Isla de Ohgôsh – Fuerteventura.
Names have been changed to protect the innocent.
Sandwiched between the high rising volcanic mountains of Lanzarote and Corralejo town Fuerteventura lays the small island of Ohgôsh. Disembarking the small day ferry we were greeted by a barren, almost moon like landscape. I half expected a random meeting with James T Kirk or Dr Who as the foot work began and we headed toward our pre targeted destination.
Four Musketeers on tour, though we each equally resembled a hardy northern English version of Porthos. Pompous, overly indulgent in lavish finery, food, drink and the female species. Though the latter was not why we were specifically in attendance on this occasion. Tired and weary after a terribly hard sales season, we had each opted to appreciate a little sunshine and moisture together.
Corralejo town at this time in my life had fast become a favoured winter retreat. The infamous Oink bar, ‘almost a local’ though it was situated approximately 1818.48 miles from my homestead. A place where Jägermeister flowed freely, where scantily clad surfboards adorned the walls in tribute to those who have gone forth to snap’age and dingdong before us.
La Taberna, ‘It has been far too long since our last encounter’ .. No glorious views of the ocean or beach, no over kill service tricks from the staff. Quaint, polite, down the line goodness from all angles, what more can I say. The evening before the day you should have been there was quite the usual set up and stroll.
‘Siesta’. We’d had a down and out Porthos amongst us for the first few days of our tour. Man Flu had been eating him alive, leaving him bed ridden and wallowing in self pity. Only man can understand where such a virus takes you and whilst we Musketeers surfed, took our usual siestas prior to dining like Henry VIII, he simply slept. We realised his predicament and were as courteous as possible each night in our drunken reminiscent bedtime tales. He, on the other hand may well hold different account.
The surf had been OK, no truly memorable sessions jump immediately to mind. The mandatory morning goose chase always took priority over any hang over. Rocky Point, Harbour Left, Bristols, when a decision would be made as to whether we would make further tracks round the beaten North track, checking all breaks whilst heading toward the dusty village of Cotillo, North west of the island.
Each morning and every afternoon, on all occasion I have visited Fuerteventura, I had always taken a few precious moments to stare out at sea from Corralejo’s eastern shore. To the right of the volcanus Lanzarote coastline can be seen a substantial volcanic mound that tails off into a relatively small island. This is the highest point is on the island, Montaña La Caldera, 127 metres above sea level. Ohgôsh has 8.9 miles of beach radius and is situated a mere 1.5 miles from the eastern shores of Corralejo, Fuerteventura. Views of the island are mostly clear dependent on the haze levels. I had heard the shark infested surf tales, seen the white water but never made the journey out there.
In days gone bye Lobos (Yes – I dropped the name) was home to dense populations of seals – ‘lobos del mar’ (Sea Wolves) hence the island’s name, Isla de Lobos. Lobos Island (Wolves Island) was named for the large number of sea wolves, also called monk seals, that once lived there. The monk seals were the island’s only inhabitants when it was discovered by the Spanish conquerors of the Canaries archipelago in the fifteenth century, but with the arrival of man, these animals were hunted on a massive scale by sailors and fishermen who saw them as a source of food, fat and skin. As a result of this hunting, the species eventually became extinct on the island and its presence now is only occasional.(wiki)
Today, the Nature Reserve of Lobos is home to plants and birds not to be found anywhere else on the planet. However, there was no time for such investigation the day of our most important visit. The only order of the day.. ‘Was to surf’.
5PM and time for the customary holiday siesta. A few well earned Z’s and time to ‘Rock’n’Roll. Shit, shower, shave .. Lets GO! Sickly Porthos was on the mend but still in semi vegitive state. Tomorrow however looked promising and an agreement was made between all that the early morning ferry was to be the order of the day. Next up, a couple of beers en route and a table for three at La Taberna por favor.
