I am driving on the right-hand side! It is exciting. After getting some confidence up, I decided it was time to go over to the other side of the island to the Timanfaya National Park. Actually, my confidence isn’t that great yet, so instead of going along the highways, I decide to take the nice quiet country roads. I expect that they will be a lot more quiet and a lot easier for me to drive. For the first time, I go up the hill in front of my place. Well, it isn’t quite a hill – more of a mountain really. It is a two-way road but it also isn’t much of a road – more like a goat track that clings precariously to the side of the mountain as it winds its way ever upwards. I am a cold sweat. I am trying to stick to the right hand side of the road, but the mountain face drops straight down. I am hoping nothing comes in the other direction and am unsure which approach I dread more. To meet another vehicle on the straights where I don’t want to get any closer to the edge or on the dreaded hairpin turns. There aren’t even any trees to hit and maybe stop you, if you do go over the edge. Just straight down. I am slowly crawling along, even if I wanted to turn back, I can’t. There is nowhere to turn so I just have to keep going up. After what seems like forever I am up the top and with a great deal of chance, I didn’t see another car. There is a view point, so I get out for some respite, breathing heavily as the wind chills me even more cold due to the cold sweat. The view is amazing and when I see the road I had just driven up, I can’t help but swear loudly.
Not far from the view the goat track meets, what the map calls, a main road. The road base is better, and slighter wider but now the hairpin turns come through cut-outs in the rock. You cannot see if anyone is coming in the other direction or not. Also because it is a main road there are more cars. I am too anxious to head completely over the other side of the island and decide to return by another route and visit the Cactus Gardens instead. The gardens were great, again designed by Cesar Manrique, the signs on the both the men’s and ladies toilets were fairly impressive as were all the cactus plants. After this, I decided a coffee was in order and headed for the nearest town on the coast.
Driving into the little town, Charco del Palo, there is a large billboard. On it are a naked man and women, holding hands looking back over their shoulders and smiling at those who enter the village. “HA!”, I snort, I have found the nudist beach. I have a short stroll around town to check out what looks like the best place for a coffee. I pass one, it looks a little boring. I see a sign for another café that proclaims it has a tropical garden. Thinking that sounds nice and relaxing after the drive, I head towards that one. It’s closed but there is a sign out the front promoting their “naturists dinner nights”. I laugh, so the nudists come up from the beach to dinner. I head back to the boring one and get my coffee fix. Inside I notice a sign while paying my bill. It is printed out from a computer. There is a naked man and woman but they have clothes over the top of them. In Spanish the words say “no nudity here”. By now the penny has dropped and I realise the whole town is a nudist town. I just chose the clothing only café. On leaving town, I came to a stop sign. Stopped the car, looked right, looked left – where a group of naked men are walking along the street – swinging in the breeze. This time my “HA” was extra loud, as I wondered how long I could stop there for before they spotted me. I drove on. That was a sight I had not expected to see.
I finally did make it over to the Timafaya National Park the next day. The line of cars to get in was horrific. It took me an hour from just outside the entrance until I got to the parking lot. The bring the visitor cars in by sections. They will let about 10-12 cars in and get them to stop. When 10-12 cars leave, the waiting cars get to move up to the next waiting stop and so on. This takes forever. Finally I am there but I don’t see what I am looking for. The landscapes are surreal but I was looking for the black circles that make the ground look like a moon or a giant black golf ball. In the gift shop I buy a post card that bears the image of what I am looking for. On the way out I ask the man, whose job it is to get the geyser to blow by pouring water into it, where I can see what is on my postcard. He gives me directions and I am off. Not far away is the sight I have wanted to see. It’s different from what I imagined, probably because I am at street level and the images I have seen before are all from a bird’s eye view. Rather than a naturally occurring phenomenon, these circles are actually built. They are round walls of volcanic rock and in the circles is volcanic soil – it is a farming practice to grow things. While not what I expected it still looked really cool. Was it worth the wait to get into the national park? I think so, I did get to see yet another Cesar Manrique inspired work of art in its buildings, its landscapes and chefs cooking food by volcanic heat.