Doves, Dogs & Star Wars
photographs by Brian Kirkby and Zowie Broach
Lanzarote is a film set, a moonscape, Middle Earth, home to Luke Skywalker's mother, Raquel Welsh's fur bikini, Dr. Who and a 70's lesser known film La Ministera starring and filmed by Omar Sharif.
In the late sixties the architect Caesar Manrique took up residence in Lanzarote and built art architecture across the island - minimal, the future from the seventies. He then managed to rally support to prevent any developments that did not stay within his concept of the visual demand of the volcanic landscape.
And so this volcanic, dramatic, poetic and sometimes very bleak island seems to be owned by his work alone.
Whilst in 'Lanza', we stayed in a small apartment that has been built as an add-on to a house designed by Caesar and his right hand man Jesus de Soto; it is now a 'museo'. The original building was once owned by Omar Sharif. The story goes that he fell in love and bought the house whilst filming La Ministera and then lost it within 2 days of buying it in a bridge game with the developer Sam Benendez.
So, apart from the obvious tip to avoid the Southern end of the island which is over-developed and tourist hell, you can be part of many communities here. It is great geographically for professional cyclists as the long, long straight New Mexican type roads lead you in and around the volcanic craters. Or you can be an obsessive surfer or kite flyer, kite surfer, hang out at Playa Famara, an amazingly long flat beach that is haunted by the 640M high surge of cliff that holds the clouds like a breath hovering above you.
And walking is also great and varied, although La Mal Paise ( the Badlands) is a long black lava of a walk, where you almost hear the Orc army gathering and marching around every corner.
Then there is the infamous Timanfaya Park, a nationally protected volcanic park, which houses a restaurant designed by Caesar.. The Timanfaya experience is impossible to record as its scale is truly awesome, even if you are loaded onto the Jurassic Park type coaches, driven by communist looking drivers, to experience it. ( PS I do not believe though that the chicken is cooked on a volcano!)
My last film reference has to be involved with mashed potatoes. So many times throughout our week we drove towards what felt like "Devils' Mountain". There is something very modern, very augmented about allowing your brain to slip from reality to a reference that leaves you waiting for a million UFO lights to shoot around the side of the mountain and head directly towards your car window screen! Locally speaking, though, everyone seemed hidden.. Lidos’ behind walls, amazing 'Keinhloz does Disney darkly' - type artists shuffle quietly out of reach, and of a sunday morning, take the wrong paths ( again isolating, biblical and eerie to say the least ) and you might find the 'rabbit hunters' with their famous Canary island dogs ( Insula Canaria, meaning "Island of the Dogs" with mythical links to Anubis, the Egyptian Dog headed God) ), both happy to be outside in their natural terrain!.
Every morning we awoke to two, loved up, collared doves cooing over our apartment ( The apartment by the way is a simple two level affair with a bougainvillea terrace and a small pool for private use - almost Cannes! ) and the landscape led us to look every night for the moon and the sun in the sky, a pure Star Wars landscape and then the dogs again... well it seems that security in 'Lanza' is a 2 dogs minimum deal. Brinks and Matts type dogs, tied to a rope or a chain that scares the hell out of those of us less accustomed to ravaged barking!
Of course we mostly took the wrong trails and for that you are affronted by the dog situ but curiosity always offers you the best side of a new world.
Green Lakes (where Raquel Welsh fought dinosaurs in the film One Million years BC ), vIneyards that serve beer in chilled glasses and the best tapas ( Bodega Rubicon ), old disused salt mines now in decay that you would pay a million dollars for in art direction, more Caesar work , museos for everything, including the many amazing species of cacti and for a truly still moment, spend monday am on the beach ' Puenta Prieta ', North end of the island, where if the sun is behind clouds still beware. But the warm wind and the emptiness of the beach at that time of day allows a gentle arm of respite from the Middle Earth sensation.
Close to that beach is La Punta Mujeres where we ate fantastic local paella and felt for the first time a local community feeling, where the kids cycled their bikes around the empty streets free in their spirits as the mommas bathed at the edges of the sea; almost Italian in feel.
So Beatrix is the person who rents and she is great and very helpful. ( A toaster if you are English!)
Oh and the bar La Cueva, in the Museo of Omar Sharif ( known as Lagomar) is in... a cave, with UV lighting and live music ( from Pink Floyd covers of 'Another brick in the wall' to Traditional Spanish, pending on the night) and 'smoking' is possible!
The volcanic eruptions that occurred over 300 years ago still feel powerful and the dramatic change in the weather from misty overcast skies to electric American plain blues change the craters, the colours and the textures all around you, deeply mysterious at times and then you are left feeling really truly struck by their magnificence at others.