At 9.00 o’clock in the morning, we wait in front of the hotel as agreed the previous day. A young girl comes to us and greets us in English. Her name is Tony. “Hello, we, too, are glad to meet you!”
The car starts slowly and while we with my daughter settle down in the back seats and bring some order to the rucksacks and the photo equipment (!) we talk in Bulgarian. At that point, Tony turns to us and suspiciously asks where we come from. “From Bulgaria,” we say and see from her reaction that she, too, is from Bulgaria.
Unbelievable, but true! The world is such a small place… Tony is from Varna and has been living on the island for ten years. She traveled across Europe, after which she settled down in Lanzarote. She knows a lot about the island and still loves photographing its incredible landscapes, different every time under the changing light of the Atlantic sky.
The island was created by the volcanoes. The northern and southern parts differ a lot. The northern one is greener, the southern is nearly entirely black – volcano craters, lava (thank God solidified) and black volcanic dust. This makes for a sharp contrast with the white buildings. The houses are built in Arab-African style – white all over, with small windows with green or blue shutters and doors in the same colours, without roofs to make gathering rainwater easier.
There are no springs and sources of potable water on the island. There is a desalination plant processing water from the ocean, but that and the rainwater are used mainly for irrigation and household needs, not for drinking. We saw wind turbines here and there (not to mention those that were erected in the past and do not function, mainly serving as a tourist attraction) in spite of the constant winds all over the archipelago. Solar panels are not very frequent either in spite of the fact that the sunlight is strong and temperatures range between 18 and 25° С.
That is why Lanzarote is also known as the Island of Eternal Spring.
The soil is black, occasionally red. The plots of reclaimed land are surrounded by volcanic rocks and are used to grow potatoes, vegetables and fruit trees. They strew the land with volcanic sand to preserve any scarce dew and rainwater longer. Every house is equipped to store rainwater.
We pass by cactus fields behind spaces surrounded by lava rocks to protect them from the wind. The cacti are farmed for their red fruit used to make preserves, as well as for small insects with which they exist in symbiosis. The cochineal beetle, Dactylopius coccus, is used to make red dye (cochinilla). They look like large grains of sand or very fine pebbles. They are harvested near the end of their life cycle, then dried in jars or bottles. When the red dye is needed for food colouring, textiles or something else, they are taken out and boiled in water to extract the dye. They say that the colour extracted in this way is very durable.
Although the population of the island has increased in recent years many locals leave and young people are few. There are not many prospects for them there – just a branch of a university offering subjects related to tourism and foreign languages. The local economy relies almost entirely on tourism. The other major sector, agriculture, requires mainly work by hand – generally an unattractive environment for young people.
Our first photo subject was the shipwreck. This familiar attraction is right next to the desalination plant south of the Costa Teguise resort. Tony told us it was Greek but the Greeks just used it without any maintenance. The ship was on route from Africa to America with special and quite valuable logs but sprang a leak just before the archipelago. The Greeks tried to have it repaired at the local port but were told the damage was too much for them and they could not undertake the repair.
To avoid blocking the work of the entire port the crew was forced to throw anchor in the neighboring bay where it can be seen to this day. This happened some thirty years ago when the locals, poor as they were, stripped it to the bone. The authorities recently planned to remove it but the locals and the foreigners who have settled there signed a petition in its defense. And that was not by chance – the shipwreck is a distinctive popular tourist attraction and many scuba divers organize expeditions to the remains.
Tony tries to pour valuable instructions in my head about how to use my camera: the effect of blurring the water requires very low shutter speed (between 5 and 10 seconds), panning (as much as possible, in our case F 25) and ISO 100 – conditions that are achievable at entirely manual exposure. The effect can only result from a dark filter which she kindly holds in front of my lens.
Engrossed in the techniques, we did not notice that the incoming tide was about to engulf us. It seems tides here turn every six hours, and with a vengeance in meters at that.
You will find my best results on the site. Tony is to “blame” for those that are right on spot, I am responsible for the “failures” 🙂