Friday, February 28, 2014

Huge rock falls on scenic road

Images © Television Canaria
A huge lump of rock fell directly on the road in a scenic area known as El Rejo in the early hours of Wednesday morning. The minor road popular with tourists connects the main north road and the main west road through the national park was closed for a while during the clean-up of the landslide.
When driving on La Gomera motorists should be aware of the fact that roads near steep mountainsides and rocky roadsides could produce similar incidents almost anytime and while most of the rockfalls are of minor proportions one just never knows what maybe lying on the road around the next bend. Drive with extra caution on La Gomera, even when the weather is fine ! 

Thursday, February 27, 2014

German tourist jumps ship - literally

This story was reported from neighbouring La Palma island by NEWS IN THE SUN last week:

''Air sea rescue were mobilised  in the main port of La Palma after a prank backfired yesterday afternoon.
Apparently when a young German tourist jumped from the cruise liner Aida into the sea his companion sounded the alarm after he did not appear to surface.
The Santa Cruz de La Palma Maritime Rescue boat scoured the sea around the cruise liner  and a GES helicopter was scrambled to search from the air.
After two hours , the young man appeared back on the liner; after jumping into the sea he swam to one of the pontoons and was perfectly safe. Authorities are considering what action to take, swimming in the port waters is expressly forbidden, after this costly exercise as the result of a joke in very bad taste.''

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Shower with clothes

I spotted this sign at La Gomera's only campsite which is situated beautifully up in the northern mountains in the remote hamlet of El Cedro. Camping is not permitted anywhere else on the  the island. 

Considering the low temperature up there in the past few days, you may well opt to have your outdoor morning shower fully dressed.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

La Gomera stars in UK daily

The following article written by Linda Cookson appeared in travel section of the UK daily The Independent on Saturday, March 22nd '14, and while containing some minor errors is very well written and full of praise for La Gomera, that's why I want to share it with you, illustrated with my own images:

La Gomera: Plenty of star quality

'' Lights, camera, action! The small fishing port of Playa de Santiago, on the southern tip of the Canary Island of La Gomera, had never known such excitement. Chosen as a key shooting location for Ron Howard's forthcoming film In the Heart of the Sea (due for release in 2015), its quayside was a-buzz with trailers and catering vans.
Burly cameramen were lugging equipment on to speed boats. Runners with clip-boards were rounding up a bus-load of enthusiastic extras for costume fittings. And a cluster of schoolgirls were star-spotting like mad, as Hollywood's finest, clad in 19th-century sailors' gear, made their way towards the banana yellow shuttle-boat that will whisk them out to film at sea.
Based on the same true story that inspired Herman Melville's Moby Dick, Nathaniel Philbrick's award-winning novel In the Heart of the Sea (published in 2000) recounts the tragedy of the whaling ship Essex, sunk by a sperm whale in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. A fantastic black-rigged replica of the ill-fated vessel (built in England) bobbed incongruously on the calm horizon, its masts bathed in a golden wash of Canarian sunshine.

