Saturday, December 20, 2014

Movie 'In The Heart Of The Sea' nearing completion

The film 'In The Heart Of The Sea' which was directed by Ron Howard and shot partially on location in La Gomera is in the final stages of production. The film is due for release by Warner Bros. in March of next year. 
Brendan Gleeson, one of the actors starring in the movie, had this to say about it: “I just saw it in the last week and I’m really happy with what it does. It ‘s a kind of extraordinary, full-on idea of what you can do with a film, but it has a heart and soul to it. I’m very happy about it.”
Meanwhile Ron Howard keeps us informed through his Twitter account:
Another intense action moment harsh uncomfortable but proud movie making flash-back for me
A last bit of music to mix for coming Mar 13 in US & most of the world

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Action on ferry demanded by president of La Gomera

There has been total silence surrounding the promised re-establishment of the 'interior line' ferry which covered the connection between the three La Gomera ports of Valle Gran Rey, Playa de Santiago, San Sebastian de La Gomera and then continued on to Los Cristianos on Tenerife. Now La Gomera's president C. Curbelo has called on the president of the government of the Canary Islands Paulino Rivero to make sure that his promise of a re-introduction of the service before the end of this year not just ''remains good intentions, but to redouble all efforts to make sure it becomes a reality in the shortest time possible'', reminding him that that the year is ending very soon. 
Curbelo also said that this ferry line is a basic necessity for La Gomera's citizens and stressed its social and economic importance as well as its significance for visitors to the island.
We'll see if this appeal will have any effect, but a least the silence is broken and the ferry hasn't been totally forgotten yet. I can see from my blog statistics that all articles concerning this ferry are amongst the most read, and the first question I'm always asked when talking about La Gomera is ''Any news about the small ferry ?''

Monday, December 15, 2014

Don't get caught out by new Spanish tax laws

Spain on the rocky road to nowhere ?
The following clipping from an article in The Telegraph was written some time ago for British expats, but it equally applies to all EU citizens living in Spain or intending to do so:

British expats living in Spain will have to be on their toes to keep up with the new Spanish tax rules

By Liz Phillips
''There are a number of changes afoot which could trip you up faster than a flamenco dance. These include:
· A new double tax treaty
· New disclosure rules
· New tax allowance bands
Before becoming too entangled in the new rules, you need to clear whether you are a resident for tax purposes. This applies to expats and homeowners. You are a Spanish resident if you spend more than 183 days (roughly six months) in Spain in one calendar year , and they don’t have to be consecutive days.
But you will also be presumed to be a Spanish resident if your “centre of vital interests” is in Spain. For instance, if your husband or wife lives in Spain and you’re not legally separated.
“The centre of vital interests was introduced to prevent fraud where individuals maintained their whole life in Spain, but made sure they remained under the 183 day barrier,” explains Jason Porter, Business Development Director at tax and wealth management firm Blevins Franks.
Double taxation
The UK and Spain have had a Double Taxation Convention for some time, but the new treaty only came into force in June with further rules covering income tax and other taxes kicking in on January 1 and April 6, 2015.
“The new treaty is especially relevant to individuals and companies who are tax residents in Spain, but who draw income from the UK, as well as those who split their time between the two, perhaps paying tax in both,” says Richard Way, Editor of the Overseas Guides Company.
“For example, the new treaty could affect the amount of tax certain expat pensioners’ pay.”
Government service pensions paid to retired members of the fire service, police, civil servants, armed forces and local authorities are exempt from Spanish tax. Under the new treaty the amount of the pension is still exempt but must be included when calculating how much tax is due in Spain. This could have the effect of pushing any other income - perhaps from investments and rent - into a higher tax bracket meaning you’d have to pay more tax in Spain....
The new Spanish ‘disclosure’ rules mean that Spanish residents and expats living in Spain will have to declare all relevant overseas assets worth more than €50,000 combined. This includes bank accounts, property and life assurance policies...
“Tax authorities are now openly sharing information about citizens’ taxable assets in order to claim unpaid tax,” says Rachael Griffin, head of technical marketing at Skandia.
''For Spanish residents who have been declaring their assets already, this should simply be an extra administrative burden. However, for those who have not been declaring assets up until this point there is a potential for a significant tax charge and fine. Individuals in this situation should seek professional advice as soon as possible”
And in a move that’s led to mutterings of a new Spanish Inquisition, the Spanish authorities have started automatically taking tax debts from people’s bank accounts.

