Timanfaya Camel Train

The National Park of Timanfaya is certainly one of the most awesome tourist attractions in the world. Its the only national park where the absence of animal and plant life is the outstanding factor.

Arre Burro no!! - Camello

Only the hardiest of creatures and plants manage to survive in this lunar landscape of Malpais (Badlands), in these lonely fields of solidified lava. A small lizard (Lacerta Atlantica) seems to be the only creature to enjoy such a bleak terrain. Other animals, like mice and rabbits, which inhabit other parts of the island are sporadically seen in the national park. A few birds fly across the Malpais but their presence is considered accidental and limited to areas where there is some sparse outcrop of vegetation.

Despite the bleakness, a trip to the top of the still-active FireMountain, on the back of a camel, proves unforgettable. Camels, admittedly, have never enjoyed a good press. And some visitors say the Timanfaya variety do little to improve their image. However, these ships of Lanzarotes desert provide a sure-footed ascent, as one gets a feel for the macabre landscape below.

One soon realises why the first astronauts were shown photographs of the area, to give them an indication of what the moon would look like. It also becomes clear, as you go up the volcanos flank, why the producers of "Dr Who -- The Movie" were drawn to Timanfaya to shoot some Dalek scenes.

The place is at once both romantic and bizarre, and certainly well worth the pain in the rear, induced by sitting on a primitive wooden chair strapped to the camels hump. Soon, however, you are on the descent of the volcano once more. And on the normal Timanfaya tour, you then proceed to the national park proper.

There, at the summit, gaily dressed guides give demonstrations of the awesome temperatures of 750 deg. F (400 deg. C) just a few centimetres below ground. Jettisons of steam come shooting out of pipes stuck into the ground when water is poured down them. Straw bursts spontaneously into flames when thrust into holes in the ground. Staff at the tastefully built restaurant at the Timanfaya summit prepare food cooked with the natural heat of the volcano over an open grill.

A drive through the guts of the big volcano country leaves everyone breathless. The voyage has by now taken on a dreamlike nature, snaking slowly through a surreal landscape of lava fields and craters thrown up by the Earths wretching belly. The undulations of the moonscape here, the varying textures of lava and the sudden twists in the narrow road which passes through the park, give the impression that anything could happen around the next bend. A dinosaur standing, minding his own business, in a Timanfaya crater would hardly make you blink by this stage.