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 Lanzarote Residential  January 2006

We spent the first week travelling on various tours around the island.  We visited some of the most magical sites that the island has to offer.  This included a walk through the national park, Timanfiye.  The landscape is really weird, seeing it has so many volcanoes around.  There is practically no soil visible, and the island itself only gets 200mm of water annually!  No need to mention how little vegetation there is then!.  The farmers there (now all working in the tourist industry) came up with some clever ways to work around this, such as digging deeper into the soil, or using the volcanic ash as soil. The ash, allows moisture in, but not out, so it behaves like a mulch.  They also build semi-circular walls around the vegetation, to protect the young saplings from the elements.  We also went for a walk in an old lava tube, where lava has left a tunnel through which one can walk.  We learned about the way the salt pans work, and the importance of the salt trade in the early days, we looked at various methods of research in terms of measuring the amount that the sea level has decreased over the years ( global warming, land mass erosion), the impact of tourism on a local economy and sustainable development. 

We spent 2 nights out in the open, 1 at a local environmental centre, and the second on a deserted beach on an adjacent island called La Graciosa.  The government, actually pay the fishermen to live there, as opposed to them fishing for there employment, since it has such a huge impact on the fish stocks.  This seems to add to the tourism drive, in that not only have they lost there livelihood (in a physical sense), but they actually don't have anything other than the tourism industry to rely on for interaction, and a sense of purpose.  The whole island is a conundrum, in that since it has no fresh water or fossil fuels, the water that is desalinated at the desalination plants, uses imported oil to make diesel. Sooner or later our fossil fuels will be depleted, and Lanzarote will struggle further to produce enough domestic water to use.  Currently they are 95% reliant on the desalinated water for domestic use.  They are not allowed to use the water for farming, and it has too many chemicals remaining in it for the plants to be able to use the water!  They don't farm, as the yield is not high enough, the demand from most tourists for local produce (what little there is) is extremely low, so they have almost abandoned farming.  Instead they rely on the tourist industry.  48% are from the UK, and are more than happy to have Pukka Pies, frozen English food and Heinz baked beans on sale.  As I said, a conundrum.  No demand, no water to produce, and no oil to produce water...so they fly all the groceries in, along with the cheap holiday deals. 

We also went to see a rubbish tip, yep just a huge hole where they dump refuse!  Bring on the tourist that wants to see such a wasted landscape!  We walked around a few volcanoes, saw a lot of the island and its jagged rocky landscape.  We also went mountain biking on La Graciosa and had a fantastic braai at a local gents house.  Man did I tuck into the meat!  The second week we were left to our own devices, as the lecturers flew home.  Some went climbing, some went surfing.  Me personally, well I just chilled to the extreme! 

It has been a busy Xmas period with skiing, Mom leaving and Lanzarote.  I did a bit of snorkeling, walked around, hired a car to go around some of the sites, but mostly I just stayed at home on the verandah, or the couch reading.  Been a while since I read a book for pleasure, and not because my coursework dictates!  All in all not a bad trip.  The 1st week was by far the better week for me, as I quite enjoyed the way people had adapted, and seeing how the vegetation had changed in order to survive. 

Have a look at some of the pictures, and you can see how barren the island is.   I never took many (if any) of the week we spent on our own, as I just wasn't motivated to see another tacky shop, bar, drink special written in English.  It might be true that England once held sway over a vast empire, but let's hope the empire was more than a tourist trap...Enough they cried... 

Photos in the gallery