There is more information in a 'This Is Money' article - click below:

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Scenic road still closed after massive landslide

The scenic road past the El Rejo volcanic cone is subject to frequent minor rockfalls and landslides. During the recent bad weather in late November this stretch of road was closed for a few days after a larger landslide, then briefly reopened after debris had been cleared off the road. Then another landslide a few days later forced the renewed closure and it has remained closed since. Work is being carried out to prepare for reopening, but due to the very steep incline stabilising the hillside is proving difficult as conventional methods such as strong mesh-wire and concrete walls cannot bre employed due to the unstable terrain and for environmental reasons. 
The minor mountain road is popular with tourists and connects the main north road with the main west and south roads through the national park. For locals using this short-cut the closure means very long detours and the administration of Hermigua has  made a complaint to La Gomera's government which is responsible for this road.
Both mages by

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Yet another death in Argaga gorge

The body of a 73-year-old German tourist was recovered in the gorge of Argaga which is close to Valle Gran Rey with the help of a helicopter yesterday. The man had been reported missing when he failed to return from a hike in the ravine which is the most dangerous on La Gomera. It is presumed that he slipped and fell in diffult terrain, but a post-mortem is to be carried out today to establish the precise cause of death. There are regular rockfalls in Argaga any weather and the paths there are very steep, eroded and difficult to find and follow. Officially the hike through the gorge has been closed for years, but it is still featured in several guide books, particularly the older editions. Most rescue missions on La Gomera concern the Argaga area and the spooky ravine has claimed several lives over the past few years. Even the most experienced and very fit hikers have gotten into difficulties there. My advice is to avoid the Argaga gorge entirely, as there are plenty of safer but still challenging alternatives.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Tapas route through Valle Gran Rey

Tapas are tasty Spanish snacks usually eaten with a drink. The word tapa means lid or cover and originally tapas were intended to cover your glass with a small plate of items of food to keep the fruit flies from spoiling the wine. Nowadays they can be quiet substantial and a few tapas will substitute a meal. 
Starting tomorrow you can go on a 'tapas walk' in Valle Gran Rey when several bars and restaurants will offer special tapas for the reasonable price of only € 3. About 18 hostelries throughout the valley are participating - most of them in the lower part of Valle Gran Rey, but in the upper valley and in the mountain village of Arure some tasty tapas are on offer as well. Click map below for all tapas stations. The tapa route (ruta de la tapa) will remain open until December 23rd 2014 and if you have tried the snacks in at least four different hostelries you are eligible to enter a draw for several prizes.

Friday, December 05, 2014

Street festival in La Calera

Tomorrow Saturday the 6th of December 2014 there will be a small street festival in the narrow lanes of La Calera, the oldest part of Valle Gran Rey on La Gomera. On offer will be food and drink, arts and crafts, workshops including El Silbo whistling, and live music. The event will start at 4 pm and all are welcome. The best way to get to it is to climb the steps between the juice bar Carlos (best selection of fresh juices on the island, by the way) and the town hall and then left up lots of steps more behind the town hall and you'll arrive in the centre of the festival where you'll be glad to get that drink. 

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Temporary road closure

The road connecting the mountain villages of El Cercado and Chipude will be closed until Friday December 5th 2014, and again from Tuesday Dec. 9th until Friday Dec. 12th during daytime hours due to road works and resurfacing. At night it will be open to all traffic. A signposted detour through the national park is available. The main bus line which connects Valle Gran Rey with the capital San Sebastian de La Gomera usually passes through these villages but will have to use the detour as well. Intending passengers will be brought from the two villages and all the bus stops along this road to the nearest alternative bus stop by a shuttle service when the road is closed.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Turtle flies from Ireland to Canary Islands for warmth

The Irish Independent in its online edition reported yesterday:

Leona the turtle goes home!

