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Friday, October 02, 2020

Ship-shape potato patch

...and all it needs is some rain. An interesting fact is that La Gomera's small farmers often use
Irish seed potatoes from Co. Donegal which are sold through the banana growers co-operatives.

 

Wednesday, September 09, 2020

Partitioning of empty beaches in Valle Gran Rey


This video shows the latest Canarian Corona folly. This one was erected on behalf of  the 'councillor for beaches' of the local government (Ayuntamiento) on the beach of La Playa (aka Playa Maria, aka Playa La Calera) as a pilot measure to ensure social distancing on beaches. Wooden walkways are to be installed next, amid all the existing  complicated rules to visit public areas. The video also shows the regular 'disinfection' of lamp posts, etc...Don't forget to wear your face mask when walking to your allocated disinfected spot in the sand.
Well, maybe the yellow lines separating the sunbathing bays could be used for drying your towels if you applied for  permission first and had disinfected them properly ? 
The next big swell will wash it all away and disinfect the sand properly. Yet more Corona-plastic waste, though. 
UPDATE Sept. 18th 2020:
A change in wind direction and higher tides resulted in the whole effort ending up as a tangled mess,
which was then removed by the council. 
Anyone who's only ever been there for a week could have predicted that. Anyway, hardly anyone ever used the cordoned-off sections and the beach is back to its natural state now.

Wednesday, September 02, 2020

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Forest fire in La Gomera's national park

A fire has broken out in the beautiful Jardin de Las Creces area of La Gomera's ancient forest in the Garajonay national park. The alarm was raised around 9:30 pm last night and weather conditions were not helping the many fire brigade units that rushed to the area with winds gusting in excess of 60 km/h and very low relative humidity of less than 20% with temperatures of around 27ÂșC.

There is also a very large wildfire raging on the neighbouring island of La Palma where all available Canary Islands fire fighting resources have been sent over the past 48 hours plus three additional fire fighting aircraft from the Spanish mainland. Hundreds of people had to flee their homes there.

Last night La Gomera's emergency services evacuated elderly people and those with limited mobility from the village of Las Hayas which is closest to the fire and belongs to the municipality of Valle Gran Rey. All available resources in La Gomera were mobilised and the road between Arure an Las Hayas should be avoided to facilitate the transit of the emergency services there.

Initially 1.5 hectares of forest were reported to be affected in La Gomera last night but the terrain in the area is very abrupt and on a steep slope with difficult access for the fire crews. However, earlier this morning the fire has been declared ''stabilised, but not yet under control'', so let's hope that the rapid response by the fire services will help to avoid a similiar situation to that of the inferno of 2012, which was also preceded by a large blaze on La Palma island. 

Video of La Gomera's fire taken last night:

Posted by Manuel Manuel Padilla Padilla on Saturday, 22 August 2020 (click to view)

Since I got the news around midnight last night I've got this faint smell of burning heather-trees in my nose. I know it must be just the memory of 2012 when this was a dangerous reality for weeks, as I'm sitting in rainy Ireland now. The memory of having lived through the constant state of high alert until the final disaster during La Gomera's 2012 blaze is playing this trick on me.

I'll will update this post later, hopefully with good news.

UPDATE 1: It has just been reported that the firefighters on the ground will get support from the air, but no details were given.

UPDATE 2: One helicopter has been sent to fight La Gomera's fire.

UPDATE 3: La Gomera's island government has issued this additional statement in English: ''It is reported that as many forest tracks as the trails of the surrounding areas of Las Creces are closed. ▪ Tourist accommodations are called upon to communicate this information to their customers.'' (sic)

UPDATE 4: Work continues to control the fire. Meanwhile pictures of part of the affected area have been published by the Cabildo de La Gomera (island government) on their Twitter page:

...and here's another image of the area published by Canarian Weekly this morning:

UPDATE 5 (2:15pm): The situation is more ''stabilised'' now and the fire services are optimistic that the fire will be brought under control today. The affected area is more accessible now since a new access track has been cut into the forest and the helicopter is dumping water over the less accessible spots that are still burning. The evacuated villagers have been told that they can return home later this afternoon. However, the weather remains a worry with the nearest weather station at the graveyard of Arure reporting wind gusts in excess of 75km/h, very low humidity and temperatures over 30ÂșC.

