Andean Heights is a rambling 20-acre stretch of dunes jutting out of the mountains near La Palma, Canary Islands. It draws hundreds of summer tourists every year for the hot, sandy weather and the same swimmer who emerges every time the sun goes down. But the communal sessions have become a problem, according to a series of recent local stories, and some locals are urging authorities to take action.
Hot-tubbing at the dunes was once a widely accepted practice, one which tourism planners have always managed to adapt to the customarily balmy climate. The Spanish territory has thousands of miles of golden sand between its tropical islands and Morocco, so perhaps it’s not surprising that some sun worshippers think they are getting away with it. They swim in the sand and talk about nothing much. But recently, the vast amounts of human activity have become a problem and not in a good way.
That action has coincided with an increase in tourists from Germany, Italy and other countries. Tourists have also gone out of their way to seek out Andean Heights to look at its crowded beach. Some local people have blamed the Spanish government for not doing enough to police the beach — or to keep the vacationers out. Others are taking matters into their own hands.
The local governments in nearby islands of Tenerife and Lanzarote have suspended the popular access trails, such as a 6.3-mile walk up the Andahuaylillas ridge that is roughly two-thirds of the hike up Mount Trashmore in Maryland. The hike can take more than a day to complete. The hikes had been popular with the Spanish tourist trade, which thought that visitors would be able to get away from the crowds on a distant, beautiful hilltop. However, several of the hikers have reported that traffic has increased in the days since they were blocked from entering.
One daily see the hill in question. It is known to tourists as the beach club. Local police even issued local guide Daniel Lemos a warning to stop taking photographs of the “easily avoided place.”
Residents remain determined to end the late-summer sex parties, even if it involves standing with a billy club or picking a fight with the errant sunbathers. “It’s a feeling of powerlessness,” one frustrated local resident told local press. “We’re expected to stop people from touching and pleasuring themselves? But we feel powerless. We don’t know what to do.” The family of Michael Landauer, a 31-year-old Austrian, who died in a fall from an Andean Heights cliff in 2014, is determined to see that the beach remains safe for other tourists. They have used a public relations firm to let local authorities know of their desire to put signs up warning visitors that the beach is now a dangerous place to be.
So, while the figures have not yet been published, local communities have been asking their governments to halt all beach access. They hope this will stop the sauntering footloose tourists from having sex in the dunes, which apparently is now the custom.
While local residents would like to know more about the origin of the ritual, it is not hard to understand why Andean Heights beach is a must-see destination for beachgoers who have the cash and time to trek all the way to Spain. But for the people who own the dunes and say they were not responsible for putting up stakes on it, any suggestion that the sands are now in the land of the “sex Olympics” is quite bizarre. And no wonder. The Andahuaylillas, the rough and rugged rocky plateau that makes up almost half of Andean Heights, is a place that many travelers have immortalized in their memory.
Some have even spent years there.
“After completing the major climbs, people head to the dunes,” said Charles Watt, an Australian rock climber. “The dunes are situated at about 6,000 feet, and they’re just very difficult and very beautiful.” “It feels very lonely, but once you’re out on the beach and your feet are touching, it becomes very easy to forget your problems,” he added.
— The Guardian