When turtles take flight.

After an epic swim which brought her thousands of miles from home and within minutes of death, Leona the loggerhead turtle finally flew back to warmer waters today.

The turtle, which was found washed up in Co Clare last year, was close to death but was slowly nursed back to health at the Galway Atlantaquaria.
For a number of months now her carers have been desperately trying to get Leona home but were finding it impossible to secure a warm flight back. Cold temperatures in a cargo hold could have killed her immediately.
But after an appeal for assistance in getting Leona home, Aer Lingus came to her aid, offering her a seat on one of their commercial flights back to Gran Canaria and warmer climes.  The turtle and her carers travelled to Dublin airport today to fly Leona home.
"We will absolutely miss her but we're just so happy that she's going home. We'll stay with her for a few days to get her settled in and hopefully we'll see her released back into the water before we leave," said Joanne Casserly, who has cared for Leona for the past year.
However, those who have followed her progress to date won't be left wondering about her future. A tracking device will follow the turtle, which is an endangered species for the next 17 months.

"We have no idea where she might go and it will be amazing to watch her. We just hope she doesn't come back to Ireland," added Joanne.
Aer lingus arranged to transport the endangered loggerhead turtle back to her home on the Canary Islands today. The airline whisked Leona to Gran Canaria at 14.10.
Aer Lingus carried Leona in a custom-made lined crate which was secured over two seats in the main cabin.
©  Irish Independent  Photo: Robbie Reynolds
Leona even got her own boarding pass, the airline says.
She was accompanied by Galway county vet Rita Gately and aquarist Joanne Casserley. The lid of the crate was removable to allow monitoring of the turtle’s wellbeing during the flight.
After her arrival at Las Palmas, Leona is to be cared for in a sanctuary until her release into the wild - which is expected to happen in the coming days.
In the ocean, the loggerhead turtle will have a GPS tracking device attached to her - enabling the aquarium and Leona’s many fans to track her progress.
Aer Lingus Director of Communications, Declan Kearney said:
“When we were approached by the County Veterinary Officer to assist with the transportation of Leona, we had no hesitation in agreeing. Leona is one of our more unusual passengers, but we are delighted to facilitate her return to her natural habitat.”

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Lucky escape

The driver of the van above miraculously escaped with only very minor injuries after the van he was travelling in left the main road to the north La Gomera town of Hermigua on a stretch with several hairpin bends. The van skidded and went down a very steep incline before coming to a stop in a small vineyard yesterday. It is supposed that drizzle which had fallen earlier had made the road slippery.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Ferry problems and delays today.

Armas ferry Volcan de Taburiente
Not only did the weather cause cancellations and delays over the past weekend, but the Armas ferry Volcan de Taburiente suffered ''technical problems'' as well and is not sailing at all now until further notice. Apparently a side thruster which is needed for mooring the ship to the quay has failed and there are ''electrical problems''. The Spanish-built ship serves the Los Cristianos to La Gomera and to La Palma routes is now undergoing repairs.
All the Armas passengers are switching to the Fred. Olsen Express ferry, but this is now causing long queues and delays for those sailings. If you are booked on any sailings on the above routes you're advised to contact the ferry company for further information.
As one reader of this blog commented on yesterday's post:
''...we were due to arrive on La Gomera today, Sunday. All went well except that when we arrived to get the 8.45 Armas ferry we were told that the boat was broken when we tried to board. Cue panic but we managed to get on the Fred Olsen (no help from Armas) and are now here and enjoying...''

Update Thursday Dec. 4th 2014:
The Armas ferry Volcan de Taburiente has now been repaired and has resumed regular sailings as scheduled this morning.