At first sight, pint-sized La Gomera – sitting prettily in an island chain renowned for its equable climate – might seem a strange location to have settled on for a tale built around tempest-lashed heroics. Deadly waves are in short supply. The filmmakers had to construct a special infinity pool by the former tomato packaging warehouse on nearby Tapahuga Beach to simulate the full-on storm scenes.
But Howard and his scouts definitely knew what they were doing. As the second-smallest of the Canary Islands, a one-hour ferry-ride from Tenerife and with no international airport, La Gomera is a world apart from the mass-tourism of its larger neighbours. With only a handful of low-key resorts, there was never going to be much risk of the Essex's hapless crew fetching up on a jarring parade of neon-signed shops peddling water-wings or advertising jet-skis for hire. Instead, the island's starkly rugged coastline of awesome volcanic cliffs rippling down to the water's edge in stiff rocky folds, feels almost eerily enduring – and (crucially for the film, of course) totally undateable. Inland, the mountainous centre is cloaked in a dense, misty rainforest of ancient trees hung, Druid-like, with beards of moss and lichen. It's as timeless and unspoilt as you could hope for.
As a place to visit in springtime, La Gomera is a total delight. The tangled green groves of the rainforest are rippled with carpets of brilliant pink bicácaros, Canarian bell flowers. Mountain villages float in drifts of white broom and almond blossom. On the coast, fringed with date palms and banana trees, the sea sparkles peacefully in temperatures that seldom vary from around 20C. Don't expect the blazing heat or golden sands of Caribbean beaches. Most beaches are rocky. (There may even be a little rain!) But if you're searching for sun and serenity in a gentle, unspoilt island retreat steeped in tradition – look no further. And you can certainly be confident of a genuinely warm welcome from La Gomera's friendly locals, keen to share their homeland's special character with visitors. With the island still very much a novice in the tourism stakes, the whole ambience is refreshingly uncynical.
Upper Valle Gran Rey
Such  tourism as there currently is can be found mainly on the west coast. Valle Gran Rey has a stunning sprawl of wild and rocky black-sand beaches, backed by majestic ravines (Valle Gran Rey means "Valley of the Kings"). Otherwise, most visitors-in-the-know head south for unpretentious Playa de Santiago, a friendly working fishing settlement with an endearingly scruffy town beach. This is La Gomera's sunniest spot and it's where I chose to stay (along, as it turns out, with the director and most of the cast and crew of In the Heart of the Sea).
We certainly weren't roughing it. The four-star Hotel Jardín Tecina, set on a cliff-top above the town, is laid out like a traditional Canarian village in exuberant, flower-filled gardens. There are palm-fringed bars and terraces, and attentive waiters galore – giving plenty of scope for your own brand of silver-screen decadence as you lounge like a diva by the poolside. It's also a wonderfully tranquil spot. The vistas from the sea-view rooms are spectacular. You can while away hours on your balcony watching the colours of the water change from turquoise to indigo to lilac, like a roll of shot silk, as butterflies and exotic birds flit all around you.
On day four of my stay, I wandered down towards the town and discovered that my friendly local beach bar – the ramshackle La Chalana – had undergone a dramatic change of location. Its wonky tables and cane chairs were now spilling haphazardly on to the edge of an early 19th-century Polynesian village. A nearby stretch of banana plantation had been cleared for carpentry and set-building, and crew-members with blow-torches were busily distressing a fleet of rustic-looking canoes that had been carved from hollowed-out tree-trunks. A mixture of real palm trees and bright green fakes had sprung up on the beach. Tangled branches and planks of driftwood had been choreographed artfully into a photogenic array of native huts. And a derelict warehouse had been transformed into a small chapel. A set dresser perched on a ladder with what looked like a two-ton brass church bell clutched in her free hand. It was obviously as light as a feather.
Eric in his bar 'Chalana'
La Chalana's affable host, Eric – who, with his curly black hair and earring, looked rather like a film star himself – was having the time of his life serving up tapas and beer by the trayful. He was sure he recognised some of the transplanted palm trees, he told me. They came from the schoolyard in San Sebastián, La Gomera's capital. He remembered sitting under them at break-times to smoke illicit cigarettes.
Eric was not alone in his enthusiasm. Everyone I spoke to on the island was thrilled by the filming – not least since the star, Chris Hemsworth, is married to Elsa Pataky, a popular Spanish actress who had accompanied him for the shoot. More pragmatically In the Heart of the Sea brought a crucial source of additional revenue to enable the island to address the environmental damage caused by a disastrous forest fire in 2012 – as well as much-needed employment for locals, who are mucking in happily as caterers, security guards and prop-makers.
La Gomera is also looking to the future. Although the island has been recognised for some time as a paradise for walkers, its more mainstream attractions – uncommercialised beaches and picture-postcard mountain villages – have remained a well-kept secret. There's real excitement now among Gomeros that this major, potentially world-wide, exposure will encourage new visitors to fall for their island's sleepy charms and living history. (After all, as everyone was keen to remind me, San Sebastián was the starting point for Christopher Columbus's epic 1492 Atlantic crossing. And where else in the world will you find "El Silbo", an indigenous whistling language developed so that farmers could communicate with each other across jaw-droppingly steep terraces?)
Towards the end of my visit, inspired by the filming, I decided to embrace the whale theme in earnest. I booked a trip on board José Miguel's excursion boat Tina and took to the water. I was rewarded with an entrancing marine ballet, courtesy of a pod of pilot whales and an especially obliging school of dolphins who flipped and dipped in glorious silver arcs as they rode in and out of the bow wave from our boat as it headed out to sea.
I looked back at the bulking headlands of La Gomera's proud cliffs, veined with blood-red bands of sandstone, and then ahead to the horizon, where the doughty ship Essex had magically split in two, while cameramen scudded around in dinghies, capturing the moment of its doom.
I really was in the heart of the sea, I realised. And lovely La Gomera is well on its way to becoming a film star in its own right. Don't wait for the movie – go now! ''

