Jameos Del Agua, the eighth wonder of the world – first published 20 October 2013

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Sunday is meant to be a day of rest. The morning after our car hire adventure in Lanzarote happened to be a Sunday so we put our blue towels on some likely looking sun beds on the way to breakfast. When in Rome… or, in this case, when in Lanzarote, do as the Germans do. We found a nice spot with a view over the pool, a little bridge, sunlight sparkling on the ripples and the pond behind us with trickling water. Heavenly.

20 October 2013

Once breakfast was over there was the tricky job of finding a garage and filling the car with petrol so cheap it made Commando gasp. While Commando handed over the keys to the smiley little Avis man, I wandered in the atrium garden where I found Monstera Deliciousa fruiting. Once upon a time I had one as a house plant, it grew so tall I had to cut the top off because it reached the ceiling and the aerial roots had an annoying habit of reaching out to cling to the walls. It never even thought about flowering or fruiting. Amazing what warm sun will do. I promise I’ll give you a tour of the hotel atrium eventually, just not today Ok?

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Now we have settled down by the pool for the day and, apart from a walk along the promenade to the marina, not much else is planned. After yesterday we are slightly excursioned out. Cueva de los Verdes was not the end of yesterday’s adventure by any means. Our next mission was Jameos del Agua and, as it turned out, we didn’t need Tom Tom Tim to help us find it. It really was just down the road from the Cueva de los Verdes, unmissable.

Created in 1966 by César Manrique using natural caves, or giant lava bubbles, that are part of the volcanic tunnel we had just visited, they were dubbed the eighth wonder of the world by actress Rita Heyworth. Long before we were close enought to read the sign, we knew we were there when we saw Manrique’s giant metal lobster on a podium looking out over the sea. Through a well weathered, studded wooden door, shaped to exactly fit the arch of the rock, we got a tantalising glimpse of orange sails, cacti and a steep spiral rock staircase.

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Everything in Lanzarote seems to cost nine euros, and that was the price to enter. We carefully descended into Jameo Chico. A jameo is a volcanic tube or cavern whose roof has collapsed and chico means small, we had entered the small jameo. It was sensory overload, cacti and plants everywhere, the blue sky and orange sails above, a patchwork polished wood dance floor, wooden tables and chairs with orange seat pads and a bar area, white painted rock and wood. Then there was the smell of food, reminding us we were hungry and thirsty after our morning of exploration.

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We ordered coffee and baguettes filled with local Lanzarote cheese and juicy slices of tomato sprinkled with oregano and sat back to drink it all in. There was just too much to see to make sense of it. A huge anchor hung from the rock ceiling, why, I have no clue. We looked at the winding stairs we had come down, the greenery, almost too bright against the dark rock and streams of people descending, following in our footsteps. Above, through the round opening in the lava bubble, the sky looked impossibly blue.

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Once we’d eaten it was time to satisfy another pressing need before continuing. The toilets were momentarily confusing due to my woeful lack of Spanish but I figured, if one said Hombres, it was the other one I needed. Here even the toilet facilities are interesting. I descended the wooden stairs into another small cave and discovered a tiny oblong window looking out into ridiculously green rock. Despite my warning, Commando chose the wrong staircase at first and ended up getting a brief view of the same toilets before he realised his mistake.

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Suitably refreshed we made our way towards the lake. The roof of the tunnel is complete here, the lake natural, filled by the ocean. People were clustered on the steps of the rocky bank peering into the crystal clear water trying to spot the blind albino crabs I’d read about in my guide book. Commando and I joined them.

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Because of the lack of light these tiny crabs, munidopsis polymorpha, are pure white and sightless. Not much use for seeing when the world is dark I suppose. These little crabs are unique to Jameos del Agua and are nicknamed jameitos. I have to be honest, I couldn’t even see them at first. They were so small I thought they were little salt deposits like we’d seen in Cueva de los Verdes until one moved. There were thousands of them crowded on the dark green rocks. I almost fell in in my efforts to get a picture where you could actually see they were crabs.

