This blog features as part of my 900km+ walk across the Canary Islands. Click here to read more.
After a days rest in Playa Blanca, I couldn’t wait to be moving on. While this trip has always intended to show that there is more to the Canary Islands than tacky tourist resorts – there still are tacky tourist resorts and Playa Blanca is one of them. Therefore it was with a feeling of excitement that I boarded the ferry and headed for Corralejo, on the northern coast of Fuerteventura. It was from here that I planned to pick up the island-hopping GR131 which crosses the entire length of the island with around 160 kilometers of trail. This has been split into 9 sections which are recommended to take a day each – this blog will discuss the first four of those sections. I hope you enjoy.
The awkward ferry times meant that I had no choice but to spend a night in Corralejo. That was entirely fine, since before I made my way south, I intended to cross to the small Isla de Lobos for a decent day of walking – this is where the problems begun. I awoke in the spare room of a lovely Spanish-Italian mother and daughter, who then offered me a delicious breakfast which I scoffed quickly. I wanted to get to Lobos early so that I had enough time to wheel out of town and find somewhere to sleep. I walked down to the port in order to find a boat which would take me to Lobos – poor weather meant that none of the water taxis were able to run. Brilliant. I decided to walk the second stage of the GR131 instead, returning to my Airbnb room and attempting Lobos the following day…
Stage 2: Corralejo to La Olivia.
In order to start this walk, I had to walk the entire length of Corralejo’s main street – and I have very mixed opinions of it. Yeah, it has a lot of tourists – but Corralejo is primarily a surfer town and that actually makes for a really cool vibe. The mix of tourists, surfers and locals just works. Anyway. Heading out of town and taking a slight short cut through a working quarry, I was soon thrust into the volcanic landscape which I had just left behind in Lanzarote.
The whole day was almost entirely spent on dirt roads – which isn’t exactly the most riveting hiking terrain. Still, the lava field landscape was quite interesting, with the road climbing up a few hundred meters, passing between several caldera (the most famous of which is the Calderon Hondo, the destination of many a day walk) and eventually reaching the small village of Lajares. Here I grabbed a beer at a small cafe with a very chilled surfer vibe (there’s a lot of that around here) before continuing onto La Olivia.
Leaving Lajares I was initially taken along some thoroughly uninspiring tarmac roads, before re-joining the dirt tracks to walk through the Malpais de la Arena lava field. This area featured lava which was thrown up in the last eruption which occurred on Fuerteventura, about 10,000 years ago. With the odd spot of rain, I was looking forward to reaching La Olivia – however, I wouldn’t be able to do that before my first of many (seriously… a lot) encounters with some angry, loud, overly protective dogs. Minutes after they escorted me from the front of their house, I was confronted by about 15 tethered canary hounds trying to break free from their chains and supposedly rid me of my limbs. Anyway, I wandered into La Olivia and hopped on a bus back to Corralejo. Tomorrow, Isla de Lobos (or so I thought).
Stage 3: La Olivia to Tefia.
The sun was shining – but once again the unforgiving waves were preventing the boats from reaching Lobos. Again I decided to complete a later section of the walk and once again I decided to return to Corralejo for the night. I hopped on a bus to where I ended up in La Olivia yesterday and walked out of town. If there was ever a day of walking which showed that I am not a walker – today was the day. I arrogantly set out on this 17km stint of trail, under-equipped and blindly accepting the weather forecasts prediction of no rain until after 4pm. I entirely ignored the wind. I regretted my decision almost immediately.
I spent the first 7km walking through a 40mph headwind. With absolutely no shelter, this was slowing my pace quite a lot. The wind was also blowing sand and gravel into my face and arms at a painful speed. It was then that it started to rain. (Here’s where my under-preparedness comes into play – I had a wind and rainproof jacket, neatly tucked away in my pack). Since it was only light rain, I decided to continue, moving past the point where my destination was closer than my point of origin.
Now the skies opened. The increasingly strong wind blew the rain directly into me, soaking me instantly. I looked around for some sort of shelter, but there was none. With no protection for my electronics (I also have a dry bag in my pack), I decided to run – 8kms to the next village and the possibility of shelter. In hindsight I should’ve turned round and let the tailwind help me on my way. (This is why there are no pictures of this section, in case you’re wondering).
By the time I arrived inside the small Spanish bar, I was absolutely drenched. The locals looked at me with utter bemusement as I ordered a bottle of Tropical, the waitress clearly not wanting to accept my soaking €10 note, while I dripped all over the floor of her bar. I dried out my electronics as best I could and rung out my shirt in the bathroom, before sitting down to contemplate where I’d gone wrong (outlined above). I eventually made it back to Correlajo to dry myself out. My phone had stopped working, but I bought some rice which miraculously brought it back to life.
Tomorrow, would I finally make it to Lobos? Nope. Another day of wind and rain had stopped the boats from sailing (I was getting increasingly tempted to swim). Instead of pushing further on I decided to enjoy the atmosphere (and Premier League football) in Corralejo – which ended up with me becoming a focal point in a drag queen show. Still… that’s a story for another day.
Stage 1: Isla de Lobos!
Finally. I made it. Several days later than planned and I was the only passenger on this rubber speedboat thing (technical name), making the 15 minute crossing to Lobos. With 3 hours until the boat was returning to collect me, I hastily walked out of the small village (well, its just a collection of empty looking buildings) of El Puertito and headed to the lighthouse at the other side of the island. I passed a pretty nice beach at Playa de la Concha, before taking a slight diversion to see some semi-interesting salt pans. Finally, I passed the summit of Montana de la Caldera – with a bit more time I’d have submitted the imposing 127 meter-high peak, but alas, there was no time – before arriving at Faro de Martino, about 4km’s from where I begun.
I snapped a few photos back across the island, before following the opposite path to the one I arrived on. It wasn’t long before I arrived back in El Puertito and waited patiently for the boat ride back. As the wind had picked up considerably since this morning the small boat was being thrown about by the waves, but alas, I made it back to the mainland unscathed. A final night in Corralejo awaited before finally getting the pleasure of moving on one direction again.
Stage 4: Tefia to Bentacuria.
Starting out in Tefia, complete with pack AND waterproof jacket, it was a reasonably lengthy section of trail today – made somewhat longer as I walked a kilometer in the wrong direction before noticing my mistake. Passing alongside a busy-looking ethnological museum, I came across a number of traditional windmills as I left the town. It wasn’t long before civilization seemed a long way away.
The GR131 slowly wound its way upwards, climbing steadily out of Llanos de la Concepcion before getting far steeper as it climbed to Corral de Guize. At the highest point stood a couple of statues featuring Guise and Ayose, the last Guanche chieftains on the island – these were the aboriginal Berber inhabitants of the Canary Islands before the Spanish conquest.
It was during my climb towards this statue that I first met Gunleik, a middle-aged Norwegian dude who was also following the GR131. While we only exchanged pleasantries as I overtook him, I would meet and talk to Gunleik several more times over the next few days. Stopping at the top to take a photos, it was a rapid descent into the Bentacuria – a small, yet well-visited town in the center of the island. I popped into a small bar for a beer (which they ended up giving me for free), before continuing on my way.
That’s pretty much it for the first four stages of Fuerteventura. An island which has not dissapointed so far and was only going to improve over the next few days. While I would not begrudge anyone an afternoon spent on a sun lounger, believe me when I say that these islands have far more to offer than that. Until next time.