Can you hear that? The sound of silence? Your breath barely even audible and not one noise from the outside world makes its way into your senses. Your chest constricts just a little as the walls and ceiling are mere inches from you and the quiet has left you with yourself. The world has been shut out and you must acknowledge this being you inhabit without any distractions of normal life. I am sitting inside a lava tube hearing nothing but my own amazingly quiet thoughts. Thoughts of how silent this moment actually is. Did you know lava absorbs sound? It is the perfect place to meditate and really feel the earth below you. If a bird were to fly up and out of this cave, it would at first see faint light brushing the ceiling filled with ancient drips that never fell, out of the darkness and into the hot desert sun. A lava field would stretch out as far as the horizon ending at ancient, red, fire mountains that created this landscape.
I am sitting with a small group of hikers on a guided walk in Timanfaya National Park. Near the end of it, our guide took us into a lava tube for a few moments of silence. It’s like a natural sound booth, the kind with bumpy foam covering it. Except lava is the bumpy material and it’s not quite as forgiving as foam if you run into it. The cave is a welcome retreat to the scorching hot sun that is outside.
Earlier on the hike, our guide demonstrated the scarcity of water by taking a handful of his bottled water and throwing it onto the hot rocks in the sun. I stared at the black rocks wondering what I was looking for when suddenly a small movement caught my eye. Lizards darted out from their hiding places and flicked their tounges over the drops that were already evaporating in the heat. He crouched down offering his hand full of moisture which they came right up to and eagerly lapped up.
The Termesana Route, which is the name of the trail we walked, takes you through a mars-like landscape. Your feet will sink sometimes in black sand, or level off on crunchy rock. The trail is 3km long and the ground is level making it relatively easy. The difficult part is dealing with the sun as there is no shade. I highly recommend a wide brim hat, sunscreen, and plenty of water. The hike begins and ends at the Timanfaya National Park Visitor Center. Your guide will drive you in a van to the starting point of the trail inside the park. The drive itself is beautiful, taking you past some scenery that will make you think you are on another planet. I recommend checking out the center as there is a volcanic eruption simulation that’s entertaining. Also, outside of the back door is a beautiful boardwalk over the lava fields.
Our guide’s name was Nino and he has worked for the park for many years. He has genuine enthusiasm and extensive knowledge of the island and is a great guide, bringing the barren landscape to life with his words. Timanfaya National Park is located on Lanzarote, a Canary Island not far from Africa. The landscape of Lanzarote is very unique and studied because it is showing the evolution of life after volcanic eruptions. UNESCO designated a biosphere reserve covering the island with the park as one of the core areas. Access to the park by the public is strictly regulated and this hike is one of two that the public can actually participate in. Otherwise you are limited to a bus tour of the park on a closed to the public road. I highly recommend both so you can truly experience the park fully.
This hike was free and offered through the park. You need to reserve far in advance as it is the more popular of the two hikes offered. I recommend emailing the park directly as their reservation website needs improvement. If the hike is full, do not give up. Put your name on a waiting list and show up at least a half hour early at the visitor center. If there are any cancellations you could still be included on the hike. You can find the park’s email here.
The film Enemy Mine was shot here. The volcanic landscape made the perfect backdrop for the planet that Dennis Quaid is stranded on with his alien enemy turned friend.