Valle Gran Rainbow

A few light showers can be expected over the coming days, This photo was taken yesterday afternoon

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Weather returning to normal today

As you can see in the webcam picture of the harbour of San Sebastian de La Gomera taken at 9am the weather has calmed and is returning to the pleasant conditions that are one of the main attractions of the Canary Islands.
All weather warnings for La Gomera have now expired except a remaining one of rough seas which will end at 12 noon today.
The outlook for the next few days is for mostly sunny conditions with maximum temperature in the mid-20s ºC, moderate winds, and only some scattered showers - most of those in the north of the island.
La Gomera has escaped the recent storm relatively unscathed, but drive carefully as there may still be some debris on the roads. In the national park there is a lot of foliage and some branches on the roads and this will take some time to be cleared - see image below by :

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Severe weather warnings for this weekend (Updated)

Wave height and direction forecast for Sat. morning 06 am UTC
UPDATE SATURDAY, Nov. 29th 2014, @ 5 pm:
The storm is gradually abating, but warnings (see below) remain in place until midnight. 
The Canary Islands will be slowly but surely getting back to normal tomorrow, Sunday Nov. 30th '14.

UPDATE SATURDAY, Nov. 29th 2014, @ 11 am:
La Gomera today is cut off from the 'rest of the world' as the airport remains closed and all ferries have been cancelled until 4 pm when sailings may be resumed, pending an improvement in weather conditions. There were many minor incidents such as blown down signage, solar panels, trees, etc., but thankfully no injuries have been reported. There are very high seas, especially on northern and western coasts and some minor damage to coastal infrastructure. Earlier this morning the strongest wind gust in the Canaries was recorded high in the mountains of Tenerife at Izaña where the wind reached 175 km/h.
The good news is that the worst is now over and the red alert has ended. The level orange warnings of strong wind and waves will remain in place until tonight, though.
Tomorrow the weather should gradually return to the normal pleasant conditions and the outlook for the early days of next week is for mostly fine weather.

UPDATE FRIDAY, Nov. 28th 2014, @ 4 pm:
Gale to storm force winds with hurricane force gusts continue in the Canary Islands where several inter-island and international flights are rescheduled, cancelled or diverted. Some minor roads closed. Ferry cancellations and rescheduling. Some minor accidents. Minor rockfalls and landslides.

UPDATE FRIDAY, Nov. 28th 2014, @ 1 pm:
The town of Agulo has been without electric power since early this morning. All schools and colleges on La Gomera have been closed. La Gomera airport is closed until further notice. Revised ferry timetables apply, but for how long ports can remain open is anybody's guess. CAUTION, the worst is yet to come !

UPDATE FRIDAY, Nov. 28th 2014, @ 11am:
The maximum wind gust warning value has already been exceeded on La Gomera this morning at the Igualero mountain station with about 100 mp/h (158 km/h):
Racha (km/h)
EstaciónProvinciaHorakm/hDatos hasta 
Vallehermoso, Alto IgualeroSanta Cruz de Tenerife08:4015809:00

(La Gomera)

Sea, air and land traffic is expected to be at times severely disrupted and there have been flight cancellations already. The 2.500-passenger TUI cruise ship 'Mein Schiff 3' will not visit La Gomera today as planned, and the Armas ferry to El Hierro island will not sail.
Tree branches and other debris is causing delays on some roads. Even though the waves are still relatively benign the previously damaged coast road between Puntilla and La Playa in VGR has already suffered further damage. Peak wave heights of 5-6m are expected to occur between 2 and 6 am Nov 29th. and I doubt if this stretch of road will survive the night. CAUTION ! 
Avoid travel today and tomorrow, but if you're scheduled to do so check with your travel company before attempting any journey. 

UPDATE FRIDAY, Nov. 28th 2014, @ 9am:
The Spanish Met. Office has elevated the warning level for wind to the highest (red) level: W-NW wind gust of 130 km/h are to be expected from now for the next 24 hours.All other warnings remain unchanged.