Monday, February 24, 2014

Carnival on La Gomera 2014

Above: A 'murga' from Tenerife visiting a pre-carnival event in Playa de Santiago on Saturday
It is carnival time on La Gomera and the three main towns are celebrating their events as follows:
---In the capital San Sebastian de La Gomera carnival has begun already and the main event, the parade is on Sat. March 1st. Festivities close with the 'funeral of the sardine' on Sat. March 8th this year. The main theme is 'Myths and Legends':

---The carnival of Playa de Santiago begins on March 1st and closes with the 'sardine funeral' on Sun. March 8th this year. The theme this year is ' Feasts of the Empires':

---The Valle Gran Rey carnival will have the festival stage in the harbour of Vueltas this year and takes place from the 5th of March, with the parade on Friday Mar. 7th and closing with the 'sardine' the following day. Theme: 'Horror'

Poster for VGR's 'fancy dress run' on March 5th.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Work on seawater pool to be continued

The half-finished works of repairing and extending the facilities of the seawater swimming pool at the beach of Hermigua in the north of La Gomera should be continued and finished very soon. Work on the ambitious 2,8 million Euros project had stopped a long time ago, but the island's government has now pledged more money and stated that it will be finished. The beach itself is too dangerous for swimmers and the pool will enable locals and visitors to enjoy a dip in seawater. It is planned that the new buildings will house a thalassotherapy spa and a physiotherapy treatment room as well as a gym, changing rooms, etc.. The project had  become a bit of a white elephant after work the project stopped, but the allocation of more money should see it finished within one year of recommencing work, according to the cabildo (island government).
Half-finished seawater pool and spa at Hermigua beach

Friday, February 21, 2014

Waterfalls In Valle Gran Rey

Even though it hasn't rained anymore for several days there are still waterfalls cascading into Valle Gran Rey. One of them is tumbling in the deep ravine of the Barranco del Agua which also contains a well in its bottom that produces 1,8 million litres of water, supplying most households in the valley with clean, cool water.
Waterfall into the Barranco del Agua in Valle Gran Rey, La Gomera

Thursday, February 20, 2014

White Teide

Tenerife's Teide peak seen from La Gomera yesterday
Mount Teide on Tenerife is Spain's highest mountain at more than 12.000 ft, but given the benign Canarian climate with many visitors getting sunburnt below the peak on the beaches of Tenerife, the past weekend was exceptionally cold and left a rare white mark even on the lower slopes of the volcanic cone of our neighbouring island. They even have got  snow-ploughs to deal with the white stuff over there. On your upcoming trip to the Canaries don't forget to pack your skis along with your trunks and bikinis.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Ships in San Sebastian de La Gomera harbour

The two large ferries being dwarfed by yet another visit of a huge cruise ship last evening in the harbour of San Sebastian de La Gomera:
The Russian Shtandart was in the harbour, too
Below the huge TUI cruise ship Mein Schiff 1:

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Well known traditional potter has died

 One of the last traditional potters has died on Sunday. The deceased was well known near and far as 'Rufina from El Cercado' and highly respected for her skill and her kindness. Rufina Gonzalez was still shaping the local clay in the traditional way without the use of a potter's wheel until very recently. She always had time to have a friendly chat with visitors at her workshop. Rufina was 75 years old and will be sadly missed by all who had the pleasure of ever meeting her.