‘Gámba, langostino, Mucho el ajo’ .. Delicious, followed by ‘Bistec con patatas fritas’ acompanied with dos botella Campo Viejo Rioja. (Spanish was never my strong point, but when in Rome, ‘or the Canaries’.) Now.. Steaks in the Canaries are one on their own. I have never been able to work out just quite what they are all about. Some say they mostly serve horse but I don’t follow such strong belief, ‘for the most part anyway’. That said, I have experienced such a wide variety of flavours, textures and overall consistency in them it is hard to completely dismiss all the rumours. One thing is for sure, if you enjoy your steak any other way than medium, don’t bother ordering one in Correlejo – They are only ever served, Medium, Medium or ‘Medium’.
At this stage of the game, one is almost certainly quietly contented, the alcohol is beginning to take a good hold on ones cheesy grin strings. A state one can only describe as a slightly subdued euphoria. What’s it all about. Well, the next course is, and should always be, the express brandy train. A double espresso with a large Spanish brandy, preferably from the Jerez / Sherry region. A good choice for any such occasion would be Lepanto.
La Taberna staff were always connoisseurs in the art of serving brandy. Large brandy glass full of boiling water with a saucer sat on the top. The water is emptied table-side and the brandy then enters the vessel to await the choo choo time that inevitably follows.
There is something about espresso and brandy after a good meal that simply supercharges the soul, no matter how tired you are when you sit down to eat. The combination of caffeine and fine spirit will always drive one into the night like a hyperactive freight train.
Even with the solid and confirmed knowledge of an early morning boat ride combined with a possible heavy days surf. The moment La cuenta, por favor arrived at almost midnight, my mind was already focused on the short stroll across the street to the Oink bar where inevitably Jay and Danny would be anticipating our presence. Most of the present day party peeps will be familiar with Jäger Bombs, however in 2004 Jägermeister was still in a state of calm, pre-commercial overdrive. And a bomb was still something you did at the swimming pool if you wanted to act the royal twat.
By twelve thirty the back of my head was firmly rested on the Oink’s “Bar” with both Jay and Danny giggling as they poured Jägermeister from a foot away down my throat. Make no mistake, it just kept coming until you could either take no more, or you drowned! Dangerous times! Entering the Oink bar in the winter months, midweek, when it was only semi busy. It just meant Jay and Danny and co could pay far more attention as to how much time they actually spent thoroughly abusing your liver.
Next stop, ‘Waikiki beach club, Fuerteventura‘. It has to be said that I’ve never really been a huge fan of this place, but somehow always ended up there, go figure. 2am and although one of the old alter ego’s was desperately tugging at my drink strings I somehow found the inner resource to make a confirmed mutiny attempt on the evening. “Drink up me hearties, it be time to leave” The Musketeers looked at me as though I were something they’d trodden in, then they both replied in tandem, “just one more and we will be on our way”. Now where had I heard that one before.
It was at this point something very strange occurred. Hailing from Lancashire with only a manditory but meaningful stint in HMAF one thing I generally do have is my wits about me. Even when in semi drunken state. As I crossed the small beach to make the short walk back to the Caleta Playa apartments I noticed immediately I was being tailed. Now I know what you are thinking and no it was not a trail of bikini clad women. An African man that had, within seconds of his pursuit, clearly displayed he had absolutely nothing in common with the mud clothed and camouflaged warrior hunters western Africa. (Truly a pathetic effort, all-round)
As I reached the alley leading to the complex I was momentarily out of my stalkers sight. I decided to lift the pace and test my drunken theory. I reached the side entrance to Caleta Playa and its pool where I hid round a corner and waited. I felt like a special blend of Ninja Jedi at this point and sure enough, the guy passed at speed thinking I had already left the alley. I knew what he was after, it had to be the chains, ‘chains’. The silver I was wearing at this point in my life was easily enough to make a scouser take a direct 180° on a motorway in hope it would buy him a new shell suit. (Cheese release)
It was around this point that stupid Sped kicked in and I jumped in the middle of the alley and whistled, the stalker had reached the road and was clearly trying to work out where I’d gone. Hearing my whistle he turned toward me and hesitated for a moment. I walked calmly toward the pool, again out of sight and picked up an ashtray off a poolside table where I turned and awaited what was to come. Now I’m not one for starting trouble but tonight the force was with me. The next few moments were strange, awkward and downright bizarre. The guy had plumbs, he reached the entrance and stopped completely still and staring right at me. What was going through his mind at this point is anyone’s guess but there he stayed for what felt like a good minute. No words were exchange and then he just turned and left. My heart was pumping like a trooper but Obi wan kenobi had been with me and all seemed well, balance had been restored.