Now read the original post:

A vigorous depression north of the Canary Islands near the Iberian peninsula is expected to track SE and deepen. This will bring gale to storm force winds and high seas to the Canarian archipelago from early morning Friday 28th of November 2014 until at least early Sunday morning. Associated cold fronts will also bring showers or some longer spells of rain for a while and the temperature will decrease. Isolated thunderstorm activity may occur. However, the latter and the rainfalls pose a lesser threat than the wind and waves, and the fronts should pass through fairly rapidly. Conditions should have improved considerably by noon Monday. 
Level orange warnings have been issued for westerly to north-westerly winds with gusts of up to 100 km/h. Even stronger gusts may be experienced in exposed areas and near mountains, where due to local turbulences 130 km/h wind gusts may occur.
Further, level orange warnings have been issued for Canarian waters and exposed coasts for waves of 5 to 6 metres in height. This is a wave height very rarely experienced in the Canary Islands and is potentially damaging to coastal defences and infrastructure. Rogue waves may be be even larger, and the combination of heavy swell, local tidal conditions and wind-blown waves is hard to predict.
The Canarian Met. Assoc. have elevated their alert for wind and waves to the highest (red) level. Even Met Eireann forecasters here in Ireland have advised of this situation in several bulletins.
Please avoid mountain terrain and coastal areas and be extremely cautious generally.

OPC forecast chart for noon Friday, Nov.29th, 2014
Rain forecast for Friday noon. Note the heavy rain fcst. for Morocco, where dozens lost their lives in floods recently.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The longest load possible on La Gomera roads

Last week a truck with a load of more than 100 feet in length (31 meters, to be precise) arrived on La Gomera by ferry and had to travel all the way to the beach of the northern town of Hermigua on the island's narrow winding roads. The load consisted of roofing planks for the thalassotherapy seawater pool and spa under construction there. The truck and trailer only got stuck once for a while just before reaching the destination (see red circle on image 2), otherwise the transport went without incident. Congratulations to the driver!

Finally unloading at the beach of Hermgua  (All Images:

Monday, November 24, 2014

Wind turbine blown down

Hermigua turbine
OPC chart for Thursday

The strong winds of yesterday which gusted to nearly 100 km/h in the mountains of La Gomera blew down the relatively new wind turbine which feeds into the charging station for electric cars in the northern town of Hermigua. 
Today the weather is much better and it will remain mostly sunny for the next few days. However, unsettled weather is forecast to return to the Canary Islands in the second half of the week when a new low pressure system is expected to form north of the islands which could bring more wind and rain. 

Saturday, November 22, 2014

New weather warnings for Sunday

A mixture of sunshine and showers today in VGR. The Timah webcam shows rain in the upper valley at 11am
While the general situation is gradually improving, some showers will still affect La Gomera today. The worst of these will affect the Northern and the mountain regions where some may be heavy or prolonged and fog can be expected in the national park. Some sunny spells in the south of the island.
The showers will gradually become more scattered tomorrow, Sunday 23rd of November 2014, but new warnings of northerly winds gusting up to 75 km/h from around midnight tonight have been issued and remain until 6pm Sunday.
A modified warning of heavy seas combined of strong swell and wind blown waves has been extended from 9am Sunday until late Monday night. Seas may reach 15 feet on exposed coasts.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Weather update - rain warning cancelled

A landslide caused by the rains forced the closure of a minor road  near 'El Rejo' yesterday. The steep mountain pass is prone to rockfalls and landslides in this particular stretch of the scenic road. Image:
Update Friday evening: This road has now been cleared of  debris and is open for all traffic again.
Update 2, Saturday evening: Some more rain during Saturday caused another, even larger landslide in the same spot. It has resulted in the road being closed once again until further notice. 
No major change in the weather situation, but the weather should improve a lot early next week according to forecasts. This morning there were frequent showers on La Gomera with sunny interludes. This pattern should continue for most of the day and showers can be expected for the rest of the weekend. It will also become quite windy.
The good news is that the warning of heavy rain for tomorrow, Saturday Nov. 21st 2014, has been cancelled for La Gomera, while it remains in place for some other parts of the Canary Islands.
However there's a new warning for La Gomera of heavy seas with waves of 3-4 metres for Sunday. Below is the OPC chart for Monday showing high pressure beginning to become established once again near the Canary Islands, bringing more pleasant conditions:

