- Visit Of The Wreck -

The Vultures Are Already Waiting ...

What is the connection between the piles of glass visible everywhere around the Playa de Garcey and the fact that many tourists do not use a jeep but a regular vehicle to get to the wreck of the American Star? And why should these tourists linked to the piles of glass pay for their carsī damages? Too complicated?

These ties are not clear for everybody right away, especially, when you ALWAYS explore the island with a jeep like us (with an onetime exception in 2004). But now the links become clearer after the following mail from Gerald Winterhalder reached us ...    


When searching for details regarding the above mentioned wreck, I got to know your magazine and I like to take the opportunity to draw your attention to a threat experienced only a couple of days ago: CAR BURGLARY / BREAK-INS.

Odd "glass islands" at the Playa de Garcey ...The conditions for rental cars (there are vast differences between the German and English versions of the rental agreements) state that you are only allowed to drive on asphalt roads with a regular car and that you have to rent (expensive) jeeps for dirt roads. Consequently, the majority of the western coast and the entire southern coast (in theory) are off-limit for regular vehicles.

Since the roads to the wreck are accessible without any problems by regular vehicles, many take advantage of it - and then have problems with the insurance company resp. the car rental company. We can only advise against parking the car unattended at certain spots even though they are mostly the starting point for many sights. Organized criminals break the side windows and remove everything provided you are dumb enough to leave anything inside.

However, even empty cars are broken into since one obviously expects some valuables inside the glove compartment or under the seat, etc. You only have to pay close attention. At the site of the above wreck, there are many "glass islands" leftovers from broken windows as well as many other locations where you cannot see the cars.

We were supposed to pay for the two windows since we a) drove on dirt roads and b) left a sweater (personal item) in the car. I argued that the English version talks about of "valuables" (a sweater is obviously no valuable) and that the glove compartment was broken into (those imbecile thieves overlooked that it was open to begin with). Therefore, there was no causal connection.

Since it was hard to prove that nobody would break into the jeep, the matter was settled. But watch out: A bunch of criminals are already waiting for their next victims - in any case, you will have to deal with the trouble.

Nevertheless, have a lot of fun visiting the wreck!

Naturally, after the above mail and our own findings of the "glass islands" at the site close to the American Star (see photograph above), we asked Gerald Winterhalder. He sent us the following passage that we like to share with our readers and therefore publish uncut! 


On the islands, a selection of various rental car categories is offered. The question generally is: four-wheel or two-wheel drive.

The highlighted conditions in the rental agreements state word-for-word: It is forbidden to drive on dirt roads as well as to leave personal items in the car. "Please, donīt drive on roads where there are stones and rocks. Please donīt leave valuables in the car." Anyway, now what is forbidden or a request, personal items or valuables?

According to the conditions (at least for German speaking tourists), you are only allowed to drive on dirt roads with four-wheel drive rental cars. In my opinion - I have been an insurance expert for 40 years - this is an extremely irrelevant and customer-unfriendly clause.

Only with the jeep to the "American Star"?The reason: 

1.) Most places of interest are in areas accessible only via dirt roads. Those are not challenging dirt roads but simply firm nature roads as you can often find in Austria for instance.

On maps, you can find those marked as "minor roads" or as "important roads unsealed". On the official map of Fuerteventura for instance, these roads are referred to as side streets. Of course, you drive more slowly and cautiously on this type of road. A four-wheel drive is not even necessary during rain, the elevations are smooth, the roads are firm, and hardly any lose gravel. Any mountain road in the Alps is more dangerous during snow and ice.

2.) On the maps, dirt roads only accessible by four-wheel drive are specially marked. Those are mostly real dirt roads on the beaches. It is obvious that you would not drive a regular vehicle on those. Here, the restrictions are understandable.

3.) If you indeed take the clause in regards to dirt roads seriously, then you would not be allowed to use the parking lots at many places of interest, for example at the botanical garden in La Lajita, the African market at Costa Calma, and the mill museum in Tiscamanita. For renters of regular vehicles, the entire southern coast and with the exception of four roads the entire western coast would be off-limits!

That is unacceptable and is often ignored. On January 23, 2006, we met many rental cars without four-wheel drive on the way to and from the lighthouse Punta de Jandia. Since no bus goes there, a walk of 18 km twice on foot with kids is hardly an option.

Our Helpful Experiences:

Only with the jeep to Cofete?On January 23, 2006, we, two adults and a child (5 years old), rented a car from the rental car agency MORENO Rent-A-Car located in the hotel Costa Calma Playa due to the continuously bad weather in order to explore the island. Since there was no four-wheel drive available at 11:00 am, I explained to the agent (name known) that we would rent some place else. We especially wanted to visit the southern tip (lighthouses/Jandia) and the village Cofete/Villa Winter (all clearly "must see" places of interest).

