Top To Toe In Fuerteventura by Adam Jacot de Boinod
The wind is regular though relenting (apart from in September when it lulls) and permeating but not piercing. But there’s also proper heat, not just warmth. With only a week to have a break you don’t want to fly for eight hours or suffer jet lag. It takes only four hours from London to Puerto del Rosario the capital and airport of Fuerteventura.
Throughout the island there’s a fabulous sense of expanse both from the small population and the wide landscape. There’s a real chance for peace and quiet with remote spots to indulge in for solace and solitude. I slept both in view of, and to the sound of, the sea: a winning combination that I never tire off. Perfect deep sleep!
The interest of the island is in the bleak contrasts. The land- scapes are wide-sweeping. The desert consequences of the volcanic eruption certainly make you appreciate vegetation where you can find it. And then there are the cacti with their own distinctive shapes and character. It’s a great place to get
a sense of real desert, of the Sahara even (which is on the same parallel) as camels lope in their strides across the road.
The colours are relaxing and wonderfully harmonious with the blue sky and beige sand tones, the occasional green shrub, white clouds and the teal and aqua shades of the sea. The sea provides a respite from the sweeping but arid land and the coastline with its curvaceous humps and agitated waves re- sembles Cornwall at times.
For culture seekers there’s Vallebrón, a hamlet of a hundred or so inhabitants located south of the quiet, administrative centre that is La Oliva. It’s set in a broad shaped valley “U” sandwiched between two mountainous headlands. And then there’s Betancuria, the former capital that retains a real sense of history with her ancient doorways and 17th century church. There’s even a salt museum. To get a feel in advance of arriving, I recommend the novel ‘Sandy Shores’ by Kris Moller. It’s a ripping yarn involving a pact with the devil between a thief and a skipper all set in and redolent of Fuerteventura.
For kite surfers this has become a top spot. They enjoy their guaranteed wind predominantly on the east coast while board surfers benefit from the west coast. El Cotillo is a surfing town full of cool bars and restaurants for the dude community and the special restaurant is Vaca Azul. The beaches and lagoons lie prostrate before the aggressive, agitated sea and its black wet-suited bobbing community. Golfers come from afar for their one spot of greenery.
As for wildlife, there are noticeably few dogs or cats. In the north there are seabirds (especially Gorriones seagulls that have arrived from Africa). In the south there are barbary ground squirrels and goats of which there are more than thirty different types across the island. They scavenge a meal from the meanest terrain, from thorny bushes in rocky outcrops to scrubby foliage among the sand dunes.
The three hundred odd camels came over with the Normans in 1405 and are both at large as well as for tourist rides. Soon there will be camel milk available. It has much protein but 40% less cholesterol than cow’s milk and a high mineral and vitamin C content.
I stayed first at the Gran Hotel Atlantis Bahia Real (www.atlantisbahiareal.com). It’s set on a white-sand beach bordering the Corralejo dunes and looks across at the Isla de Lobos and Lanzarote beyond. My room was right on the beachfront. The décor and style is an intriguing mix of Moroccan as well as Andalucian in the Neo-Mudeja style. Birds flitter around the tropical garden set within the interior courtyards and patios that surround the swimming pools. There’s a new extension to the east currently with a pale yellow façade that will cater for VIP guests. It’s special to be able to walk straight out, past the hotel beach and onto the famous dunes. They are inspirational though marred, especially given their ‘national park’ status, by two hotels planted in the middle, the trade off for the owner also of the Ilsa de Lobos in allowing ramblers access to the island.
My favourite beach was down at the southern tip of the island
called the Playa de Cofete. It required going off the tarmac and into the unknown. It was eight miles along a dirt track, then single track hairpin bends before I reached a summit with a truly stunning view across a series of ridges all angling down towards the long deserted beach. Only a sailing boat in the distance showed any sign of human intervention.
While neighbouring Lanzarotte has a certain conformity of design as a result of the great César Manrique with his white-washed walls and green doors, here things can be more free style. And I was lucky enough to stay next at the Occidental Jandia Royal Level Suite. (www.barcelo.com/en-gb/ho- tels/spain/canary-islands/fuerteventura/occidental-jandia- royal-level). Here at this adults only section of a large resort, I was made to feel not just welcome but rather special as my black wristband allowed me to ‘access all areas’ including a ‘premium’ breakfast and dinner restaurant. The food was excellent with fresh orange juice and barbecues, with every meal cooked before my very eyes. There’s a buffet full of fruit and vegetables but there are also treats.
I strongly recommend Fuerteventura strong winds and all.
Adam had support from:
gatwickexpress.com and chepstowcars.com
Classic Collection Holidays
(0800 047 1064; classic-collection.co.uk) offers a two centre holiday of 3 nights at Gran Hotel Atlantis Bahia Real on a bed & breakfast and 3 nights at Occidental Jandia Royal Level Suite on an all inclusive basis from £1,279 per person. Price based on 2 adults sharing and includes return flights from London Gatwick to Fuerteventura (flights available from up to 16 UK airports) and all private transfers. Departing April 2018.
Adam Jacot de Boinod was a researcher for the first BBC television series QI, hosted by Stephen Fry. He wrote The Meaning of Tingo and Other Extraordinary Words from around the World, published by Penguin Books.