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Weather warnings extended

As you can see from the webcam picture taken by at 10:40am it appears to be a pleasant enough morning in Valle Gran Rey and the worst of the weather now seems to be over the eastern Canary Islands. There hasn't been any more heavy rain on La Gomera but the warnings have been extended until Friday morning 8 am. Rainfall accumulations predicted for La Gomera could reach 20mm in one hour and 60mm in 12 hours. The warning of thunderstorms will end at midnight tonight. A new warning for 60mm of rain in 12 hours will come into effect late Friday night and will extend until midnight Saturday night.
There's a fairly strong sea swell running, so be careful near coasts.
The weather situation is constantly changing and new low pressure systems are expected to form just north of the Canaries, so new warnings may be issued and existing warnings may be cancelled. I'll keep you informed.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Bad weather for rest of week - Weather warnings

OPC chart for noon Wednesday 19-11-14
Unsettled weather is beginning to affect the Canary Islands from tonight for much of the remainder of the week according to all forecast models. Colder air from polar regions is streaming down and beginning to interact with the still very warm air and sea temperature around the Canaries. A series of low pressure systems are expected to form north of the archipelago and associated cold fronts will bring rain from west to east. The first of these will bring showers, some heavy and prolonged, affecting western islands from early tonight. Thunderstorms may also be expected.
Over the coming days the unsettled weather will continue with occasional thunderstorms, showers or longer spells of rain and some very windy periods. It will be colder than of late but still up to the low 20's ºC max. in the sunny periods that may also be experienced - but beware as these may not last very long.
The first weather warnings for La Gomera predict rainfall accumulations of 25mm in just one hour and 60mm in 12 hours. There is also a warning of thunderstorms. It is advisable to cancel all activities in mountain terrain and near riverbeds.

Update Thursday, Nov. 19th '14, @ 11:30 am:
A fair bit of rain fell during last night, but nothing extreme. It is overcast now, but dry and quite pleasant with some patches of blue in the sky. Further showers are expected, however, and the approaching next cold front could bring thunderstorms and heavy bursts of rain.
Update,  Nov. 19th '14, 9 pm:
There's another weather warning of rain accumulations of 20mm in one hour and 60mm in 12 hours and for thunderstorms for the period from 6am tomorrow morning until 11 pm tomorrow night.
The situation at 5pm Tuesday. Canary Islands are at far right

Monday, November 17, 2014

'Majesty' cruise ship visits Valle Gran Rey

The huge (570 ft) cruise liner Thomson Majesty docked in the port of Vueltas in Valle Gran Rey on La Gomera early yesterday (Sunday) morning and stayed until late lunchtime. The restaurants, cafes and a few shops in Vueltas that open on Sundays were kept very busy as many of the estimated 1500 passengers explored the area. It was the first time a cruise ship of such dimensions berthed in Vueltas and her Majesty took up the entire length of the pier in the outer harbour. The visit was due to a very busy cruise holiday season and the pier of La Gomera's capital was occupied by another cruise ship.

By the way, the Thomson Majesty was in the headlines in February of 2013 when five of her crew died in an accident during a safety drill while visiting neighbouring La Palma island.  Read: Five crew die on cruise ship 'Thomson Majesty'
Thomson Majesty leaving Valle Gran Rey bound for Funchal on Madeira yesterday

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Dramatic video showing Spanish navy brutally attacking peaceful Greenpeace protest against oil exploration in Canarian waters. Activist seriously hurt

