Fuerteventura – ‘The Solitude Isle’

With a landmass area of 641 square miles (1,660 sq. km) Fuerteventura is one of the largest of the Canary islands, second-only to Tenerife. It is also the oldest island in the archipelago, dating back around 20 million years. The island lies on the same latitude as Florida and Mexico, and so the temperature rarely falls below 18 °C (64 °F) -or rises above 32 °C (90 °F). There are 152 beaches along its coastline, 50 km (31 miles) of which are fine, white sand, whereas the other 25 km (16 miles) are made-up of black volcanic shingle. Fuerteventura also has the driest climate of all the Canary Islands, barely getting any rainfall at all.

The first settlers are believed to have arrived on the island from North Africa, where they lived in caves and semi-subterranean dwellings, a few of which have been discovered and excavated, revealing relics of early tools and pottery. Laying on the seabed, just off the west coast of the island is a huge chunk of rock, measuring 14 miles (22km) in length, with a width of around 7 miles (11 km) -and this island-sized slab appears to have broken-away from Fuerteventura at some distant point in the past. The last volcanic activity on the island was between 4,000 and 5,000 years ago. The name ‘Fuerteventura’ could well have originated from the French Conquistador Jean de Bethancourt, who was supposed to have said “Que fuerte ventura” “What a great adventure”, when he first landed on the island, although some people believe that it comes from the words ‘el viento fuerte’, which is the name of the strong wind that blows constantly across the island.

Fuerteventura is also affectionately known as ‘The Old Country’, as it echoes the conditions of its mother country, Africa -and its pet nickname is ‘The Solitude Isle’. The island is divided into two sections, the larger segment belonging to the north, and the much smaller ‘Peninsular of Jandia’ being classed as the south. In days gone by a mini ‘Hadrian’s Wall’ divided the two kingdoms. The capital of the island is Puerto Del Rosario, and the highest point is on the top of the Jandia Mountain at 807m. In 1975 the Foreign Legion shifted its base from the Spanish Sahara to Fuerteventura, and an estimated force of 10,000 men almost doubled the islands population.

Also the sea-side town of Caserio Puerto de La Luz used to harbor Nazi war criminals, but now it is the site of The National Underwater Park, which is the finest in the Canaries. Fuertaventura, like Lanzarote, is known for being a somewhat windy island, and therefore it is often frequented by windsurfers and kite-surfers, along with sailors, scuba-divers and big-game fishermen, who are all drawn to the clear blue Atlantic waters, where dolphins, whales, marlin and sea-turtles are all common sights.

The Calima sandstorm, which can appear at any time of the year, is similar to the Sirocco sandstorms, only instead of blowing sand North from the Sahara into Europe, it blows tonnes of fine white sand particles in a south-westerly direction, inevitably smothering the Canary Islands, whilst at the same time increasing the air temperatures by anything from 10 to 20 degrees Fahrenheit. In May 2009 the island was declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO. So now that you know a little-bit more about the island of Fuerteventura, let me once-again finish-off my latest blog with a small extract from my travel-journals of yesteryear.

Landing in Fuerteventura sometime late in the afternoon meant nothing to the children, but to me it signified the conquest of our final island. I still intended circumnavigating the island of Gran Canaria on the final home run, but as we had already landed there once, I decided to stake our claim of having now visited all seven major islands in the archipelago ‘today’. As we left the sea-side port of Corralejo, the first thing that struck me was the amazing sand-dunes which seemed to engulf the island -and yet these humongous towers of golden dust barely spilled-out onto the seemingly never-ending roads that ran right through the centre of them?

From Corralejo we took the main coastal road south to Puerto Del Rosario, before diverting inland through Tesjuates and Casillas Del Angel. We then headed further south again to Antigua, where we stopped-off for a very late lunch. After an hours’ rest and recuperation we pushed-on down through Valle de Ortega, Tiscamanita, Tuineje, and El Charco. As the daylight began to diminish, we gave it one last push down to the sea-side town of Morro del Jable, passing through the villages of Tarajalejo, La Lajita, Casa de Matas Blanca and Costa Calma on the way. A night in a low-star hotel would suffice us for this evening -and then tomorrow morning we would board out latest ferry, which would transport us back to the island of Gran Canaria, where we would hopefully complete our final full-island tour, before returning to our beloved homeland of Tenerife.