UPDATE 6 : Thanks to the rapid intervention of the emergency services the fire in La Gomera has been declared ''under control'' and all that remains to be done is to extinguish the remaining hotspots and clearing smouldering timbers. 
In the neighbouring island of La Palma the huge blaze which burned 1200 hectares has been stabilised, but 400 firefighters and several helicopters and planes are still working to make sure none of the many hotspots and glowing embers will reignite the fire.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Masks now mandatory outdoors in Canaries (updated)

Masks were previously seen outdoors only during carnival 
season as in my archive image from a couple of years ago

Canarian Weekly reported last Thursday night:

...'' 2020/08/13, 19:17:13 by Canarian Weekly

As of tomorrow (Friday), masks are now mandatory in all public spaces, inside or outside, regardless of social distancing, as announced by the Canaries President, Angel Victor Torres, earlier today.

...Bars and restaurants are still allowed customers inside and outside to full capacity, as long as social distancing allows, with maximum group size of 10 people.

Masks must be worn by staff at all times, and by customers when not eating or drinking.

Terraces must be closed by 1.30am with last customers at 1.00am.

Smoking is not allowed on terraces unless people are 1.5 metres (2 m., Ed.) apart.

Clubs and nightclubs are reverting back to Junes rules when the state of alarm was lifted, meaning they can only open an 'open air' terrace to the public with maximum of 70% capacity. 

Again social distancing applies between tables, as does maximum group size of 10 people.

Terraces must be closed by 1.30am with last customers at 1.00am.

Smoking is not allowed outdoors unless people are 1.5 metres apart (it actually says 2 metres in the Spanish text,  Ed.), and masks must be worn by staff at all times, and by customers when not drinking.

Finally dance floors are still not permitted.

New fines and sanctions have been decreed, meaning that security and police forces have more means to enforce them for breach of regulations.''

UPDATE:

The Official Gazette of the Canary Islands says regarding the mandatory use of masks, that it affects "all persons aged six and over", both "on public roads, in outdoor spaces and in any closed space for public use, or that is open to the public, regardless of maintaining an interpersonal safety distance of at least 1.5 metres."

Additional restrictions have been applied  Gran Canaria and Lanzarote, where a mask is required when sitting at a table and cannot be taken off except to physically eat and drink, and in the case if drinking it must be worn in between sips. This is not applicable elsewhere, ie Tenerife, Fuerteventura and the western Islands, but this is subject to change anytime it is deemed necessary.

As regards beaches and swimming pools, "the obligation to use a mask during swimming and while sunbathing and remaining in a certain space without moving, is excluded, and provided that respect for the interpersonal safety distance between all non-cohabiting users is maintained." 

However, the use of a mask is mandatory in the entrances and walkways when using these spaces and facilities.

Likewise, the decree states that "the owners of establishments, spaces and premises must guarantee compliance with these obligations in them."

It is also clarifies that "it is mandatory to use the mask correctly, and it must cover the nose and mouth completely at all times. Likewise, it must be properly adjusted to the nose and chin, so as to prevent the expulsion of respiratory secretions to the environment."

In the islands that exceed 100 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the cumulative incidence of cases diagnosed in the last 7 days, which as of now are Gran Canaria and Lanzarote, it is stated that “mass events or acts will not be authorized, which is understood to be those of more than 10 people."

Also in hotels, restaurants and establishments with outdoor terraces, as well as in beach bars and restaurants the closing time is established is at midnight (latest), and to admit new customers after 11pm is illegal.

Saturday, August 01, 2020

Great panoramic shot of Valle Gran Rey


Above image of Valle Gran Rey was taken by Andy McLeod, who is an award winning director of photography and underwater cameraman based in Tenerife and he also regularly works across the globe. This wide-angle image of La Gomera's south-western corner taken from the air is breathtakingly beautiful.

Saturday, July 04, 2020

Planning a trip to Spain ? Here's what you should do


Mirador de Abrante above Agulo in La Gomera's north (Archive)

Sadly new 'health control' regulations apply when going to Spain and that includes La Gomera. All travellers now must complete a form and then a unique personal QR code is generated which can be used in printed form or downloaded with an app. The registration form should be downloaded, completed and returned BEFORE you travel to avoid delays at airports. The generated individual code must then be used wherever you go in Spain. 
Here's the link to the official Spanish health ministry's website (in English) with all the relevant information and from where you can proceed: https://spth.gob.es

Note: All La Gomera Ferry services still run a reduced schedule which changes frequently, and health-bureaucracy is strictly enforced on arrival and departure in all Canary Islands ports, so allow a bit of extra time if planning a trip.
Also the Canarian government does still plan to go ahead with mandatory testing of incoming tourists at airports despite the Spanish government ruling this out, so it remains unclear what happens on arrival in the Canaries. Not very inviting, really, on top of all the rest of the hassle.
...and by the way La Gomera has NOT had any Covid cases for ages.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

La Gomera's latest event during Covid coma

                     
                                           Rain shower in Vueltas, Valle Gran Rey (archive image)

