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Thursday, July 07, 2016

Helicopter stationed in La Gomera

The helicopter stationed on La Gomera (Image source: gomeratoday.com)

La Gomera now has a multi-functional helicopter stationed at the airport above Playa de Santiago for the summer months. The chopper is equipped for rescue missions and can carry a load of 1500 litres of water in a special attachment for firefighting purposes when needed.  It arrived last Friday and will remain in La Gomera on stand-by until October. For next year it is planned that the same helicopter will be on the island for six months from May. The funding came from Canarian government.

Monday, June 06, 2016

Lovin' La Gomera

Below is an article which appeared in yesterday's Irish Independent:


''The Secret Canary Island: A holiday paradise beyond the brochures



La Gomera3
La Gomera is the Canary Island that time forgot. And that's exactly why you should visit, says Thomas Breathnach.
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Bienvenido to bliss!  
The lush, avocado-hued mountain terraces that surround me could be in Goa. The echoes of merengue from the sleepy hamlet in the valley could be the sound of Hispaniola. 
I've never experienced such exotica so close to home - and I didn't even change my watch to do it. I'm on La Gomera, second-smallest of the seven Canary Islands, delighting in the go-slow harmony of local time.
I was cast away on the island the previous night, via a crossing from its gateway neighbour, Tenerife. The larger Canary Island commands a sort of mainland status over La Gomera (900,000 residents live on Tenerife, versus just 20,000 for the latter). Ferries are the typical way to get here, so I caught the morning sailing from the bustling port of Los Cristianos. I was joined by passengers ranging from Germanic hikers and native weekenders to an on-board entertainment troupe, fresh off a red-button performance of España's Got Talent. 
With so few tourists reaching La Gomera's shores, however, there's still an air of pioneering travel to the place. Once at sea, memories of Tenerife's high-rises and karaoke bars quickly faded to end.
Just shy of an hour later, the charcoal cliff-faces of La Gomera finally parted for the verdant harbour of her capital. Home to half the island, San Sebastian feels positively downtown compared to what would follow. There's a lively indoor mercado, small financial centres and charming cobbled alleyways which buttress its punchy history: Columbus set sail from La Gomera to the New World in 1492, and its ties to the Americas have been buoyant ever since. In fact, locals will tell you the cultural gusto on the island is more like Venezuela than mainland Spain.Depositphotos_70347747_l-2015.jpg  
From San Sebastian, I spring-boarded to Playa de Santiago, the pocket-sized coastal resort some 34km (translation: 90 minutes) away. The scenery en route is gasp-eliciting spectacular: from La Gomera's curb-kissing ravines and palm tree oases to the sight of Mount Teide, Tenerife's landmark volcano, looming across the sounds like a sun-scorched Mount Fuji. By the time I've traversed the island, I've met just two cars and a farmer's pick-up truck (a relief, given some of those hairpin bends).
The largest hotel on the island, my base of Jardin Tecina, is a cool and calm hermitage of white-washed villas clustered around a bougainvillea-brushed cliff-face. Beneath it, an abandoned beach cove is reachable by private elevator (only fitting that such a deserted paradise should have its James Bond touches). Beach-lovers, however, should not expect white sands on La Gomera: due to its volcanic nature, you'll be leaving footprints in the black, sole-scorching variety here.
Given the island's landscape - not to mention the dominance of Berghaus over bikinis, it's clear that La Gomera's main draw is hiking. The island is a Garden of Eden for all-level trails and I joined three-decades-a-local Gordo Wenk for a guided trek. Gordo, a silver-haired Stuttgarter with a thick accent, dovetails perfectly with the local demographic. La Gomera developed as a hippy commune for Americans and Continentals in the 1960s and today is said be Europe's last outpost of true boho living. "We still have a few folks who actually live in beach caves here," he says, as we wander through the flora-flecked surrounds of Garajonay National Park. Flower power,indeed.Depositphotos_52913051_l-2015.jpg  
My hiking efforts are later rewarded with a local lunch at the panoramic Mirador de Abrante restaurant (+34 638 661490; above). El menú? Potaje de berros, a moreish watercress soup heartened with pork belly, fresh sea perch with buttery asparagus and an ice-cream dessert gilded with local palm honey. Delicious! 
Almost more impressive were the waiters and chefs who chat in El Silbo, the Gomeran, UNESCO-hailed whistling language (once used to communicate across valleys, now used to place my side order of patatas bravas). There are hidden nuggets of culture in La Gomera and this one is written in the wind.
 La Gomera is a switch-off destination with a refreshing lack of choice when it comes to activities: everybody is simply here for nature. For another taste of the wilds, I take a whale-watching trip with a local operator (excursiones-tina.com; €45 including lunch). True to Gordo's word, we've barely lifted anchor when the sights of nudist hippies inhabiting the caved coastline dominate our binoculars. But they're soon overshadowed by the sight of bottle-nosed dolphins followed by a hammer-head shark and a pod of pilot whales! That evening, I retire to the lounge at Jardin Tecina, where resident pianist Anne-Tina is reciting Ludovico Einaudi to an audience of one. This is high season on the island. As we banter, I learn that she is Danish, loves Dublin, and has voluntarily stranded herself on La Gomera for the past seven years.  "Why would I want to be anywhere else?" she asks. All but alone on what must be Europe's most beautiful island, I could only say Salud! to that.''