In front of witnesses, the lady stated that this would not be a problem and those roads can be of course mastered by the two-wheel drive Mitsubishi (even though starting after Morro Jable, the roads are marked as secondary streets on the map given to us).

The road was manageable without problems to Cofete. As said, we saw many regular rental cars without four-wheel drive. The drivers mostly retirees - no one had problems. Remarkable: When I bought the "official" island map (Fuerteventura Erlebnisfuehrer) later on, the part of the trouble-free dirt road was officially for jeeps only. So, which map is valid?

On January 25, 2006, we wanted to visit the wreck of the American Star another well-known tourist attraction located off the western coast. The Moreno map identifies the path as a secondary road approximately 5 km in length leading to the wreck - only the last section is marked as a dirt road. We agreed to walk the rest as eight to ten other visitors with regular vehicles had decided and left the car behind next to the others. Of course, we locked the car and did not leave anything but a sweater and our daughterīs bathing cap inside. Note: This little car did not have a closed trunk ...


Both back passenger windows were broken in our car. The strong glass broken in tiny pieces were lying in and around the car, the sweater and cap were missing, and the criminal imbeciles kicked their feet against the glove compartment in order to open it - it was in fact open and empty ...

Only one other car was next to us and one passenger window was broken as well. Now, I realized what happened: I had seen little pieces of glass before on other parking spots. Passenger windows do not break by themselves, therefore there must be widespread crimes going on regarding rental cars that are easily identifiable.

Passenger windows broken ... ... of easily recognizable rental cars ...


No police on the way back to the hotel. The lady at the rental car agency told us that we would have to pay for the damage because 

a) we had driven on dirt roads and
b) we had left the sweater in the car.

However, I had two compelling not to be refuted objections: The use of those roads that were Okayed by the lady had no influence on the break-in; a jeep would have been broken into as well. The sweater (obviously no valuable) was only a minor issue. The major point was the broken glove compartment (therefore the break-in) and with that case closed. However, the involvement of the police was not desirable and the tour guide from ITS had no clue about anything and did not want to help.

Nobody was interested in our observation that a couple with two cars -a mong others with a blue four-wheel drive Suzuki - was at the crime scene and was collecting rocks (the windows were possibly broken by those).


Which roads am I allowed to take? You should get in writing and clearly stated which roads NOT to take (have that marked on the map). If the driving range is too limited, you should probably switch to another rental agency. Caution, many parking lots or short access roads are without asphalt. What happens with the liability? Do not leave any items in the car. Find out about the trunk."

Real tourists ...

... or only disguised?  Who knows?

Of course, after our own observations on the scene and stories by our readers, we got in touch again with Gerald Winterhalder and asked for more details. Here is an excerpt from his other mails:

I have taken the effort to illustrate the incidences extensively. The basic idea was to protect other tourists - first of all the ones traveling from Austria with ITS-Reisen - from unpleasant experiences. I am an insurance expert and could "straighten out" the incident rather quickly as we tend to say in Austria but a layman will have a tougher time. Fact is that many use two-wheel drive rental cars on dirt roads and most of them are older drivers, therefore no troublemakers ...

At the exact location: The road accessible without problems ends approximately 300 m above the beach. The last section is possibly too steep for a little two-wheel drive and has loose sand. I did not want to experiment as anybody else - approximately eight to ten "regular car drivers" - and therefore, we left as anybody else the car on some kind of plateau visible only from certain small angles from the beach. When we got there at around 11:00 am, there were about 15 to 20 people as well as a group with quads taking another route running parallel through a small valley. When leaving after approximately one hour, there were only two cars left both with broken windows; mine with two broken ...

© 2006 J. de Haas, text about rental cars and pictures with rental cars with damage: Gerald Winterhalder
English Translation: Britta Schaa, Venice Florida

Appendix, March 2006: How Bad Can It Become ..?

Our reader Dirk Evers was one of the visitors on board of the American Star as reported sent the following photograph and mail regarding the above topic:

... Whether I will or will not visit the American Star again this year, is not set in stone yet. It is very possible. I will let you know when I will go. Should I actually take a jeep? The last rental car gave up right before the "Amstar." No, just a joke ...   

May be better to rent a jeep...?! ;-)

Dear Dirk: You photograph proves indeed why you should rent a jeep in order to drive to the wreck! Or maybe those were the "vultures" that did not leave much behind ..?