Islandmomma

Searching for Stories Around the Islands of the World and the Freedoms of Third Age


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Things I Am Learning from This Journey: No.1 I Am Addicted to Sunshine!

As I left the island of  La Gomera in early March the sun, seen throught the salty windows of the Armas ferry blazed a welcome, and then scurried behind onimous clouds. That was as much as I’d seen of it in that week.

March 3rd Ferry from La Gomera to Tenerife

March 3rd Ferry from La Gomera to Tenerife

The lazy, sunny, autumn days when I first arrived had given way to mostly bleakness in a valley famed for its lushness – so what do you expect, the green needs water.

Hermigua is quite breathtakingly beautiful, and certainly thoughts of coming back to stay crossed my mind. Every time I fell down that rabbit hole I was enchanted anew, and yet there was always this sense of  “making the most of it.” Granted, La Gomera was only the beginning of what I intended to be an indefinite journey, so I knew I would move on, regardless of how much the island tried to ensnare me. Yet the feeling was deeper than that too. I couldn’t exactly put my finger on it, but I knew that I wouldn’t be back to stay - and here is where I admit that, although I see my travels as being infinite, I don’t see them as being unending. In the sense that one day I would like to find somewhere to make a small base from whence to travel as long as I am able. A retreat.

Lush valleys of La Gomera, but see how, mid afternoon, only one side of the valley is in winter sunshine?

Lush valleys of La Gomera, but see how, mid afternoon, only one side of the valley is in winter sunshine?

What I wasn’t sure about was just why, since I adored this valley, I didn’t see it in my long-term future. I pondered this as the dark shape of the island of  Tenerife came into focus on the horizon, outlined by that rising sun.

Clouds gather over the mountains of La Gomera. January & February this year, this happened almost every day.

Clouds gather over the mountains of La Gomera. January & February this year, this happened almost every day.

A week or so later, as I pulled on shorts, and stretched out on the terrace of my room in Fuerteventura, the simple truth dawned on me. I’m addicted to sunshine.

Traveling, we learn things about ourselves as well as about other people, cultures or places, and I have learned that I like the sun. I’ve learned that I don’t care if it’s cissy to admit that.

The quote is all Virginia Woolf, the photo is mine (the beach at Morro Jable in Fuerteventura) and the sunshine compliments of the Universe :)

The quote is all Virginia Woolf, the photo is mine (the beach at Morro Jable in Fuerteventura) and the sunshine compliments of the Universe :)

That is the (apparently eternal) tomboy in me, the not wanting to be cissy. Whilst I embrace most things feminine, my upbringing in the countryside of north west England, free to play in 3 acres of grass, instilled a desire to be tough too. I once fell off the tricylce I was racing, though the glass of my grandad’s greenhouse, and didn’t cry – still have a small scar on the back of my hand.  It was cowboy and indian country, not princesses and party dresses; though I do admit to believing that fairies lived in some places around the land. We played outdoors in rain, snow and whatever conditions prevailed. Hence, I suppose, I unthinkingly considered myself able to tough out all weathers.

Emigrating in the 80s to a sub-tropical climate was a delight, and I, finally, verbalized my belief as I watched locals shiver the moment the wind got up a little, or there were a few drops of rain. “You call this rain?! – This wouldn’t even be worth mentioning in England, and there our conversations are dominated by the weather!”  And don’t get me started on the Arctic gear brought out every time there is snow on Mt Teide – necessary at 1am, yes, but not at 1pm!

Fuerteventura & Sitting Bull quote

Sitting here by an open window today in Fuerteventura, I can finally admit to myself (and you) that though I still consider myself far from “nesh,” I much prefer to live with as much sunshine as I can get. Today the sun is, actually, playing hide and seek, but there is the overall feeling of light and warmth, and this is how I want to live. And why, much as I love the green valleys of La Gomera and elsewhere, and though I will often (hopefully) visit them, those times when the light fades early in winter as the sun slips over the mountain tops, and the days when the magical and hauntingly-beautiful mist curl around the hillsides happen just too often for me.