Monday, May 23, 2016

Air-to-air missile found on La Gomera

Image source: eldia.es

The explosives and bomb disposal unit of the Spanish police Guardia Civil had to be dispatched from Tenerife South airport to La Gomera after a viable air-to-air missile was found on La Gomera near the main road in the sleepy banana-growing village of La Dama on the south coast yesterday.

The damaged missile with the words 'cabeza de guerra', meaning warhead, measured three metres long and weighed 80 kilos and was successfully defused in what was said to be a 'difficult and very complex operation'. Its origin is most likely the squadron of jet fighters of the Spanish airforce which is based at Gando airport on Gran Canaria and probably 'lost' the missile during exercises when flying over La Gomera.
Thank God it didn't explode.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

No news is good news

It's spring time on La Gomera island and off-season. Spring and early summer are La Gomera's most quiet times and there isn't much to report.
However I can reassure my readers that I'm regularly in contact with my winter exile and I follow the local media. Should anything worth reporting happen there I will of course bring it to you on this blog...

Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Canaria Dancers

I spotted these sunny 'Canaria Dancers' busking in the wind and rain in a town in the southwest of Ireland recently, and boy, can they move ! The music was Irish though and not Canarian.
They're probably collecting for a holiday in the sunny Canary Islands to recharge the batteries...

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Casa La Familia closed down

For four years 'Casa La Familia' had been La Gomera's best and most popular music venue, meeting point and social club for residents and visitors alike. Their regular live music events, flea markets, and parties were always well attended and many visiting musicians and artists found a great welcome and an open stage. Casa La Familia also had a very important role to play when it came to feeding the poor as well as giving shelter and showers to homeless people, and serving to break down barriers by just providing a peaceful and relaxed space where all were welcome.
Some people in La Gomera were critical, some were jealous that live music and drinks could be enjoyed without a licence, and some just wanted the place shut down as it was just too much of 'the free spirit' for them. Most of the population here just 'lived and let live' and many enjoyed the facilities and events under the peace banner themselves and it even became a new tourist attraction for Valle Gran Rey.
In the end Vera, the lady who initiated the idea and rented the former car hire facilities, could not get the lease renewed after same had expired earlier this year. However, the local owners, who always had been supportive of her ideas, let her continue until this month without charge to finish the season. Now Vera wants to move on and a few days ago all the decorations and facilities were taken down by her and an army of volunteers, all to be scrapped. Even the kitchen and the stage were dismantled and the place is back to how she found it. Bye bye Casa La Familia !
Rumour has it that the owners now want to remodel the property into a proper bar and music venue which is supposedly to be opened there later this year.
A big thank you to valiant Vera for four years of great events, and for her caring, unpaid social services. Vera has made Valle Gran Rey a better place.
Full house at a singer/songwriter night        (Images: Casa La Familia)