Irish writer Damien Enright is still stuck in La Gomera due to the continuing Corona virus pandemonium and I'm thankful for his regular reporting from there in the Irish Examiner. It looks increasingly unlikely that I can go there in the near future, as travelling with all the current restrictions, controls, complications, and a minimal flight and ferry schedule, etc., it's an ordeal I'm not risking to suffer. I had planned to go in April...
However, I've been on the 'phone to La Gomera regularly, and have been told by locals that a good few people there are still very scared of any visitors, even from the other Canary islands, despite the fact that there haven't been any Corona virus positives for a long time in La Gomera and very few in the rest of the archipelago.
June is a quiet time of the year there anyway, but several businesses have now ceased trading forever and a good few more are struggling, while some enterprises have not even been in a position to try and reopen yet.  La Gomera's Covid coma continues...
So I let Damien describe a recent 'event', and I can just visualise meeting them there as we did in the past:

'' An ‘event’ observed (for a while) over coffee on terrace
I took a break from scribbling this morning to have a coffee with my son, who had also taken a break from his writing. His mother and I met him and his wife and sat outside a cafe — where else would one sit in June (or at any time of the year) in the climate of La Gomera?
But then, the sky darkened above us, and the rain, forecast every day for the previous three days, at last began to fall, drop by heavy drop, hitting the table tops and resounding on our heads.

We retreated inside and, five minutes later, watched the drops turn to a downpour, and the world grow dark outside. It was an ‘event’ observed with fascination, the first real rain we’d seen since December, when we arrived.
Showers had visited the valley perhaps three times over the months, light and short lived. This was the first real rain, like Irish rain. Meanwhile, in Ireland, rain didn’t fall for weeks, until Thursday last.
After an hour, it was still falling. The other side of the street was almost obscured. Drops beat a timpani on the tables and hopped off the tarmac. After the 25 yard run back to our car, my wife and I were was as sodden as if we’d been in the sea.

I drove the 1km home through streets that were rivers, with ponds at the corners, the drains, caught by surprise, barely able to cope. The wipers of my faithful 1995 1.6 litre Ford Fiesta got a chance to show off, as they hadn’t for months. It’s a car with little or no rust, its dark blue paintwork mottled all by the sun. It’s a perfect subject for a respray. A respray and dent-removal would cost as much as I paid for it — €800 — four years ago. It might be a good investment. It has never gone wrong, and passed the MOT every year with flying ‘colours’. I meet the vendor regularly, and she bemoans selling it.
The mileage ‘clock’ says 41,000 km, but this may be the second time around. Cars here don’t travel far, of course, the island being only 50km across. Sheltered from the sun by their owners when not on the road, the ancient Mercedes, BMWs, Toyotas, etc, are the best preserved one could see anywhere, possibly worth a fortune in Ireland but all left-hand drive.
Meanwhile, when we got home, the clothes hanging out to dry on the flat roof were all soaked and dripping buckets of water. Never mind, we said, leave them there. The rain will stop and the sun come out, and an hour later they will be bone dry.

Meanwhile, the tens of thousands of fruiting and flowering trees in this valley, the lettuces, potatoes and vegetable gardens will be blessed by the bounty. The avocado, the mango and manga, the guava and fig trees are already heavy with fruit. A German man who lives in the barranco of Vallehermoso has, it is said, a hundred varieties of fruiting trees on his property. It’s a life-long hobby; he gives the fruit away.

This island was once impoverished. Such was the struggle to grow enough to eat that peasant farmers made terraces on almost sheer slopes so high that it would take half a day to reach them, patches of earth behind walls of stones cleared, by mighty labour, from the land. This was ‘made’ land; the only level ground was at the mouths of valleys where water from the uplands seasonally spread as it reached the sea.
Thousands of these terraces are abandoned now, dry and sere, the walls falling, the soil that filled them leaching through. When they were in use, the problem was not only to reach and fertilise them but to get the produce to market, down the winding, precipitous caminos that now make walking tracks, ‘senderos’, for the tourist hikers.
Some, stone paved, were used by mules or donkeys. From the mountains inland, they brought, tomatoes, potatoes, almonds and figs to the coast, to stony beaches where they were taken off by small boats.
The population was once 40,000. It is now 21,000. There was much emigration to Venezuela and Cuba. Now, tourism has come and the Gomero people, unusually — or not surprisingly, given the climate — have no great wish to travel elsewhere. Happily, the value of an environment left to nature, with thousands of hiking trails, was understood, the mountains and forests at the centre designated one of the first World Heritage Parks. Nature has not been subverted by inappropriate resorts.
Off the edge of the road, is wilderness. Beaches have not been created by earth movers or diggers. They are black sand and washed by pristine seas.''  © Damien Enright, Irish Examiner  June 14th 2020

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Oh when will we see and hear this again ?


