Carmen opens the back of the van and takes out neat bundles of silver foil which she passes to each of us, along with an apple and a chocolate bar. Lunch, she smiles, as we head off towards Monte Corona, stopping every so often for Carmen to point out the native flora.
Born in Prague to a Czech mother and a Peruvian father, Carmen has lived on Lanzarote for eight years. Three years ago she set up Lanzarote Active Club in order to â€œstart enjoying the things that are important to meâ€ as she puts it.
Like so many of us, somewhere in between earning a living and raising a family, Carmen realised that the joy she got from doing the things she loved most – spending time outdoors and developing a deeper understanding of nature and her environment was being sucked away by life’s necessities. But unlike most of us, she didn’t just sigh and carry on, she decided to do something about it. And that’s when she set up Lanzarote Active Club.
As we walk and chat, we can hear whistling and we look around to see two farmers trying to attract the attention of a Podenco (Ibizan Hound) who seems far more intent on tracking down rabbits than she does responding to her calls. After a while the farmers give up and disappear inside their finca. The dog begins to follow us at a distance. We continue on our hike, trekking the Cliffs of Famara with their jaw-dropping views over La Graciosa and watching an amazing aerial battle between two male falcons over the attentions of a female.
Still the Podenco follows us. Now she’s braver, rubbing her soft muzzle against our hands; her bright eyes and keen expression revealing her intelligence, her protruding ribs betraying a lack of regular food. When we arrive back at the van, Carmen puts the dog inside and we drive all the way back to the finca to deliver her to her owners. But it turns out they don’t own her. She’s a stray who’s been around for months and she’s clearly in need of care. Carmen resolves to keep her overnight and then to take her to Ladies Who Lunch an animal protection organisation who will find her a home.
That’s Carmen. Her caring nature ensures that everyone in her group is okay and is getting the experience they want from the trip. She always takes an extra sandwich on her guided walks for the dog who’s chained in the yard at the finca and she takes responsibility for a stray because it’s in need of help.
Two days later, Francesca is leading us on a hike to Peñas del Chache, her passion for vulcanology providing us with fascinating insights into the different types of volcanic eruptions that have formed Lanzarote. An encyclopedia of information, she points out to us the way that the terrain changes as time passes between eruption and present day and she explains the invaluable role algae play in the restoration of the planet.
Born in a small village outside Rimini where her mother still lives, Francesca exhibits a love verging on obsession for the environment in which she lives, at one point taking the entire group on a small detour rather than walk through a spider web across the path. Like Carmen, she stops to point out the various indigenous flora and to explain how the plants trap and retain moisture in this arid terrain. Her enthusiasm is infectious, as is her knowledge. By the time we get back to Sands Beach Resort, I find I can identify and name at least half a dozen plant species en route.
Later that evening we head into Arrecife for a wine tasting being held by Alena, the third member of the Active Lanzarote Club team. I come away with a deeper understanding of the wine culture on Lanzarote, knowing how to taste wine properly and a glow on my cheeks which must have come from the exertions of the day and couldn’t possibly have come from doing Alena a favour by draining the unfinished bottles…
With Active Lanzarote Club you don’t just get a walking guide who ensures your health and safety while showing you the best bits of Lanzarote, you also gain an understanding of botany, vulcanology and viniculture. And you get it while enjoying the company of what feels like friends a family.
Incidentally, the Podenco never made it to Ladies Who Lunch, she was adopted by Carmen’s friend who already owned a Podenco and who fell in love with our stray while looking after her overnight. And they’re all living happily ever after…aaahhh 🙂