To this day, I still think the Musketeers thought I was bullshitting them about the whole scenario and I agree its just not the vibe you’d ever get from Fuerteventura. That said, It only takes one asshat to ruin a party. I’m just glad he hadn’t tried it on with anyone more vulnerable than SPED LERAW of the planet ibuprofen.
As I entered the apartment, sickly Porthos was snoring, I needed water, a good old cup of tea and a smoke to calm the nerves. A hour or so later and the duo returned, I was still amped and wide awake at this point. Lights out at around 4.30am, not the best time, when you have a ferry to board at 10.
0830 soon arrived and sickly Porthos was up and at em, just as he’d said he would be. There was a noticeable improvement in his well being. He had once again found his soul and with it came his smile and banter too. Our efforts in raising the other two Musketeers were completely in vain. It was rather like watching the raising of the Mary Rose back in the early 80’s as a nine year old. It was taking forever with absolutely no hope of getting them up in one piece. We let them simmer in their own self induced states. Board socks, “check”, wax “check”, rash vest “check”, reef boots “check”, towel “check”, water “check” .. “Lets rock”!
0945 and we were greeted at the harbour with the sight of a chap gutting fish on his block. Fish guts, smeg and dribble oozed down the harbour beach toward the water. My chest convulsed and stomach groaned and I almost entered into the state commonly know as ‘White-One’. It was at that moment he appeared. The man commonly known as ‘The Sales Manager’. How he managed it, I’m still not sure. Why he did it, I have absolutely no idea. The Musketeers would go on tour and he would just happen to make a random, completely unexpected apperance. Fuerteventura, ‘The Artic Circle’, you name it he’d have gained inside knowledge and be all over it! On this occasion, he just happened to be on a day trip to Ohgôsh with his family. Odd, but then, so is supporting Liverpool when you are from Plymouth. We just accepted it all.
I had a mouth like Ghandi’s flip flop, eyes that resembled a moles when confronted with daylight and head like a bowl of angel delight. The boat was not helping matters. I tried to restore some sanity by means of fluid, and lots of it. I wasn’t even up to heading port side for too long to have a ganders at the point as we passed. 15 or 20 minutes after we had set out, we docked on Isla de Ohgôsh. Disembarking the small day ferry we were greeted by a barren, almost moon like landscape. I half expected a random meeting with James T Kirk or Dr Who as the foot work began and we headed toward our pre targeted destination.
I murmured few words whilst we walked, Porthos was now positively beaming from ear to ear in anticipation of what he thought we were about to receive. I took the forest Gump approach, ‘you never know what you are gonna get’. Shit, I did not even know if I felt like getting wet. That said, I knew a day spent on the Island without sun cream would be rather like watching a slug trying to spend an afternoon in the sun, ‘on a black car’s bonnet’. Not Happening! There had to be a wave!
We crossed the Island and hit the coast trail, surely not too much further. Would it be crowded, super gnarly? Would the sharks be about? (Funny, I’ve surfed the Canaries on many occasions and never even given such things any thought. I’d certainly never heard of any attacks, but Ohgôsh, it was renowned, right?). What a nonsensical tale.
“Listen”… “You hear that”? “We must be close”. Suddenly the peak was in view, as we drew closer we could see that there were a handful of guys out, it was around 4Ft to 5ft at the peak on the sets. Shit the bed ‘it was clean’, the sets were consistent and so our pace picked up. We spotted an area we could drop our gear, sat, gulped some water down and watched for a few moments. Its always the same when surfing a reef for the first time, a little trepidation creeps up, so you check what the water is doing. Try and figure if there are any/many rips and spot your paddle.
