Lanzarote: Orlando Álvarez drives his Actros around the holiday island


Life shaped by lava.

Visitors to Lanzarote never cease to be amazed by the island’s landscape. Orlando Álvarez can count himself lucky: he gets to drive his Actros past volcanic rock, volcanic craters and spectacular cliffs.

Lanzarote’s history has been shaped by the elements of fire, water, earth and air. Millions of years ago, this Canary Island was formed by powerful volcanic activity underwater. Volcanic eruptions still influence the unique landscape to this day. And today, Orlando Álvarez is navigating this very same scenery in his Actros 1848, which is carrying a load of construction aggregate.

20 years at Tiagua.

Below the Los Hervideros road, the waves of the Atlantic Ocean are pounding against the cliffs of solidified lava. Orlando looks out of his side window: “when the weather is rough, it feels like the sea is boiling below my feet,” he remarks. He has been working at Tiagua – a company specialising in earth moving and construction haulage – for 20 years. And even though the 41-year-old knows the island like the back of his hand, he continues to be fascinated by the island’s lunar landscape.

A popular holiday destination.

In 1993, Lanzarote (nicknamed the “Island of Volcanoes”) became the first full island to be designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. 40 per cent of its 850 square kilometres are protected. The island is home to some 150,000 people and records an average temperature of approx. 24°C. On account of its beaches and unique landscape, it is a popular holiday destination, attracting almost two million tourists a year.

Operating responsibly.

Tourism is a key part of the island’s economy. At the same time, the visitor flows to the island represent a challenge in terms of nature conservation. This is also why Tiagua, Orlando’s employer, has opted for efficient, fuel-saving vehicles. The driver likes it – and he feels very much at home behind the wheel of his Actros. He is always keenly aware of the fact that he works in a protected environment – and that this still applies in areas approved for heavy goods vehicles. “The Actros is the perfect vehicle for the topography of the island, both in terms of loading goods and accessing construction sites,” he explains. Alongside road-building projects, Tiagua is also involved in the expansion of Lanzarote’s two trading ports.

Business and conservation hand in hand.

Orlando and many other residents regard the artist César Manrique as a role model when it comes to striking the right balance between economic interests and strict nature conservation. In the 1970s, Manrique established a blueprint for tourism that incorporates the island’s nature and art. Even today – more than a quarter of a century after Manrique’s death – his work lives on across the island. One of his best-known pieces suddenly emerges from behind the next bend: his sculpture of an albino crab. “That’s my absolute favourite,” says Orlando, as his green Actros drives past the steel sculpture. Measuring just a few millimetres in size, these small crustaceans known as “jameitos” are endemic to Lanzarote and are the symbol of Los Jameos del Agua, a spectacular network of caves.

“When the weather is rough, it feels like the sea is boiling below my feet.”

– Orlando Álvarez  

Taking a break in paradise.

The road leads north. Orlando glances in his rear-view mirror: the typical white facades of a village become smaller, reflecting the bright sunlight Whenever Orlando stops for a break on his journeys around the island, he pulls over in his truck, drinks a coffee from his flask and savours the view. Just like now. The view through the windscreen of his Actros tells you why Orlando takes the time to enjoy it: plateaus with green cacti and palm trees, grey craters and reddish mountains conjure up a unique landscape.

At the weekend, Orlando uses his spare time to go out with his family and enjoy good, fresh fish, accompanied by a wine from the La Geria valley. “Living and working on the Canary Islands is a unique experience,” he says as he closes the lid of his flask. Orlando counts himself lucky: “Not everyone can say that they get to drive the volcano route every day.”

Photos: Alexander Tempel