Ostensibly, my trip isn’t about finding a new home. Right now I’m more than happy not to have one, but I choose to be in the open and in the sunshine as much as I can possibly be. I like the uncumbered feel of not having to wear a sweater or jacket, of slipping into sandals instead of tying up shoes, of being able to decided (most days at least) whether to go to beach or country, and not having the weather dictate my movements. I like the light, the sense of openness, the way the day ekes out the joy of the sunlight until the last possible minute.

The beach at Morro Jable and some Thoreau wisdom on the subject

The beach at Morro Jable and some Thoreau wisdom on the subject

It’s not that every single day here has been sunny since my arrival, but they have far, far out-numbered the dull ones, and even on a dull day, because of the topography of Fuerteventura, the sense of openness remains, there are no high mountains to draw in the mists. The highest point is only around 2,650 ft, Mount Jandia, where the desert mounds of the southern tip of the island field the winds from every direction.

Looking back over photos of La Gomera I am surprised that the overall impression, when I see them displayed on my screen is blue, rather than green. Did I find the coast more photogenic than the forests? Was that a natural inclination I hadn’t realized? Or perhaps simply that I wasn’t in the forests a much as I’d hoped because of my bad knee?

There is a roundabout at the entry to the resort area of Morro Jable in the south of Fuerteventura which has attracted me since I first saw it over a month ago. The other day I stopped to photograph it, and find out more.

"Caminos" by Lisbet Fernández Ramos

“Caminos” by Lisbet Fernández Ramos

On an island which boasts some impressive sculptures in the open air, this one stands out for me, although it isn’t as immediately eye-catching as some of the others. It is entitled “Caminos,” and is the work of Cuban sculptoress Lisbet Fernández Ramos. Represented are two groups of children, all looking expectantly and happily skywards. The symbolism of looking to the sky, and the happiness on the faces of the kids was palpable. It spoke to me. Fernández herself, who used local kids as models (don’t you love the symbolism of that?) describes it this way: “It expresses the future, the beginning of a journey, that seeks the light, ever striving to reach the heights.” The translation is mine, so I hope I captured what she intended there.

Caminos by Lisbet Fernández

Caminos by Lisbet Fernández Ramos

Mostly, I like it because it kind of reflects how I feel, unencumbered and hopeful. And no-one I think can say it better than one of my favorite poets, Pablo Neruda:

Neruda's words over a sunset at La Pared

Neruda’s words over a sunset at La Pared

 

 

 


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Fuerteventura Landscapes: A Photo Essay

“You’ll soon get bored with Fuerteventura,” people told me. “There isn’t the variety of landscape you get on other islands, especially when you’ve come from La Gomera.” Halfway though my stay on this amazing island, and I am utterly in love with its rolling, desert landscapes, and its breathtaking white sands. Not yet bored!

The plain around Antigua and Llanos de la Concepción seen from the Mirador at Morro Veloso

The plain around Antigua and Llanos de la Concepción seen from the Mirador at Morro Veloso

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6 Months On The Road: And Still Decluttering!

Decluttering is a bit like striping a plaster from a wound, I’ve learned. You can do it quickly, and get over the pain quickly, or you can peel it off slowly and prolong the agony. It’s a lesson I thought I’d learned – but apparently not!

My old van was just chock-a-block with “stuff” when I set out in early October, and deep down I knew that I likely wouldn’t need/want all of it. The day I left, it took me a while in the pre-dawn chill to finish loading my van, and it was a squeeze for Trix – who didn’t seem to mind so long as she could curl up! It turns out that about a half of what I packed in was “not needed on voyage,” which is why I haven’t written a post entitled something like “What I Packed for My New Adventure,” or some such.