Sunday, April 03, 2016

Praise for La Gomera's genuine laid-back atmosphere

The following is an excerpt from an article by Damien Enright, who like me will spend the spring and summer at home in Ireland. It appeared in the Irish Examiner last Monday and eloquently describes the type of atmosphere La Gomera calls its own:

''A king’s ‘ramson’ wouldn’t keep me from West Cork

IT’S goodbye to La Gomera and the canaries, their bubbling morning song from the fruit trees when we stayed in a friend’s house in the mountains, and from our neighbour Gerardo’s spacious aviary when we dwelt in the valley, writes Damien Enright.
A wild canary taking the evening sun on a tree in La Gomera, Canary Islands. Picture: Damien Enright
...  As you read this, we will be journeying home. We’ve greatly enjoyed the walking, swimming, meeting old friends and the food in La Gomera. Holidaymakers who visit the island always say what they most love is that it is so laid-back.
‘Laid-back’ is, of course, a 1960s hippy-term, now used by upright citizens who never actually got laid-back, back then. Why do they find La Gomera so easy-going? Well, they’re no hurry, not much traffic, no bustle, no hustlers, no crime, no aggravation. There are no garish tourist shops or waiters waving one into restaurants, girls in high-heeled cowboy-boots and short shorts handing out time-share leaflets, or signboards for monkey parks, excursions, whale-watching boats or dolphin aquariums blocking the pavements.
‘Laid-back’ has become a high saleable quality for many stressed-out city dwellers. There are, we know, hundreds of sun-blessed Caribbean, South American, and Asian beaches where commercial action is unknown: but holidaymakers ask themselves if they can relax in places where there are no other foreign footprints on the sand. These days, the locals may no longer be happy with just “livin’ on coconuts and fishes from de sea”.
A big plus for Gomera’s laid-back feeling is that there is no crime. Women can safely walk alone on remote trails. They can go out at night to a restaurant or bar with no fear of being approached, much less accosted, by intrusive locals or other holidaymakers. It is to be admitted that there isn’t a lot of after-dark action. There are no nightclubs or discos — not the place to take your teenage kids on holiday! — but two bars stay open late. Small groups of local and international musicians play impromptu sessions in others.
Most visitors are ‘into’ the island, its natural charms. Many are walkers, and German. German walkers eat dinner early, are asleep by 11pm and up at dawn to set off, a Nordic walking stick in each hand, rucksack on back, valderee-valderah. Then, there’s the ambience. There are no amusement parlours, McDonald’s or Starbucks.
Only one hotel is owned by multinational operators, The Tecina in Playa Santiago, a sort of luxury mini-Tenerife resort owned by Fred Olsen international. Elsewhere, towns have small, family-owned hotels or pensions. In Valle Gran Rey, the handful of hotels are small, low-rise and locally owned, with one or two four-star establishments.
Laid-back may also be a result of local families owning most businesses, being comfortably off, and living traditionally. At least a dozen Germans, long-term residents, have set up successful activity or amenity enterprises, which ‘fit in’.
Local families build their low-rise, small apartment blocks or rented accommodation units themselves; there’s always a builder in the family. The restaurants are largely locally owned, staffed by sons and daughters, with fresh fish and succulent sun-infused vegetables supplied by family members; there’s always a farmer or fishermen in the family.
So, the money is kept at home. The land is locally owned, not sold to conglomerates. The profits are not shipped out. The locals are not just waiters. They have a stake, and the island’s ambience, morality and laid-back way of life is theirs.
The same can be said of tourist villages in Ireland. Tourists say what they like best in Ireland is the atmosphere and the people. Our village in West Cork is a lot like Gomera, but for the weather. However, it will be spring — and we have to go home anyway, because we’ve run out of Barry’s Tea.''

Saturday, April 02, 2016

Cine Searcus in San Sebastian de La Gomera tonight

An unusual spectacle is taking place in San Sebastian de La Gomera tonight, April 2nd 2016 at 8:30 pm when the French troupe 'Cine Searcus' will be performing a mix of theatre and music with the inclusion of short films on the main square 'Plaza de Las Americas' opposite the beach. The performers travel around the Atlantic coastline aboard a yacht and perform here for free but will be looking for donations to fund their journey.

