Cueva de los Verdes is a collection of caves at the north end of Lanzarote, formed by a lava flow from an eruption roughly 3,000 years ago from the nearby volcano Monte Corona. Lava tunnels are formed when the top of a flow solidifies and the active flow beneath drains away, often into the sea. This forms the roof of the cave system, leaving the unique patterned walls and floors which create surreal liquid striations among the stalactites of the echoing underworld.
When you arrive at the Lava tunnel, it is an impressive sight. A hole gapes in the landscape like the maw of a beast, ready to swallow you whole. The tunnels entrance is 20 feet high and much wider in its dimensions, a black scar on the fields of this fertile area of the island.
This was the first and only guided tour we undertook. I had to admit defeat on my mission to travel independently to see everything we wanted to as I'd read about how beautiful the lava tunnels were in Lanzarote and could find no information about how to find any that weren't manned. The plan for the day-trip was to drive to Cueva de los Verdes and then visit the volcanic cliffs on the wild west coast of the island.
After paying the 5 euros entrance fee we put on our obligatory head torches and followed the guide into the depths. It proved to be a decent tour all in all. As it was quite physical, clambering down the slick steps that had been hewn into the rock, I found myself able to ignore the droning of the tours guides patter and disappear into realms of imagination.
The walls undulated with a liquid resonance, a kind of visual echoing of the sea. I had been scuba diving the day before and I kept imagining the walls dissolving into water and drowning us all. It was a bit of a strange musing which faded after a while but this is honestly how much you could tell the walls were once in a liquid state. As we descended deeper into the earth, the heat and humidity increased, the walls stretched downwards like melted wax dripping into the depths.
The stairs wound down on and on in a seemingly endless decent. Passing through small chambers, tight shafts and echoing vaults. I wandered the realms of imagination, this decent reminded me of The Lord of the Rings chapter about entering Moria, the ancient homeland of the dwarfs. These associations lingered in my mind helping to inspire parts of a poem I later wrote. The distant drip-drip of water, the deep silence accentuating every noise, each scuffle of shoes or whisper, all added to this Moria-like impression. I kept listening for the flap-flap of bare feet (non-LOTR fans please just ignore me here 😉) following behind.
There was no sound but the sound of their own feet: the dull stump of Gimli’s dwarf-boots; the heavy tread of Boromir; the light step of Legolas; the soft, scarce-heard patter of hobbit-feet; and in the rear the slow firm footfalls of Aragorn with his long stride. When they halted for a moment they heard nothing at all, unless it were occasionally a faint trickle and drip of unseen water. Yet Frodo began to hear, or to imagine that he heard, something else: like the faint fall of soft bare feet.
The Fellowship of the Ring, Chapter 4: A Journey in the Dark, J.R.R. Tolkien
We finally reached the bottom of the stairs and the main larger caves of the lava tunnel. It was worth the climb, ceilings stretched away into the distance while the drama of these Stygian scenes were illuminated by golden, green and red lighting.
One chamber was lined with chairs and the guide told us that classical piano concerts are conducted in there as the acoustics were particularly good. This space was quiet and peaceful but as I stood on the stage next to the Grand, I couldn't resist playing 'Silent Night', one of the few things I remember how to play on piano. The sound echoing around the empty spaces was exquisite, and it was worth it despite the tour guide telling me off afterwards.
We passed on through cave after cave, each a dream cast in basalt shapes. I found this place very meditative, each new space was like a chamber in my mind, a reflection of a mental space or thought pattern. I followed this play on perception with the different lighting, each space engendering different thoughts and memories. This allowed me to reach a stillness when we arrived at the cave pictured below. The guide played a trick on the group here where he told everyone that the pool was actually a hole to another level of the tunnel system, and it was so reflective that it was completely believable. He finished by dropping a stone in the pool while everyone stared at it, shocking them all as what they thought would plummet caused the whole scene to ripple in a surreal dance of liquid basalt, dancing outwards in expanding circles. I was out of it by this point, bliss-ed on the experience of the caves and my mental journeys, so I didn't get drawn in to the theatre of it all but it was quite a cool feature of the tour when I think back on it.
While we had been beneath the earth, the weather had turned and the island was blanketed in a thick mist. After the humid stifle of the deeper sections of the caves it was quite refreshing and despite it being late in the afternoon we stuck to our plan and drove to the west side of the island to see the black volcanic cliffs.
The road leading up to the coast was sketchy with massive potholes and humps. As we drove, the road just stopped without warning at a small round area overlooking a short drop into the smashing waves of the Atlantic ocean. A storm had been brewing for a while and the temperature had dropped considerably but the main weather was yet to hit the island. However, the effects of what had been happening offshore could be seen in the mammoth waves pounding the shore and throwing up plumes of misted sea water into the air. I could wax lyrical about this encounter with nature all day long but as I took video footage, I will leave you with a video presentation and poetry reading inspired by that experience (text version of poem below video clip).
The Ravaged Land
Ravaged cliffs lift
ebon basalt blades,
cutting wind from waves
in blasting spray.
play in lava arches.
The land’s breathe
condensed in sea.
mottle air with brine.
Hairs of crystal salt
shimer in time.
Aligned in endless
battle of sea and earth.
A shaping of states,
the cycle of death
If you have enjoyed this travel post please check out the other articles in this series (links at the top of the page). All of these trips were done in the car, following maps to find our way to 'off the beaten tracks' places. There wasn't a tour bus in sight. 😛 I will be publishing one final post in this series, which is a poem that was inspired by all of the locations on Lanzarote that I have written about. All images in this post are my own property unless linked below photo (creative commons). Unfortunately, my phone camera is not great and the photos from inside the lava tunnels turned out rubbish which is why I sourced some wikimedia pics. The music used in the video poetry reading is from incompetech.com (royalty free), please follow link to verify. If you have enjoyed this article you can find more like it at my blogs homepage @raj808. Thanks for reading.
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