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The danger in traveling long-term by car or van or camper i.e. on wheels, is that you think you have so much room, so you can easily fit in those “just in case” items. Truth is, however, that even if you do have the room, there’s a lot of inconvenience to carting lots of stuff around with you. A journey is almost certainly a metaphor for life in this sense. I remind myself of this as I search, for the umpteenth time, for my car papers. They are MIA, and wherever they turn up, it’s for sure I can’t find them right now because -

I Brought Too Much!

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Baths, Scrumptious Foods and Other Stuff: The Multi-Useful Seaweed

Body blasted by wind and sand, hair resembling a haystack, and eyes gritty from both sand and sun, I arrived home the other day, and stood for a few moments gazing longingly at my bath. “If only,” I sighed, “I was in Strandhill in Co Sligo now, I could have a seaweed bath.”

The gorgeous beach at Strandhill

The gorgeous beach at Strandhill

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Graveyard Tourism

Turns out that I’m a taphophile. That’s my language discovery for today. I love it when I learn new words in my own language.

I was wondering if I was alone in my predilection for visiting graveyards. Apparently not. Of course, I knew I wasn’t, because you only have to go to, say, Grasmere, in the English Lake District any sunny day, and you have to queue to read the words on William Wordsworth’s tombstone. What I didn’t know was that there is a word for it, but according to Wikipedia, a taphophile is what I am. I checked in dictionaries and most don’t imply it’s a morbid fascination with dead stuff, although one did.

Grasmere Parish Church in the English Lake District where the Wordsworth family is buried

Grasmere Parish Church in the English Lake District where the Wordsworth family is buried

It’s a fondness for visiting graveyards. I don’t think that I was so much of a tombstone tourist (another appellation Wikipedia sites) before I lived in Spain, although I may have been odd, if not unique, in heading straight for Les Invalides to view Napoleon’s last resting place on my only visit to Paris as a young woman.

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In Praise of Getting Lost

 

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It’s actually a little silly to talk about getting lost, by car at least, on an island the size of Fuerteventura. I speak not so much of getting lost in the sense of not knowing where you are, but in the sense of no-one knowing where you are, and being somewhere you didn’t intend to be.

It happens to me a lot. It’s happened a lot especially over the last couple of weeks since I arrived in Fuertventura.

My first intention was to simply drive around, find the places I remember from years ago, orientate myself, and decide what I want to explore further – but I keep getting distracted!

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Fuerteventura: 9 Days In

First impression? Sunshine! If journeys are voyages of self-discovery as well as discovery of other cultures, then the thing I have learned about myself so far in the last six months is that I am a sunshine addict. Truly, I wasn’t aware of it. I guess that living with the stuff for 20+ years made me take it for granted – until it disappeared! Somewhere mid December it started to rain in La Gomera; Christmas in northern England was bleak and full of dire weather warnings; returning to La Gomera for two months I think I remember four days of sunshine (But I’ll be charitable and say 5 or 6); back to England at the beginning of March to one sunny day and more bleakness – so it was delightful to wake up on my first morning on Fuerteventura to sun streaming through my window. Though some clouds have passed over, the sun continues to smile. The clouds rarely take up residence because this island lies so low in the ocean. Ask a local when it last rained and they squint into the distance and begin their answer with “Hmmm. Let me think…” Clearly whenever it was, it wasn’t too memorable!

Las Playitas, my current home

Las Playitas, my current home

Second impression? Beaches! The brilliant, white beaches of Jandia and of Correlejo, golden sands elsewhere and some black sand beaches. Something else I didn’t appreciate myself is how much of a beach bum I am. When my kids were small we went to the beach almost every weekend; when they grew older and became surfers, they still needed transport, and so I would drop them off and retire to an approved (by them) distance to enjoy the beach in peace (though sometimes there were other moms similarly banished to giggle with). I distinctly remember years ago thinking, “I love beaches. I love ‘em all. I love the quiet ones, the surfy ones, the sporty ones, even the posh ones at times.” Still do…..and it’s been a while since I really took advantage of living near them. I couldn’t fail to notice that in La Gomera, surrounded by the intense greenery and lush mountainsides, so many of my pictures were, still, of beaches.

 

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