NBC News reported:
''Spain's navy rammed into a Greenpeace dinghy during a protest in the Atlantic Ocean against oil exploration near the Canary Islands on Saturday, injuring four of its activists, one of them seriously, the environmental organization said.
However, the navy disputed that account. The navy said it dispatched two boats from one of its ships in the area to prevent Greenpeace from boarding a large oil drilling ship and that one of its activists was seriously injured when she fell out of her dinghy and was hit by its propellers.Speaking by radio-telephone from Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise in the area, Capt. Joel Stewart identified the woman as a 23-year-old Italian activist and said the other three injuries were minor. The navy said it rushed the activist to a Spanish hospital in a helicopter. 
Last month, at the Spanish government's request, the Constitutional Court blocked a proposal by the Canary Islands regional government to hold a referendum on oil exploration in waters off the popular tourist archipelago off northwestern Africa. The government licensed the Spanish energy company Repsol YPF S.A. to begin oil exploration there, and it is doing that now from a large oil drilling ship with a platform.''

Update 1:
The president of the government of the Canary Islands Paulino Rivero meanwhile has visited the injured female Greenpeace activist in hospital on Gran Canaria and pledged his and his government's support for all present and future protests against oil drilling in the vicinity of the Canaries. He called the navy's actions ''disproportionate, abusive and erroneous''. He stressed that he is not blaming the navy ''whom Canary citizens help to finance'', but he is blaming the central Spanish government for having caused the incident by giving orders to the armed forces ''to attack a peaceful action in an exaggerated fashion''. He is demanding an explanation from the Spanish prime minister Rajoy of the navy's attack in which four protesters were injured, one of them seriously.
The distant Spanish state has vehemently opposed the will of the Canarian people to hold a referendum and keeps treating the Canary Islands as its last colony, brutally conquered about 500 years ago, in an exploitative and domineering way.

Update 2:
The Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise has arrived in port at Lanzarote to the applause of a large crowd which had gathered in support of the protest:

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Skywalk and cafe above Agulo finally opening today

Mirador de Abrante above Agulo on La Gomera now open to public
The spectacular  new seven metre long glass (including the floor!) skywalk suspended in the air high on the cliffs above the small town of Agulo on the northern coast of La Gomera will be finally opened to the general public today, including its cafe and restaurant plus information point. The Fred Olsen ferry and tourism company won the tender to run the viewpoint complex called 'Mirador de Abrante' and will be paying just under 1500 Euros rent to the town of Agulo every month. It will be open all day seven days a week. The same company also runs the large restaurant in nearby Las Rosas which solely caters for the daily bus tours from Tenerife. 
The area around the new skywalk attraction is known for its red soil and overlooks Agulo about 1000 feet below. It also offers sweeping views over the Atlantic (a further 500 feet below Agulo) with Tenerife and mount Teide (Spain's highest mountain) in the background. Agulo is said to be one of the most beautiful traditional Canarian villages, nestled picturesquely in the cliffs over the Atlantic. 
The access road and car park were upgraded recently by the island's government. Visitors can get directions from the visitor's centre (Centro de Visitantes) in Juego de Bolas, itself a must-see when on La Gomera.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Oil drilling protests reported in The Guardian

A few days ago in The Guardian reported:

© The Guardian
''Angry Canary Islanders brace for an unwanted guest - the oil industry
Madrid and Repsol have pushed through deepwater drilling and fracking licences to recover a hoped-for 2.2bn barrels of oil despite massive local opposition

