I'm in a the land of Raquel Welch, bad tempered camels, steam geysers and wood that spontaneously combusts.
The local farmers on this island once used camels to plow their fields, but now they prefer tractors. Not that there’s much agriculture here. Between 1730 and 1736 the local volcano spewed gas and lava across the land.
A local priest, Father Andrés Lorenzo Curbelo, gave us this haunting description of nature at its cruelest.
The earth suddenly opened near Timanfaya. An enormous mountain emerged from the ground with flames coming from its summit. It continued burning for 19 days. Some days later, a new abyss developed and an avalanche of lava rushed down over Timanfaya, Rodeo and part of Mancha Blanca. The lava extended over to the northern areas to begin with, running as fast as water, though it soon slowed down and ran like honey.
Fortunately, no lives were lost, but the good father tells us.
Cattle dropped dead, asphyxiated by the vapors. Huge numbers of dead fish floated about on the sea or were thrown on to the shore.
Nature destroyed people’s homes, land, crops, and cattle. The soil they’d worked for centuries lay beneath a thick lava crust. Just walking across a lava field is a braving death trap.
Have you worked out where I am yet?
I’m on the Spanish Island of Lanzarote, just 78 miles off the coast of Africa. The whole place is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, where scientists study the way nature reclaims the land.
You know I write erotic romance, right? It took me a while to work out the thing between the mascot’s legs was his demon tail.
A visit to the Timanfaya national park is a must.
Of course, in the UK, entrance to National Parks is free so I turned my nose up at paying the modest entrance charge. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Parking is limited and strictly monitored. It’s on a one in, one out basis. The road went up, up, and then up again. We pulled up and made our way to the Cesar Manrique designed restaurant.
At the highest point of the car park, guides sorted us by nationality then herded us onto coaches. The height gave us a good view of the alien landscape.
Misshapen lava towers twisted around us as the coach ran along a narrow ravine that climbed to the volcano summits. The lava’s thin in parts and brittle. Any unwary human walking here could put their foot through it and plummet into the lava cave below.
I already have plans to set a book here.
Once the coach dropped us back in the car park, things got weirder.
A barbecue grill sits over a hole in the ground. And boy is it hot. So hot that the earth’s natural heat cooks succulent chicken pieces here.
Of course, I had to try some. What can I say?
Best. Lunch. Ever.
While we ate, strange things were going on outside.
Guides tipped water into hollow cans atop tubes stuck in the groundThree seconds later, the water evaporated and steam shot out the can in a high-pressure geyser.
Then, on the lower balcony, a guide thrust a piece of tree branch into a hole. No messing around striking flints or rubbing sticks together here.
So what do camels and Raquel Welch have to do with anything?
This landscape was used in the original version of the film 1000000 Years BC.Raquel strutted through the lava in her fur bikini, but she had to watch where she put her feet.
And the camels?
Before we reached the national park, we went camel trekking. Have you ever ridden a camel?
Talk about bad tempered. The groan and spit, but they’re cloven hooved and sure footed.
Riding one is like balancing in swaying crow’s nest atop a high mast. No wonder they call them the ship of the desert. Originally they were imported from Africa. Now they're a tourist attraction.
Lanzarote is certainly one of the weirdest places I've ever been.