Cofete, the border with the end of the world
Between a raging ocean and austere mountains lies a small village
In the previous article, the bay of Albarca left me speechless with its extravagantly shaped rocks. But the world is full of similar places, where nature is sovereign and man can only bow down to it.
This time I am in Fuerteventura where an immense beach and a mountain range of volcanic origin leave room just to hold your breath at its sight.
With a history of almost 20 million years and less than 100 km from the African coast lies Fuerteventura, an island in the archipelago of the Canary Islands. Its territory stands out for its impressive sand dunes and inactive volcanoes that surround a landscape that is often arid and devoid of lush vegetation. An environment constantly beaten by wind and waves sought after by surfers and kitesurf enthusiasts.
The story of Cofete
Corralejo is the nerve center of tourism in Fuerteventura. Located in the north of the island with hotels, restaurants, beaches and beautiful sand dunes. A place where tourists can enjoy the landscape and have fun. But there is a remote place in the island that stands out for its natural beauty and impressive landscape. Cofete.
Located on the southwest coast of the Jandia peninsula in the middle of a nature reserve: The Jandia Natural Park. A mountain range of volcanic origin of 14 km long and about 800 meters high, isolate Cofete lying on a barren but at the same time immense land.
The Cofete area from time immemorial has always been a grazing and farming area by the Los Majoreros, the ancient population of Fuerteventura. After the conquest of the Spanish Empire in the 15th century, some settlers settled there permanently in 1816. Thus the first houses were built to allow the exploitation of the land with the cultivation of cereals, legumes and some fruit trees as well as grazing goats. In 1826 the area already had 28 people, who temporarily remained in this area. Cofete reached its heyday in 1834 with a total of 67 people.
Unfortunately, a slow but inexorable decline of the village began in the mid-twentieth century, due to drought and other difficulties. Little by little the inhabitants decided to move to Morro Jable. In 1950 only 6 families resided in the area dedicating themselves to a thin pastoralism and lime extraction. After only 10 years in 1960 Cofete disappears as a village from the official registers.
Nowadays only a few families reside in Cofete, which are fighting for it to be officially recognized as a village.
Getting to Cofete
The fascinating history of this place arouses my curiosity. From the town of Corralejo I take the road that crosses the whole island, continuing south to Morro Jable.
The town, a typical tourist destination, overlooks the sea with all the comforts that the modern world requires. Supermarkets, restaurants, electricity, running water. Through urbanization at a certain point a timid signal indicates to me the path to get to Cofete. There are about 15 km of road that could be done in a quarter of an hour, but this is not the case. The asphalt quickly gives way to beaten earth, weaving between the crests and valleys of the Jandia mountain range.
It is a lunar journey. Gray land and rocks as far as the eye can see between mountains that cut the horizon. Little by little I go up through hairpin bends and curves in an increasingly inhospitable environment. The vegetation becomes sparse and takes tough and harsh shapes when it finds a way to cling to a corner of fertile land.
The slow and steady ascension ends. I reach the Mirador de Cofete at 234 meters above sea level The view from here is terrific. The dirt road winds its way down to a couple of houses in the distance. The mountain range extends as far as the eye can see with walls that descend gently until they lie down on a stretch of gold-colored beach. The Atlantic Ocean restlessly lays its waves on the sand. This is an hidden place and well protected from ancient natural forces.
The view fills the eyes with amazement and the immensity of the landscape leaves you no room to breathe!
I could stay and admire the landscape for hours if it weren’t for the trade winds that blow strongly. Opening the car door can be difficult. Contemplation ends driven by my desire to get to the beach, see those waves up close and observe the village known throughout the island.
The path to Cofete
Following the spit of beaten land I go down little by little. Driving towards the small village is often distracted by the end of the world scenario that appears in front of me at every bend.
Stone houses here and there make up the hamlet, interspersed with barren land and some cultivation. The feeling of power of the mountains make me turn my gaze towards the ocean, which does not give you breath for its waves. There is no way out. The road ends on the immense beach. The surrounding landscape gives a sense of peace mixed with perdition due to the large and immense elements that draw this panorama.
In the distance, blown by the wind, near the beach resides a sacred place. The Cofete cemetery.
The origin of the cemetery
Since the area is difficult to access and has only one road, it was too hard and long for the inhabitants of Cofete to bury their loved ones near the municipality of Pajara. So they decided to give a worthy burial in a place that belonged to everyone and nobody at the same time: the beach.
The cemetery consists of a symbolic fence and a few low walls which delimit the space where it is assumed that more than 200 people are buried. To mark the entrance a wooden door without a lock, which on its right side shows the names and surnames of the bodies while a steel plaque tells the origin and the brief history.
The simplicity of the cemetery is in constant struggle against the sand dunes. The tombs adorned with small wooden crosses and volcanic stone make me understand that it was not easy to live here. A place where the residents lived on pastoralism and cultivated by adapting to the rhythms and harshness of nature.
Humility and respect is what this place requires. Here there’s not supermarket, electricity or hotels.
Looking at the steep slope of the mountains, you can glimpse a single peculiar building, a white villa.
The owner of this villa, a German named Gustav Winter, was the tenant of the entire Jandia peninsula. At that time the relations between the Nazis and Franco’s Spain still made many stories and legends resound today about this remote house.
The fact is that anyone coming from that slender access road is struck by the spectacular geographical formation of this place. A large natural corridor bordered on one side by mighty mountains and on the other by a tireless ocean.
In 2014 it was used on the set of Ridley Scott’s film Exodus.
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