This is how Barbara Kingsolver many years ago described a visit to the mountain village of El Cercado, one of the very last places where pottery is still made in the traditional way as it was done by the done by the original settlers more than 1500 years ago (the following quote is from an article which appeared in the The New York Times):
''El Cercado. I spot a group of white-aproned women sitting in an open doorway, surrounded by red clay vessels. One woman wears a beaten straw hat and holds a sphere of clay against herself, carving it with a knife. She is not making coils or, technically speaking, building the pot; she is sculpturing it, Guanche fashion. When she tilts up her straw hat, her gold earring glints, and I see that her eyes are Guanche blue. I ask her where the clay comes from and she points with her knife: "that barranco" -- the gorge at the end of the village. Another woman paints a dried pot with reddish clay slip; mud from that other barranco, she points. After it dries again, she rubs its surface smooth with a beach rock. Finally, an old woman with the demeanor of a laurel tree polishes the finished pot to the deep, shiny luster of cherry wood. Her polishing stick is the worn-down plastic handle of a toothbrush. "What did the Guanches use?" I ask, and she gives me a silent smile like the gardener's and the parrot's.
The youngest of the women, a teen-ager named Yaiza, carries a load of finished pots to the kiln. We walk together through the village, past two girls sitting on the roadside stringing red chilies, down a precarious goat path into the grassy gorge. The kiln is a mud hut with a tin roof and a fire inside. Yaiza adjusts pots on the scorching tin roof, explaining that each one must spend half a day there upside down, half a day right side up, and then it's ready to go into the fire, where it stays another day. If the weather is right, it comes out without breaking. After this amount of art and labor, each pot sells for about $13. I tell Yaiza she could charge 10 times that much. She laughs. I ask her if she has ever left La Gomera and she laughs again, as if the idea were ludicrous. I ask her if a lot of people know how to make this pottery, and she replies, "Oh sure. Fourteen or fifteen." All belong to two or three families, all in this village. We return to the pottery house, and I buy a pair of clay bowls. I pack them into my car with care, feeling that they belong on an endangered species list.'' (© The New York Times 1998 )
All images ©

Monday, February 17, 2014

Singing in the rain - better weather today

Today the weather has improved a lot and it feels a lot warmer. The wind has decreased, but there still is the occasional light shower around. Tomorrow further improvement is expected. 
Below I'm posting a few impressions of yesterdays weather which failed to stop the music during the Valle Luna Festival, but a few people got wet nonetheless...
Sheltering during a shower
Another shower
Singing in the rain
One of the many rainbows

Sunday, February 16, 2014

A cool and windy Sunday

Taken at 10am this morning
While here in Valle Gran Rey the wind seems to have died down considerably since yesterday, on the other side of the island a gust of 88 km/h was recorded in the capital San Sebastian this morning and the weather warnings for strong winds and heavy seas remain in place. The temperature has recovered a bit and today shouldn't feel quite as cold as yesterday, but it will still be below the average for this time of the year. Right now it has reached 16ºC and will rise more later in the day. There are some showers expected today, but not as frequent and as heavy as yesterday, when I took the picture below during one of the blustery downpours in the afternoon. The photo appears to be fuzzy but that is the rain and you can just make out the wild state of the sea on the top of the image:
La Gomera received a lot of rain yesterday. The official weather station in Agulo  in the island's north registered 82.2mm of rain, while the mountain village of Chipude which thrones over the south had 77.4mm and the second highest peak in the centre had 81.4mm. The latter station also registered the highest wind gust (90km/h) and the lowest temperature at 0.1ºC - you can call that freezing. Add to that total a power outage in the whole island lasting for about two hours, rockfalls, roads closed to traffic, heavy seas and you'll know that yesterday was an unusually unpleasant day for La Gomera and most parts of the Canaries.
There still is a lot of debris like fallen rocks and blown-off branches on the roads. Crews are out clearing this, but please drive carefully. Hiking in the mountains is not advisable today and tomorrow.
From Monday the weather is expected to improve a lot with much more sunshine, higher temperatures, less wind and a few scattered showers.
Here's a few impressions of yesterday's rare conditions:
Image of a traditional roof with hail and sleet accumulation, taken
yesterday afternoon near the mountain village of Igualero  ©
...and this impressive video of a stretch of road at about 1200m altitude (source Gomera Today):

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Cold front updated: Ice and snow on La Gomera

