Vanessa, our surf instructor, exchanges a look with her colleague Dan before she turns towards us.
“The course is unfortunately cancelled today. The waves are not high enough for any good surfing sessions.”
Yesterday the surf was superb and since Lanzarote is called Europe’s Hawaii we assumed surfing lessons also the second day of our five-day surfing course for “The British Surfschool Association”. I guess the island not always lives up to its reputation, but has not every place its highs and lows? Vanessa tells us about a resort which offers a nice beach, several shopping possibilities and restaurants along the seafront. Frida, my sister, think it sounds like a good idea.
Half an hour later we wait outside the restaurant”La Casa”, beach dressed with wide sunhats, dark sunglasses, lose-fitting clothes, matching beach bags and comfortable flip-flop shoes. The taxi arrives.
“What is the name of the place we are going to?” I ask my sister as we step into the taxi.
“I don’t know.”
“What? You told me it was no idea to make a note of it because you would remember the name.”
Frida glances at me blankly. The driver glimpses at us, highs a questioning eyebrow. I catch sight on the small map I left in my bag. At random I let my forefinger stop at one of the resorts along the coast. It has to be a beach there, I think.
“Punta de Mujeres.” I say to the driver and with that we leave Caleta de Famara, the old fishing village situated on Lanzarotes northwest coastal strip. To cross the northern tip of the island takes about twenty minutes. The coast view invites me to gaze out towards the horizon. The driver turns his head.
“Pero no hay una playa allí.” (But there is no beach here.)
I see the approaching turnoff to Punta de Mujeres.
“¿No hay una playa?” (There is no beach?)
“No”. he says curt.
I try to come up with a conclusion.
“I actually want to go to the beach Erica”. Frida says, as if our three year age difference automatically puts the responsibility to who of us should solve the situation.
In hope to gain information about other beaches on the island I try to remember more of the Spanish I learnt in school.
“¿Donde está … una buena playa? (Where is there a good beach?) I make eye-contact with the driver in the rear-view mirror.
“Está una buena playa blanca tres kilometro de aquí.” (There is a good white beach three kilometres from here.)
“Good. Thank you.” I give my sister a “see-how-great-I-did” look.
After the exit to Punta de Mujeres a throng of white rectangular houses spread out, closer to the water they give space to sharp cliffs and stone blocks. We see the orange red landscape of the volcano island Lanzarote on the other side. A couple of minutes after we pass the turnoff to a village named Las Escamas the driver makes a right turn into a gravelled road.
“¡Esta aquí.” (Here it is.)
What does he mean? I think. The area in front of us consists of sand, scattered by dark stones. Here and there people rest, chat or eat, and a few children play in the sand. I do not see any beach. Yet, we do not want to argue whether here is a white beach or not, we simply pay the driver and leave the car. Our map tells us that the village further up the road is Órzola, but we do not find any mark of a beach in this area.
However, my sister seems to accept this alternative for a beach because after a few metres she stops and makes a show of spreading out her bath towel.
“Aren’t you going to lie down?” She looks at me.
“No. Don’t you want to have a look around?”
“No. What is it here to see really? It’s only sand and some stones.”
“Don’t you see the lake of water over there? I’m going to check it out, I’ll be back soon.”
As I stroll towards the water I notice the lack of tourists; everyone here seems to be inhabitants on the island.
The lake of water appears to be a canal out to the sea. I dip my toe in the water, not too bad. The ground of soft sand is covered of sharp corals that can cause painful soars if a wrong step makes you slipping. Carefully I chose my steps. The inlet is not wide; within minutes I reach the other side and approach a family by the water.
“Do you know about any good beaches around here?”
The teenage son looks at me. “This is the best beach. Mostly locals come here, not many tourists know about this place.”
“What is it called?”
“The white beach, but as you can see it isn’t really a beach. In south Lanzarote you can find the islands real white beach, Playa Blanca. A lot of tourists go there.”
I wish them a great day and walk back to my sister, gaze towards Órzola.
“What do you think of heading to the village further up the road?”
“But we just came Erica.”
My sister finds pleasure in staying and I prefer to head somewhere else when a place has given me enough. With that I mean enough in a positive way, as when you are satisfied with a meal. In Brussels you can get that feeling after a day, on a Greek island after two weeks and in New York probably never and you have to fly home with thoughts of everything you did not have the time to see. To really discover New York can take several years, for some it requires a lifetime. On the white beach, below the village of Órzola on the northern tip of Lanzarote, the feeling reaches me after half an hour. Frida agrees to go if she can get five more minutes to rest.
We appreciate our wide sunhats and sun-glasses in the afternoon sun and take the opportunity to improve our tan by walking in bikini. Although, when we catch sight on the sign for Órzola we put on our shorts and t-shirts. We saunter down the road that leads to the harbour, enter a small shop and buy peaches and iced water. Órzola is a pleasant village. The inhabitants are friendly, the restaurants, including Restaurante Perla del Atlantico to the right from the harbour, seems cosy and the view out to the sea is a world of never ending blue water.
A concrete stair leads down to the water. A few children sit there and look at their friends in the sea. I decide to go for a swim. The stair steps are slippery from all the wet feet running up and down. As I jump in the water two twenty something boys stop with their dinghy boat a few metres from land. Perhaps they can give us a lift back to Famara? I think and swim towards the boat.
The tallest boy with brown cropped hair looks in my direction.
“I and my sister are going to Famara. Can you to drive us there with your boat?”
“To Famara?” He looks at me as if I am out of my mind. “No way, Famara is on the other side of the island. You have to go by bus or car.”
“Okay. Thank you.” I quickly swim towards land, unpleasantly aware of my limited knowledge of distances.
Frida sits on a bench by the harbour. I make her company. Life could be worse than this, I think as we drink cool water and slurp on our peaches.