Friday, April 01, 2016

Cable car now under construction

Did you ever wonder, like myself, why the beautiful new 'road to nowhere'  (click for more) with park and playground was built from the central La Calera roundabout down along the barranco in Valle Gran Rey on La Gomera island ? 
Well, now we now the reason. All was done to serve the planned cable car for which construction work has already begun. Just near the end of this new road the ground station for what will be the island's first cable car will be erected and from there the new attraction will travel up the spectacular mountain cliff of La Merica. Many thousands of walkers climb the steep mountain track to continue to the village of Arure and often the rescue helicopter has to be called out as some tourists overestimate their physical condition and underestimate the dangers of this path. In future they can avail of the comfort of a cable car for the way up or down, and people who would never have attempted to scale the cliff can soon enjoy the spectacular vista on the top from the planned viewing platform with a return journey by cable car. 
The journey up the 1500 ft high cliff will only take 17 minutes, as estimated by the German promoter behind the project, who is a resident of La Gomera and has stated that he was inspired by the success and design of the cable car up Mount Teide on Tenerife. His newly formed company called 'Experiencia Merica S.A.' will be relying on Swiss technology and expertise to finish the project on time. If the speed with which the first support masts for the cable car went up recently at the foot of the mountain is anything to go by then they will certainly succeed.
The official opening is planned for April 1st next year with 'a major music event' to mark the occasion.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Ferry connection to be reestablished this year

The so-called 'interior ferry line', connecting the ports of La Gomera's capital San Sebastian, Playa de Santiago and Valle Gran Rey was the subject of a question by La Gomera's president Casimiro Curbelo in the Canarian parliament this morning and in his response the Canarian president Fernando Clavijo confirmed that just yesterday the ferry company Fred. Olsen Express had formally applied to run this service once again.
This time it appears to be a solid proposal and the president went on to state that the Olsen company had previously placed an order for a new fast vessel suitable to run the ferry connection and that it was already under construction in a shipyard, due to be completed this year. He further said that the reestablishment of the ferry line could be operational before the end of this year, 'hopefully sooner if possible'.
The 'interior ferry line' ceased operations early 2012 despite having been declared an 'obligatory public service' by the Canarian government some years previously, and the decision to subsidise resident's tickets even further in recent times.
The ferry route had been operated by three different companies over the years and attracted 150.000 passengers per year on average before it ceased operating. The last company to run it was also Fred. Olsen Express with a leased vessel called 'Benchi'.
It is worth remembering that by taking the now sorely missed ferry  it took just about 30 minutes to travel from Valle Gran Rey to the capital San Sebastian, while the public bus needs about 110 minutes to get there. The route by sea would also reduce the amount of traffic that currently has to squeeze through the centre of the national park, and that Valle Gran Rey only has one access road which is very narrow in places and prone to rockfalls.
We're keeping our fingers crossed, but with more optimism now...

Monday, March 28, 2016

British prime minister also holidaying in Canaries

Image: elmundo.es
The British prime minister and his wife are also spending their Easter holidays in the Canary Islands. David Cameron arrived on Lanzarote by scheduled Ryanair flight last week and his wife Samantha arrived later to join him. In the in¡mage above she's enjoying a cortado, a small coffee with a dash of hot milk, the typical Canarian coffee.
The Canaries are having a bumper Easter season with many hotels and apartments completely booked out and a host of celebrities visiting.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

German chancellor Merkel on holidays in La Gomera

Image: La Provincia

German chancellor Angela Merkel is spending her Easter holidays on La Gomera together with her husband Joachim Sauer. This is the fourth time the 'world's most powerful woman' is spending her spring holidays in the island amid tight security. She is known to enjoy walking and exploring La Gomera's national park and ancient forest. She's also said to be fond of a local specialty called potaje de berros which is a soup made with watercress.
So if you see a lot of police activity and strategically scattered special agents wherever you are on La Gomera this Easter, then you know that 'Angie' can't be far...
Image: www.gomeraactualidad.com