Looking out the plane window, Fuerteventura looks like a loaf of dry bread with dark, cracked crust. The panorama appears to be unreal. There are lifeless mountains and sandy hills as far as the eye can see. Here and there in the middle of this lunar landscape appear white houses and hotels, which seem to multiply as we approach the coast.
Fuerteventura is a senior’s paradise. Rain hardly falls on the island, and when it does, then only briefly. Temperatures in winter hover around twenty degrees. I assume that what is good for a senior can’t be bad for us. We are young parents and haven’t slept for 3 years. Our young daughter takes an interest in everything, but she is not much for sleeping. Our vacation plan is therefore very similar to that of a senior – take siestas, get a tan, keep things slow, and drink lots of wine.
In addition, papa, ambitious as ever, packed our surfboards. A nod to our carefree past as wild surfers with a full mane of hair. Now I fear that I will fall asleep on the surfboard and drift out to sea. “I will save you, mama,” promises my three-year-old. If this is the case, then nothing can stand in the way of our winter vacation on Fuerteventura.
As we land on the island in mid-January, a delicate drizzle falls from the sky and it feels like late autumn in Berlin. We swore never to take off our flip flops and swap them for sturdy shoes. After all, we are on vacation and should dress like it. With visibly mixed feelings, the locals in the supermarket eye our blue feet. By contrast, they are all have thick, woolen caps on their heads and are wearing closed footwear.
By the second week, the weather has eased up and it is actually feeling like summer. The Calima, a wind from the Sahara, is blowing warm air our way and is carrying along fine-grained sand particles. Our daughter is swimming in the turquoise water of the Playa de La Concha lagoon. If it wasn’t for her wetsuit, one would think we were in the Maldives.
But we are not. We live in El Cotillo, a small fishing village in the north of Fuerteventura. This corner of the island has so far been spared from mass tourism. It has a small grocery store where you can find local food. There are a couple of restaurants, a tiny, sweet old town, and countless, seemingly endless beaches.
What appeared to be so dreary and lifeless from up in the airplane is now revealed in its vast, rustic beauty. Nonetheless, I think that this windy island with its barren landscape is not for everyone. You either love it or hate it. It is not a matter for compromise.
We have discovered a few highlights, which, depending on the light and time of day, always look different and are never boring. For instance, there are the shifting sand dunes of the El Jable region belonging to the Parque de Natural de las Dunas de Corralecho. The dunes have already served as the backdrop to Hollywood films. Ridley Scott directed his blockbuster “Exodus” here. “This is the Bible story about how the people of Israel escaped from imprisonment to go to the Promised Land,” I explain to our daughter. She does not appear to be very impressed by this information. But she is fascinated by fact that you can slide down the dunes on your bottom for hours on end.
Another natural phenomenon is the Calderon Hondo, an extinct volcano (278 meters high) located not far from the rural village of Lajares, which is known for its handicrafts. It is not very difficult to climb the volcano, even with a child. And for those who don’t make it to the top, you can still enjoy an excellent view from half-way up.
Strictly speaking, the island does not have all that much to offer, but it is more than enough for those seeking peace and tranquility. The pace of life here can truly be described as very slow.
I finally have time for things that have no significance and no goals. There is no “in order to,” just the simple sound of the wind, looking up at the night sky, endlessly gazing out at the open sea, and thinking of nothing. “Less is more” works quite well here.
In addition, I find the strength to once again get up on my surfboard and to show my daughter what mama can still do. It doesn’t take long, however, before she finds my stunts and youthful posturing embarrassing. Yet, things look pretty good for me after all, as she greets me with a big kiss when I get out of the water.
Sometimes the weather on Fuerteventura changes suddenly. It can get quite stormy and the waves can wash over the small promenade of El Cotillo. At times like these, the pensioners’ paradise turns into a real adventure.
In spring, shortly before our trip back to Germany, we read in the newspaper that this was the coldest winter in forty years. But at least one thing stayed constant – we remained true to our flop flops throughout!