“Fuck it”…”C’mon” “lets do this”! Rash vest out, slaps off and reef boots, ohh the reef boots. If you have ever surfed Fuerteventura and managed ‘not’ to step on at least one spiky ass sea urchin, you must either have lead feet or be savagely lucky.
So…. You can imagine my feeling right then when I checked my bag thoroughly only to come to the conclusion that I had only packed ‘one’ reef boot! Yay, Go Me!…
Needless to say I knew I would be the last Musketeer to make it out in to to the line up.
Stepping off the jagged volcanic rocks into the water and onto more jagged volcanic rocks I knew this was going to be some ordeal. Sure enough, I nicked a ankle, was forced to sit on numerous occasions whilst the white water passed and knelt on at least one urchin throughout the escapade. Finally I was paddling and as the first duck dive approached I felt excited, rather like I had already accomplished something great. Looking at the odds, what were the chances of actually making it. I had resisted an all-nighter, miraculously escaped being murdered for silver, denied myself of much needed rest, braved a boat ride with a hangover ‘and’ navigated my way through a glass like reef with an urchin infestation.. Get, the fuck in. I’d made it!
I raised my knee and compressed my newly founded urchin stab wound into the deck of my board, pushing hard with my upper body I pushed the board down through the glassy feathering face and followed with my shoulders, neck and head. The revitalised feeling was instantaneous. (Sounds like the big Wednesday cliché, I know, but its true).. I was here, and this was my time. Haha, OK, enough. I punched out through the other side an just knew it was going to be a good day.
Being polite to those already out and scoping the place out we sat on the shoulder and took a few stragglers each. After around an hour, I asked ‘now’ surf’myster Porthos, what nationality he though the guys in the line up were. Either the hangover was still working its state of confusion or I was just to busy concentrating on picking off too many uninhabited waves to really notice. They are Italian he said. “You what”! “Then why the fuck are we sat on the shoulder, lets mix it up” I popped my front four teeth out in true chest n chains style and tucked them in my key pocket for safe keeping. How deep did these guys want to go. I immediately split the pack and began claiming some prime time bombs of my own, much to the astonishment of my Musketeer on the shoulder who was now also edging his way in on the action. I could not stop laughing. And so began the rest of the session.
I remember the swell was quite hard to spot on the horizon giving you little time to lock in when the bowls turned up, timing and snarling at the dude on your inside was of most importance. Wave after wave after wave, we surfed for 4.5 hours straight. The sections were recognisable by the reef below. Just time for a turn and you were confronted by a dry section of reef, working out whether to go over it or round it was the call of the day. You just needed to make sure you stuck to your guns and you were clear and free, ready to smash the face some more. (Well, maybe not quite smash it but surfing should never be about how good you are or are not. So long as you make the most of the waves you do take and surf them to the best of your ability, you will surely remain, forever stoked.)
Taking a break whilst paddling back out I sat watching Musketeer ‘Ste’ take a bullet. As he paddled back out and toward me, I asked about the shark theory. “Yeah, there be sharks in these parts” was his conclusion. “Oh” I said, “and they can smell urine right”? “Oh yeah”. “Best get moving then because I just took a leak”… The look on his face, priceless.
Lessons of the day, No1. I needed to surf more right handers, my overall backside awareness felt somewhat down on rights because of the amount of East coast lefts I’d been surfing. No2. If the pack aint local, take your teeth out, flex the pecks and go for gold, what have you got to lose. Your teeth have already gone and everyone wants your silver 😉
Surfing great waves with good friends, there really is nothing that truly compares. Much time was spent abusing the hungover Musketeers on our return. To this day, they can be confidently reminded that they wasted a day vegetating whilst we took on the Island and legend that is “Isla de Ohgôsh” Isla de Lobos’s point break. Fuerteventura. An epic day out that will be forever cherished.