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Running beside the lake, against the wall of the cave, is a path, creating a kind of bridge bounded by a rustic looking stone wall. A bone coloured rock on the other side, reflected in the water looked like a skull. We crossed, looking at the uneven white vein in the rocks on the other side, whether this was painted or salt deposits from the sea water, I couldn’t tell. On the other side I looked back the way we’d come. People still crowded the edge of the lake, staring into the water at the minuscule crabs and, above, the stairs zigzagged down, steeper than they’d felt. High in the cave roof, a small natural skylight illuminated the gloom.

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In front of us the other end of the cave tunnel opened out to bright sunlight, another orange sail flapped overhead, monstera leaves and palms were silhouetted against the sky. We climbed up to find the tranquil turquoise pool of Jameo Grande, the big jameo. The water looked inviting but no one except the King of Spain is allowed to swim there. I envied him. On closer inspection the pool floor is all uneven levels, little rock like protuberances. A canary Island palm casts a shadow over the pool that I’d taken at first for a mural painted under the water. This tree is over one hundred years old and was growing there before Manrique was born.

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Huge boulders dot the poolside, some taller than me. Each rock is a lesson in lava tunnels and caves, a mass of holes and channels run through them, some small some large, just like Lanzarote in miniature. Another small bar area was hidden in a crevice beside the pool but we’d already satisfied our hunger and thirst so we passed it by. Instead we walked around the cobbled edges of the pool and climbed the white rock staircase, each stair edged in rich hued polished wood.

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The next level gave another view of the pool and the sea beyond, yet another place to eat and drink had we wished. Like the concert area in Cueva de los Verdes, this area is often used as an auditorium. Here there were flowers and little rock pools with tinkling water, dripping like rain.

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To Commando’s exasperation, I kept stopping to take photographs but how could I resist? The rocks were like works of art. Succulents were spotted with yellow daisy like flowers, each bright petal daubed at the base with two spots of brown. Others were purple with a central star and a frill of creamy white stamens. Between these, sprays of purple and white limonium perezii, a Canary island native whose tiny white flowers are cupped in papery purple bracts. A showy yellow ball of rose like petals was a double hibiscus. Others still had just clumps of seed heads, silky parachutes of fluff waiting to be caught by the ever present Lanzarote wind.

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The next level was all about volcanoes. We walked through rooms showing data and charts on how and where they are formed and when they last erupted. One wall was a frieze of exploding towers of fire, just in case we needed to be reminded we were standing on an actively volcanic island. Here there are delicate seismological instruments, kept safe behind glass. These are not decorations, they really are monitoring the volcanoes in the Canary Islands so at least there will be a warning if anything starts to look like its going to go pop.

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Amongst all this there are wall hangings and interesting objects. Timbers from what may once have been a boat are mounted on a white wall. Cracked, lichen covered stones that look like they may have topped the columns of an ancient building are scattered about amidst so many other things it’s impossible to properly take them in. It seemed everywhere we looked there was something else to catch the attention and I must admit my sun addled brain struggled to cope.

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Through an opening the most spectacular view of the pool yet was spread out before us. The mountain backdrop put it all into context somehow. In a white corridor we passed round mirrors set on the walls, ceiling and floor. It took a moment for us to realise what these were then, all at once, they made sense. Infinity mirrors. When we stopped to peer down, up, then side to side it looked like long, round tunnels going off in all directions, another of Manrique’s clever works of art.

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We stopped on a balcony, looking out over the sea to enjoy the breeze and then it was time to go. With one last stop to capture a photo of Manrique’s quirky brass lobster door knobs, an echo of the giant car park lobster, which now I come to think about it, may actually be a jameito, not a lobster at all, we were back in the car park our little adventure over, or so I thought…

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I’m getting a little overheated now, what with sitting in the sun all morning. Time to stroll down to the marina and get a coffee I think, or maybe one of those frozen yogurts. The rest of our exploits will have to wait until tomorrow.

Published by

Marie

Writer, walker, coffee drinker, chocolate eater, lover of nature, history and the little things that make me smile

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