It started in October 2013 after we posted a couple of photographs on facebook and commented what an amazing surprise the Canary Island of Fuerteventura was turning out to be.
The seed was probably there before that, but the comment and photos prompted our friend James, Inntravel’s product manager for the area, to contact us when we returned from our short trip.
“Are we missing a trick with Fuerteventura? Does it have the right ingredients for an Inntravel holiday?” Came the question.
And so began the process of creating a customised walking and discovery holiday on the Canary Island’s amber isle.
Next step was a reccie visit by James to scout locations, accommodation, restaurants and potential walking routes with experienced local guide Andreas Caliman.
Once James had agreed that the potential was indeed there, an exchange of emails and Skype conversations left us with a pretty extensive blueprint plan. The time had come for us to hop over to Fuerteventura to put the meat on the bones. This involved walking and recording in detail routes provisionally agreed; researching additional ones; checking out if there were enough decent restaurant choices near rural accommodation; confirming preferred accommodation was suitable; researching all sorts of local information and scouting interesting places to visit as well as creating a few driving routes.
It’s an exciting and, to be honest, often quite daunting task. On the one hand you have to explore places in-depth over a relatively short period of time, talking to all sorts of people. It provides a great insight into a destination, but as everything has to hang together seamlessly to create a holiday that is up to the high standard expected, there’s always the danger that some of the pieces might just not click into place.
Despite the most thorough planning there are likely to be unexpected hurdles to clear.
On Fuerteventura these included a route through an oasis where the path simply petered out on a steep slope, leaving me hanging from thick cane reluctantly muttering ‘we can’t send people along here’; a trek through Jandía that was terminally dull and more suited to the French Foreign Legion; breeding birds of prey putting one route out of bounds for the season, and choppy seas that prevented us from getting to the Isla de Lobos (a possible highlight of the holiday). When things don’t work, an alternative has to be found or the whole thing can unravel.
Thankfully, there’s nearly always an alternative; often it turns out to be better than the original.
Over eleven days of walking more than 20 kilometres a day, Fuerteventura revealed charms to us that we had no idea existed. Our brief visit in October 2013 had given us a taster that Fuerteventura was much more than the beach holiday destination it is generally sold as. Our trip in April 2014 confirmed that some of the island’s attractions were being totally overlooked in favour of its beaches, spectacular though they are.
Apart from enjoying scenery which is beguiling and whose colours change with the arc of the sun, we walked through a narrow ravine where a dappled stream trickled beneath palm groves; along surprisingly lush valleys filled with goats and wild birds, including a pair of Egyptian vultures; followed pilgrim and merchant’s trails between historic towns, passing Don Quixote windmills along the way; climbed perfect volcanic cones to be ‘mugged’ by Barbary squirrels; picked the brain of Andreas Caliman (putting the world to rights at the same time); explored cathedral sized caves where ghosts may or may not dwell; ate a picnic on the edge of an emerald lake reservoir, laughing at the weird quacking of African shellducks and the antics of playful goats with the most beautiful markings; ate towers of tapas (modern and traditional), fried goat and the famous Majorero cheese; crossed silky golden dunes; stood on a spot which is right up there with the best of Canary Island views (soon to be featured in a major motion picture as they say) and finally made it to the Isla de Lobos, which did turn out to be a WOW of a highlight.
It was enlightening and exhilarating. By the time we stepped back on the plane to Tenerife we were absolutely thrilled with what we believed was going to be an activity holiday on Fuerteventura that was quite special and which would demolish preconceived perceptions of the island of golden beaches.
After that it was a frantic write-up of walking and driving directions plus detailed cultural information etc. before we headed off on our next trip to Italy.
Then, subsequent experiences took over and we forgot about it… until the autumn, winter and spring Inntravel brochure popped into our mailbox. There on page 26 and 27 was a brand new holiday experience – ‘Ancient Fuerteventura’. It was an extremely satisfying moment.
One of the locals we met on the island had expressed surprise when we told him what we were doing.
“The British never come here to walk,” he laughed.
With any luck, that’s about to change.
Jack is co-editor, writer and photographer for BuzzTrips and the Real Tenerife series of travel websites as well as a contributor to online travel sites and travel magazines. Follow Jack on Google+