haha! I mean like that would ever happen ;-)
The last few miles into Orzola were a struggle, seeing the little white tops of the town and wishing I was already there with an ice cold drink. Finally I turned off the main road, saw Charlotte parked up and we then wheeled down to the port and found a nice place by the harbour to rehydrate.
The plan was to take the ferry over to the small island of La Graciosa where there was a short loop of riding and hopefully more opportunity for discreet wild camping. Like in England wild camping is illegal in the Canary Islands however here from what I've read online people get fined if they're caught. Deciding to get a ferry a bit earlier than planned we rode down, got our tickets and hauled the bikes aboard. Having plugged her Garmin in to charge at the bar, I casually asked Charlotte if she'd grabbed it before we left and she cursed and said no. With less than a minute before the ferry was set to go she asked the man by the gangplank if she could run to get it but it was too late. Hopefully they'll keep it safe and we can get it on the way back tomorrow fingers crossed!
The sea didn't look very choppy but we were on a mini rollercoaster of a ride over to La Graciosa. Rounding the headland the towering hills of rock were an impressive sight.
Back on dry land again we grabbed a few supplies from the little supermarket and headed west across the island towards Playa de las Conchas beach where we could watch the sunset and find a spot to camp. Sandy, dusty tracks showed the way and as the sun was falling lower in the sky the surrounding hills glowed in the last of the daylight.
Rounding a corner to see the sea again the views were rather stunning. It's times like these that take your breath away a little, make your heart swell and your face ache with a big cheesy grin. What a sight!
Turning off the trail and reaching the shoreline we watched the sun go down on our first day of riding. It always makes me feel alive to watch mother nature put on her show and she most definitely didn't disappoint us with the orange glow disappearing below the horizon. I also saw the green flash! For those of you that don't know what I'm talking about it's a phenomena whereby when you watch the last tiny bit of the sun disappear below the horizon there is a split second when if you're watching you might see a green flash of light. I hadn't heard of this at all before this summer when my friends in Cornwall talked about it. I honestly thought they were winding me up and then we went to watch the sun set and I saw it then - so I feel very lucky to have seen it here tonight.
It was then time for a nice dip in the sea to wash away the dust and grime of the day. There was big surf not far out so we literally went knee deep before submerging and floating in the small waves. It felt a bit fresh at first but then it was just lovely, a perfect way to end the day feeling refreshed and revitalised.
Putting our tents up as it was just turning dark we then ate dinner watching the whitewater of the waves rolling in. Perched up on the sand dunes we'll be packing up not long after sunrise tomorrow and will wake up to the beautiful sea view. As I'm typing this the roar of the waves is almost hypnotic and I'm hoping it will lull me to sleep as I'm ready to hit the hay. I'm so grateful for such a fantastic start to the trip, beautiful sunshine, good riding and wonderful company - long may it last!
- Things lost: 1 Garmin (hopefully only temporarily)
- Things broken: 1 spork
- Sea dips: 1