Nearly 200,000 people - one in 10 of the population - protested against plans to extract oil from in and around the Canary Islands. Photograph: Desiree Martin/AFP/Getty Images
In most places the news that you’ve struck oil would be cause to crack open the champagne. But not in the Canary Islands where Spain’s biggest oil company Repsol is due to begin drilling off Lanzarote and Fuerteventura.
“Our wealth is in our climate, our sky, our sea and the archipelago’s extraordinary biodiversity and landscape,” the Canary Islands president, Paulino Rivero, said. “Its value is that it’s natural and this is what attracts tourism. Oil is incompatible with tourism and a sustainable economy.”
Rivero, a former primary school teacher, is on a crusade against oil and he is not alone. Protest marches have drawn as many as 200,000 of the islands’ 2 million inhabitants on to the streets. The regional government planned to consolidate public opinion with a referendum on 23 November. Voters were to be asked: “Do you believe the Canaries should exchange its environmental and tourism model for oil and gas exploration?”
As with the weekend’s scheduled referendum on Catalan independence, the Madrid government contrived to have the plebiscite banned as unconstitutional and Rivero has now commissioned a private poll he hopes will demonstrate the strength of public opinion.
“The banning of the referendum reveals a huge weakness in the system,” said Rivero. “You have to listen to the people. There’s a serious discrepancy between what people here want and what the Spanish government wants. You are allowed to hold consultations under the Spanish constitution and what we wanted to do was completely legal. The problem we have is that some government departments have too close a relationship with Repsol.”
Repsol is flush with cash after settling a long dispute with Argentina and is keen to develop what may be the country’s biggest oilfield after winning permission to drill in August. 
The company believes the fields may contain as much as 2.2bn barrels of oil and is investing €7.5bn to explore two sites about 40 miles (60km) east of Fuerteventura.
If its estimates are correct, the wells could produce around 110,000 barrels a day for 10 years, equivalent to 10% of Spain’s oil needs. Spain, which has never had a wealth of natural resources, currently imports 99% of its oil at a cost of around €40bn a year.
Drilling in the area has been held up for more than a decade by environmental challenges and delays by successive governments, but Repsol has said it expects to begin work before the end of the year.
The company claims it has offered every guarantee that the work will be carried out safely and with respect for the environment and has set up an €80m contingency fund for compensation in the event of accidents.
Rivero is not convinced. “When we look at the development of Argentina or Mexico or Nigeria we see that the local people don’t benefit much from oil,” he says. “Furthermore, the oil here is in very deep water which hugely increases the risks, as we saw with the environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.”
The Spanish government says it cannot pass up on the possibility of finding oil and has issued licences for conventional exploration as well as fracking.
José Manuel Soria, the minister for industry, energy and tourism, said last month that “Spain cannot afford the luxury of not finding out whether we have hydrocarbons.”
Speaking at a conference under the slogan “Reindustrialise to win”, Soria said that “we spend €100m a day on gas and oil that our industry needs. We all want our industry to be more competitive and for that to happen we need cheaper energy.”
Rivero concedes that there is a conflict between what the Canaries want and the Spanish national interest. “As president of the Canaries, my first responsibility is to protect the Canaries’ interests,” he says. “There’s no benefit for us. It presents risks to tourism, the environment, fishing, agriculture and to the desalination of seawater. When we weigh up what we have to gain and what we stand to lose, we don’t gain anything. Repsol is the one who profits from this.”
Rivero’s principal argument is that, the risk of oil spills aside, the oil will in due course be exhausted whereas tourism gives the islands a sustainable economic base. The tourist industry, which attracts 12m people to the islands, is worth €13bn a year, 32% of GDP.
The islands, where 40% of land is protected, boast three Unesco world heritage sites and are a major ecotourist destination. As well as hiking amid unspoilt landscape, visitors can opt for the Loro Parque on Tenerife, the rainforest of La Gomera, or volcano treks on Lanzarote, among other attractions.
Another issue is unemployment, currently running at 33% in the Canaries, nearly 10% above the Spanish national average. Rivero remains unconvinced that the oil business will make much of a dent on the jobless total.
“Repsol says it may create 3,000 jobs but in Lanzarote and Fuerteventura alone more than 50,000 people work in tourism and in the Canaries it’s more than 400,000,” he says. “The oil industry will not complement what we already have. In fact, it will impede it.”
Despite the setback in the high court and the determination of the central government to explore all energy opportunities, Rivero remains unbowed.
“We in the Canaries do not accept being treated like a colony, like something from another century when the Europeans pillaged Africa’s resources,” he said.
“Repsol thinks everything has a price but they’re not going to buy the Canaries. We won’t bow down. We may lose a battle but we’ll win the war.” ''