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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Latest image of new ferry

The new Benchi Express vessel under construction for the Fred Olsen ferry company which is expected to come into service later this summer, connecting Valle Gran Rey, Playa de Santiago and San Sebastian de La Gomera three times daily in both directions. It is not clear when the above image was taken, but it appears to be some time ago. The Olsen company has also announced the installation of floating jetties and ramps in the three ports to facilitate the speedy berthing of the vessel which also will make it easier for passengers to board and disembark. (Image: Fred.Olsen)

Friday, June 16, 2017

Bloomsday in La Gomera

Today is Bloomsday in honour of James Joyce, when celebrations take place in Ireland and around the world to celebrate Thursday 16 June 1904, which is the day depicted in the famous Irish writer's novel Ulysses. The day is named after Leopold Bloom, the central character in Ulysses. The novel follows the life and thoughts of Leopold Bloom and a host of other characters – real and fictional – from 8am on 16 June 1904 through to the early hours of the following morning.
This year a celebration will also take place in La Gomera, but not until Sunday, June 18th 2017, in the beautiful historic village of Agulo in La Gomera's north. The event starts at 7 pm in the Casa del Pintor Aguiar where excerpts of Ulysses will be be read in different languages as well as poems and other texts dedicated to Joyce's work, accompanied by music from Seamus Mac Aogain. 
The town of Agulo

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Canary Islands prepare for this summer's fire threat

Forest fires season 2017

Janet Anscombe reports:
''The Canarian Government has announced its forest fire fighting and prevention measures for this summer. The announcement was made in a presentation yesterday by Canarian President Fernando Clavijo with the Government’s Política Territorial, Sostenibilidad y Seguridad minister, Nieves Lady Barreto. Specialist helicopter units (Equipos de Intervención y Refuerzo Forestales – EIRIF) will cover all the islands, being physically based in La Palma, La Gomera and El Hierro, the result of an investment of almost €3m over two years, explained the president.  The minister, for her part, emphasized that the creation of EIRIF represented fundamental progress in fire fighting and prevention in the Canaries, with the units’ capacity to intervene on any island when required being an important preventative measure which, although it couldn’t stop fires starting, allowed an improved response to extinction and early assistance to stop fires spreading. Each squad will comprise 24 personnel including a technician, a foreman, and 6 specialists, and so together with 3 coordination technicians and 3 physical trainers, there will be 78 additional operatives integrated into the islands’ existing intervention resources.The units will act as reinforcement for the existing Cabildo cover which each island has in its own right, and will be employed between June and October, the high season for forest fire risk, whenever a fire exceeds insular level and requires a coordinated regional response from the Canarian Government. This will be of particular importance should fires break out on more than one island simultaneously. There will also be a hidroavion from Madrid based in the islands, and the training exercises for that were taking place recently between Gran Canaria and Tenerife (Photo: Ejército del Aire)...''

Happy Dia de Canarias

Today is Dia de Canarias, the Canary Islands' celebration of all things that make the Canaries and their people so unique and different from their Spanish colonial masters. There were many events in virtually all towns and villages over the past few days to mark the occasion and celebrations continue today during the Canaries' national holiday.


Monday, May 22, 2017

New ferry soon a reality

Parts of the hull of the new 'Benchi Express' under construction. Image taken some time ago. Source: Juan Carlos Diaz Lorenzo

The reopening if the so-called interior ferry line between the ports of Valle Gran Rey, Playa de Santiago and San Sebastian de La Gomera will soon become reality as the purpose built ferry ordered by the Fred. Olsen ferry company is nearing completion at a shipyard in Barcelona. The new catamaran type vessel will have a capacity of 250 passengers and is estimated to cost around three million Euros. It has been announced that the purpose-built vessel will be able to dock very rapidly with a new automated mooring system and the help of floating jetties which the company will install in the three ports in La Gomera. The new ferry will not sail to Tenerife, but its sailings will be timed to connect with the large Fred. Olsen ferry to Los Cristianos in Tenerife with three voyages in both directions per day . As a further cost-cutting measure tickets will be sold online and through special vending machines in Valle Gran Rey and Playa de Santiago and these will also give up to date information on sea and weather conditions and real-time arrival and departure times. The new vessel will have a cafeteria and will be baptised 'Benchi Express', same as its predecessor a few years ago which however had only been chartered for a few years by the Olsen company. It is hoped that the vessel will come into service in July of this year. Hoorrrrraaaay !!!
Read more about the interior ferry line and its history (click).

Friday, May 12, 2017

Major investment in La Gomera's national park

It has recently been announced that La Gomera's Garajonay national park will receive a further 2,1 million Euros in funding. The money will go towards conservation measures, the restoration of damaged and degraded areas, fire prevention, and general improvements.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Dramatic video of ferry crashing into pier


The Naviera Armas ferry 'Volcan de Tamasite' crashed into a pier in port of Las Palmas on Gran Canaria last night after it had just left the inner harbour of Puerto de la Luz.
Thirteen passengers on board a ferry were injured when the large ferry slammed into a concrete quay at the port of Las Palmas. A spokesperson for Naviera Armas, the Canary Islands company that operates the ferry, said that a "loss of electrical power" caused the accident. Emergency services said five of the injured were taken to hospital with minor injuries. 
The above video shows the ferry hitting the breakwater head-on, sending huge chunks of the concrete protective wall tumbling down onto the service road of the pier.
The company also said that the ferry was able to dock under its own power following the accident as the fault had lasted only two minutes and that the stranded passengers had been accommodated in hotels. However, there were some very angry scenes directly after the accident with passengers screaming and shouting at staff and demanding to be brought ashore or rescued immediately.
According to local media there has also been a diesel leak from the vessel due to the accident and the port of Las Palmas has put emergency measures in place to contain the spill and clean it up before it could reach the inlet of a nearby seawater desalination plant.
The ferry company Naviera Armas has stated that the damaged ship is structurally sound and only damaged a section of the prow which will be repaired promptly, but revised timetables for their ferry sailings will apply until this vessel is back in service.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

