Small Islands, Big Walk: Following the GR131 on Lanzarote

So… it turns out I’m not very good at keeping a ‘live’ blog while undertaking hundreds of miles of walking. Therefore, I’ve got a lot of catching up to do. This blog features as part of the Small Islands, Big Walk series, following my crossing of some of Spain’s most spectacular islands. 

If you did manage to follow what little I’ve written about my adventure so far, you’ll know that my last post ended with me having crossed and camped out on La Graciosa, the small island off the northern coast of Lanzarote, which does not feature on the GR131. Written on an iPhone while wrapped inside my bivvy, I hope you can excuse the mediocre photos that were included. In order to truly highlight the magic of La Graciosa, I thought I’d include a couple of photos here:

Gnarly, right? Anyway, moving on…

So, there I was. Walking back into Caleto del Sebo on La Graciosa with about 20 minutes before the 3pm ferry to Orzola. Surely that’s enough time for a cold water shower and a quick wash of my shirt, right? Wrong. Turns out I’ll be getting the 4.30pm ferry after all – not ideal, especially with my first day nerves about finding somewhere out the way to sleep before it gets dark. Oh well, you’ve gotta roll with it.

Once I disembarked the ferry on the north east coast of Lanzarote, I took a brief look at the GR131 noticeboard in front of me: about 70 kilometers of trail, split over a suggested five stages (naturally, I ended up ignoring this). A brief stop at a mini market for some water and trail food and I headed out of the small town of Orzola. A thoroughly uninspiring opening couple of miles to the GR131 presented itself – walking alongside a main road with very little to see. Eventually, I joined a gravel track and was presented with two sights which would become very typical over the next few islands: Aloe Vera plantations and grape vines protected by semi-circular stone walls. You can see both of these featured below.

It was around now that I also begun climbing, scouring the landscape for suitable bivvy spots as I went. One thing became very apparent – volcanic rocks and gravel covered almost every inch of ground and where they didn’t – a cactus or something equally unpleasant raised from it. Another mile or two down the track and with darkness creeping in, I decided I had no choice but to pull off the road and set up camp. And so, at around 400 meters up the side of Montana Corona, I inflated my sleeping pad, unrolled my bivvy and had one of the most uncomfortable nights sleeps I can ever remember. Note to self: a gravel incline is not the ideal spot to get some shut eye – you will repeatedly slide down the slope and end up meters away from where you started. At least being awake before sunrise meant that I got to see a truly spectacular sight.

Yet, while the sunrise was spectacular, the following days walk was less so. Having covered almost 60 kilometers in my first two days of walking meant that my feet were not too pretty. Blister management was non-existent and the skin was peeling from all of my toes, as well as the sole and heal of my foot. It was also today that I was going to climb over the highest point on the island. Oh well – onwards and upwards! I started by descending from my bivvy spot into the small village of Maguez. It seems the whole place was still asleep as I managed to walk through it without seeing any sign of life. This was followed by a steep climb into the town of Haria, before climbing further still up to the military domes at Penas del Chache. At only 675 meters high this pales in comparison to the westerly Canary Islands, but with holes in my feet, a scorching sun, shade-less landscape and an 11kg pack on my back, it was still a bit of a test. Here’s a picture of the view back over Haria as a climbed out of the town.

Thankfully, reaching the highest point of the island meant that the only way is down – and it was on this stretch of walk that I was awarded some of the best views. As I rounded on Ermita de Las Nieves, a small church at around 550 metres, the views over Playa de Famara were truly beautiful. The clouds and the waves combined perfectly to frame the dramatic landscape and running around taking photos I almost forgot the pain caused by my feet – almost. 

The remainder of the day was spent on largely unremarkable gravel paths, all the while slowly descending, until I finally entered the town of Teguise. Here I found a pharmacy (with taped up feet I had very few problems over the next 900 kilometers), a three course-meal for 9 euros and a beautiful little town in which to wander through and take some photos. I also treated myself a room in a budget hotel and a warm shower – it turns out I’m living a life of luxury after all.

The next two days saw the landscape change to feature more and more striking volcanic cones, occasionally punctuated by small towns of plain, white, cubist houses. The highlight of these two days was definitely the views over the Timanfaya National Park in the distance, one of Lanzarote’s biggest crowd pleasers (for the people that drag themselves off the beach). You can see it, and more of the vine protecting semicircles, featured in the pictures below.

The landscape and terrain remains reasonably constant until you reach Uga and pass through a path cut through rugged volcanic rock. It was on this path that I had to step aside to let a camel train pass (no doubt on it’s way to the national park for the tourists) – something I had not expected to have to do on Lanzarote.

The final day was spent walking from Yaiza to the south coast tourist resort of Playa Blanca – this was through the Rubicon Plain (which is basically a desert). It was empty, dusty and hot – but I still preferred it to the British and German tourist town in which I ended up in.

That’s pretty much it for Lanzarote. I apologize if you expected a more  structured or helpful guide to following the GR131 (instead of a non-walkers ramblings as he navigated the route) – I’m more the story-teller kind of writer. Anyway, after a day of R&R (which I spent climbing up and around another mountain) I was off to Fuerteventura. An island where I would experience ‘unprecedented levels of rain’ (according to the locals), have to hang around until I could eventually cross to Isla de Lobos, nearly break all of my electronics, sleep out among the sand dunes, couchsurf and get a weird proposition from someone I suspect wanted to eat me. Stay tuned for that.

Weekend Wanderlust

4 Comments on “Small Islands, Big Walk: Following the GR131 on Lanzarote

  1. I am interested in “crossing” and island. I am sure that would be a neat experience. It can be done in Caribbean islands like Dominica. Anyway, Lanzarote is beautiful! I love volcanic landscapes. #WeekendWanderlust

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  2. Well it sure sounds like an adventure. Don’t you just hate it when you pick the wrong place to sleep and don’t want to move because you are too tired! 🙂 #weekendwanderlust

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  3. Pingback: Small Islands, Big Walk: 9 Highlights of Gran Canaria (On & Off the GR131) | You Bloody Tourist

  4. Pingback: Small Islands, Big Walk: The GR131 on Tenerife | You Bloody Tourist

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