One of the many storms which have been battering northern Europe and especially Ireland and Britain has dragged down polar air in a cold front as far as the Canary Islands. There is a noticeable drop in the temperature here and heavy showers have been falling all night. More showers are expected today and on Mount Teide on Tenerife snowfalls have been reported even in the lower regions. A small depression over the western Sahara is squeezing the isobars of the high pressure in the central Atlantic, causing northerly gales over the Canaries which make it feel even colder. Warnings have been issued of winds of up to 90 km/h, heavy showers and high waves. Today is probably the worst day of this weather situation and early next week we should be getting back to the usual more settled and warmer weather. 
Taken at 8am this morning
Update at 12 noon:
It is an exceptionally cold and blustery day with very heavy showers here. There is a thunderstorm nearby it is beginning to rain again and it is only 15ºC. The worst winds are expected from later today until tomorrow morning. The sea is very rough already. 
There is ice and wet snow on some roads in the mountains above 1000m altitude and some stretches of road have been closed to traffic. Worst affected seem to be the areas around Igualero, Chipude and Las Hayas. 
Just now the main road through the national park has been completely closed between Degollada de Peraza (where the road to Santiago branches off) and Apartacaminos (above Arure). Traffic between Valle Gran Rey and the capital San Sebastian de La Gomera is being diverted via the north road through Vallehermoso and Hermigua and vice versa.

Friday, February 14, 2014

The tree that passes water

There is a tree in the forest of El Cedro in the Garajonay national park passing water for you to drink. It is situated just beside the beautifully-located chapel of Nuestra Senora de Lourdes which was built due to the initiative of an English lady. It is surrounded by mature trees and stands just above the babbling brook which runs along the floor of the valley all year. The area around it has a few wooden picnic tables and benches and is popular with locals and visitors alike. The water it 'tinkles' is cool, fresh and safe to drink except during  rare prolonged hot spells in the area in some years, but then park rangers will put up a sign warning you of the possibility that it may not be entirely safe to sip. How did the miracle of the water-passing tree come about ? Well, come and see for yourself if you can unravel the puzzling phenomenon

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Oil referendum row hots up

The Canarian government's decision to call a referendum on the controversial plans for an oil industry in the islands is a non-starter, according to Madrid, which says it has no jurisdiction in the matter.

 Deputy prime minister Soraya Saez de Santamaría attacked the announcement by Canarian president Paulino Rivero on Monday that the people of the islands would be consulted over whether oil giant Repsol should be allowed to carry out exploratory drilling off Lanzarote and Fuerteventura later this year. "The Constitution makes clear that the Canarian government can call a referendum only on matters over which it has jursidiction and this is not one of them. Madrid has acted within the law at all times in issuing the licenses, as several court rulings in cases brought by the regional authorities have proven" said the deputy PM yesterday. Here in the Canaries, opponents of Rivero say he is "misleading the population" into believing they have a say in the drilling. However, the government says it fully intends to proceed with the referendum and has followed the correct process to seek leave to hold it.

Monday, February 10, 2014

5th Valle Luna Festival 2014

Despite all the odds and the total lack of support by the authorities, this year's edition of the Valle Luna Festival has attracted many musicians and visitors. Most accommodation in Valle Gran Rey is completely booked up for the duration of the festival. The popular event is on a much smaller scale this year, but music can be enjoyed free of charge in many places. Below are just a few impressions.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Top spots to watch sunsets - Part 4

Valle Gran Rey is the 'sunset capital' of La Gomera and I want to introduce you to some of the best and most popular locations from where to watch the spectacle over the Atlantic ocean with a cool or hot drink in your hand. The order in which they appear does not intend to give a ranking and my suggestion is that you'll try them all for the sake of variety. If you've got any further proposals please let me know, or even better send me your own post with your snapshots.

Another one of my favourite spots to watch the sun go down is in the harbour village of Vueltas in Valle Gran Rey. It can be reached through the pedestrian lanes of the town or up a few steps from the pedestrian crossing on the harbour side of the roundabout with the fishing boat. It is a small bar and restaurant called Tambara and offers a panoramic view across the Atlantic from the harbour out to El Hierro in the South and as far as La Palma in the west from the just recently extended terrace. The interior views are just as spectacular as the whole decor is of handmade mosaics and furniture in the Moorish style and transports you to Marocco just a few hundred mile to the east of where you're sitting. It was all painstakingly done involving endless hours of labour by the previous local owner, who has now handed it over to his sister and her Italian husband who is also the chef.The great relaxing music coming from the sound system often takes you on a journey around the world with frequent stops in North Africa. The food is excellent offering the best and most interesting tapas on La Gomera and tends towards Italian food with distinct North African influences. Great cocktails, fruit juices and teas as well as good wines are on offer,too, as are homemade cakes. All in all Tambara is one of the most beautiful bars in the Canary Islands.