German chancellor Merkel in La Gomera again

Merkel in La Gomera 2016 (Image: Darias/La Opinion)
German chancellor Angela Merkel is spending her Easter holidays in La Gomera again, together with her husband Joachim Sauer. This is the now the fifth time the 'world's most powerful woman' is spending her spring holidays on 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. The German chancellor arrived by ferry in La Gomera on Good Friday for a week's peace and quiet. The above image was snapped by a local couple who spotted Merkel by chance when taking some shots of nature in La Gomera's national park with their mobile phone during the German leader's last visit in 2016. It is said to be the only photo that was published of any of her five visits and appeared in the Canary Islands daily La Opinion. The German chancellor is staying at the island's largest hotel among many average tourists and is reported to be enjoying a normal relaxing holiday without much special attention.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Happy Easter

A very HAPPY EASTER !
Above twin lambs had just been born when we took this photo here in Ireland yesterday.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Orca sighting off La Gomera


La Gomera, and especially an area in the Atlantic just off the southern coastline, forms part of one of best whale watching destinations in the world, where you can experience the sight of over 20 species of whales and dolphins in their natural habitat.
Throughout the whole year there is a 90 percent chance of observing a variety of marine mammals and also turtles and flying fish. This is probably because the biodiversity here is extremely rich and especially attractive to cetaceans.
Some of these mammals live here on a permanent basis and among them are many species of dolphins such as bottlenose dolphins, Atlantic spotted dolphins, rough-toothed dolphins or common dolphins. Furthermore there is a uniquely large population of pilot whales living here permanently.
Other marine mammals congregate here temporarily while passing through his part of the Atlantic. A couple of days ago Jose Miguel, the skipper of both 'Tina' and 'Speedy' whale watching boats operating out of Valle Gran Rey's Vueltas harbour, spotted and filmed a small group of orcas in the area and posted the above video on his Facebook page. Orcas are rarely seen in the area, but have been encountered near La Gomera before.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Huge drinking water loss

Water tap in La Calera, Valle Gran Rey
In contrast to some of the other Canary Islands, La Gomera has an abundant supply of water. While the many open reservoirs are exclusively used for irrigation of the crops in summer, nearly all the drinking water and the domestic supply comes from wells and springs that produce water of excellent quality. Rainfall replenishes these, but the forest that covers the top of the island produces additional water when the mist and fog that are carried across the mountains by the trade winds condensate on the trees and percolate through the ground to feed the springs. 
However, the past winter brought very little rain to La Gomera and a recent survey revealed that half of La Gomera's drinking water available through the public water supply is lost and wasted because of an ageing and often faulty infrastructure. Measurements have shown that there are numerous leaks between source and households. The town of San Sebastian is now introducing 2.500 pressure reducing valves and diffusers in a measure which is expected to save 44.000 litres of precious water per day.
Other towns like Valle Gran Rey have also begun to replace old and leaking pipes, but it will take a long time until the full amount of water entering the distribution system will actually be contained within the grid and available to consumers. 
The water survey included water reservoirs and it was found that agriculture uses 82% of all available water, while about 18% is for human consumption, including the 6,3% used by the tourism sector. More than three quarters of all available water on the island of La Gomera comes from underground sources.
The island's capital San Sebastian is the only town so far which uses treated and purified waste water for the irrigation of its public parks and green areas, saving 0,6% of all available water. 

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Bar Maria to become fast food outlet

Above is the architect's proposal for Casa Maria in La Playa (Image: Martin Hartmann)
Legendary Bar Maria, which has been a popular meeting point at the beach in La Playa in Valle Gran Rey since the 1960's, has finally been sold for an undisclosed sum. The bar and restaurant has been closed since Maria herself died two years ago and was put up for sale subsequently. It has now been revealed that it was acquired by the McDonald's chain of fast food restaurants, who spotted the obvious commercial potential of this landmark building. 
Maximiliano Carne-Deres, the spokesperson for McDonald's in the Canary Islands, has stated that his company was particularly impressed with the large number of revellers gathering at Casa Maria around sunset time and the large amount of hungry and thirsty hillwalkers and hikers arriving in the area every day from the mountains. Mr. Carne-Deres stressed that the proposed refurbishment will blend in well with the already existing  infrastructure across the road, which includes a steak-house. He added that the McDonald's colours of yellow and red would go well with the sunset at the beach in front of the building, which is known as 'Playa Maria'. Ronald McDonald, the chain's emblematic happy clown, once erected at the premises would also ''form a harmonious combination with the many drummers and fire-jugglers who perform there at sunset, whom we intend to support and sustain with food vouchers''.
However, the island's government have attached certain conditions to the new licence and planning permission, namely that the former small front bar at the premises shall be retained  and must continue to serve alcoholic beverages ''to maintain the jovial ambience for which the location has established a tradition'', and that the fast food outlet will have to include some local produce in the menu. 
In response to these conditions Mr. Carne-Deres has revealed that the bar will remain separate from the restaurant to be run as a joint venture with the Tenerife-based Dorada beer company and that this will form the first 'McBar' in the world. For the menu a new burger called 'McCabra' (sic) with goat (=cabra) meat and smoked goat's cheese will be available as a new up-market option of fresh local produce on the menu when the fast food restaurant opens its doors at the former Bar Maria on April 1st 2018. Aren't you just ''lovin' it'' ?