Impromptu music session at the bus station bar in Valle Gran Rey in November 2018.
Actually there is enough space between the participants to satisfy the current distancing rules...

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Coronas



For several years I used to smoke above cigarettes when living in La Gomera. They're made in Tenerife by the same company that makes Benson & Hedges and other well known brands, but Coronas were and still are much cheaper. When the packs of ten cigarettes were phased out through EU regulations some years ago I remember buying 30 packs of 10 Coronas for just 3,30 Euros (total price for the carton of 300 , I kid you not, that's little more than 10 cents per 10-pack) in Anita's tiny supermarket in Vueltas, which is sadly gone the way of the ten-packs. Coronas cigarettes are still widely available all over Spain, though more expensive there than in the Canaries, as are all cigarettes. I wonder are they now as popular with hugely increased demand there as is Corona lager beer here in Ireland due to the Corona virus hype ?
...and no, I'm not promoting any brand of smokes nor any brand of virus, and a warning is on the pack. 
By the way a German carpenter living in Ireland once stated when making a table for me with a fag in his mouth: ''Smoking is yoga for the lungs''. He has since quit smoking and went back to Germany.

Monday, June 01, 2020

Fishy tales from La Gomera

Beaked whale stranded in Charco del Conde, Valle Gran Rey (Image: Ayuntamiento Valle Gran Rey)
While we're roasting in Gomera-like summer heat here in the west of Ireland, Damien Enright (himself 'stranded' in La Gomera due to Corona curtailments) reported from the island in the Irish Examiner yesterday:

'' Damien Enright: Merciless predation on the beaches of Gomera
Gomera is always replete with stories to tell, and this week is no exception. For me, it began in serendipitous accord with my recent theme of “small is beautiful” when I found myself waist-high in the sea surrounded by small, lifeless fish floating laterally, not belly up, glittering like spangles on the surface.
I picked one up, then two. They were as fresh as if in life, unusual and elegant. I laid two across my open palm, one pink, one metallic blue, each with a nose one third of its body length. Snipe trumpet fish, they are called, ‘trompeteros’. So long is the appendage that snipe trombone fish might suit them better. I took photos. I’d display them but the space is better filled by the image of a second item of deep-water fauna that beached here, so I will just tell the trumpet fish story.
They live at depths in tropical and sub-tropical waters in sea mounts at depths to 600m. They come to the surface at night to feed on crustacean zooplankton and return at dawn. Wouldn’t it take them half the night just to arrive? No, because, in shoals, they ride currents like geyser spouts rising from the submarine canyons. Tragically, however, they sometimes cannot find gaps in the ‘geysers’ and, not strong enough to swim against them, cannot make the return journey to the cool, dark depths that are their home.
Stranded on the surface under the heat of the sun, they die in their millions, are a feast for gulls, wash up in swathes on island beaches, forming heaps half the height of haystacks until buried rather than left stinking in the sun.
Snipe trumpet fish close up (Damien Enright)
A tragic sight, but not so sad as the solitary creature lying on broken rocks at the mouth of ‘the baby beach’ as it is called, a shallow pool with a fringe of black sand and perfect for children’s bathing.
I watched it as it was washed in, a dead cuvier’s beaked whale, the tide carrying it relentlessly onto the rocks where it lay as the sea pulled back. Later, the beach was cordoned off until yesterday when a big boat got in at high tide to harpoon it and tow it to the pier where a JCB lifted it onto a truck to be taken away for burial.
Cuvier’s beaked whales are toothed whales that can dive deeper (to over 1km) and stay underwater longer (20 to 40 minutes) than any other mammal. Incredibly, studies have recorded them at depths of 3km, staying 138 minutes without coming up for air. The ‘beak’ enables them to suck in their prey, often of giant squid or octopus. The jaw makes them appear to be smiling. Mature adults average 6m in length. The whale on the rocks was about 4m, a rough estimate when my son scrambled over the rocks and stood alongside it to take a picture.
What fate brought this fine creature to its untimely demise? As we know, the laws of nature are unforgiving, and not always fair. It is not always for food that predators kill, but for sport.
We have seen Attenborough television footage of orcas tossing live seals into the air like netballs players throw a ball. Orcas or sharks may have killed this animal not for food but for fun. The flesh of the tail had been stripped away leaving a metre of bare white vertebrae, as thick as your arm.
Without the tail to drive its plunge, the animal couldn’t dive to its native depths and evade the killers.
The many wounds on its body may have been sustained in battles with other males, shark bites and rock tears as it washed ashore; blood was in pools around it, blood which, until earlier, poured into the sea.
The scent and sight of blood naturally attracts even more predators. It was sad to see this unique, apparently healthy, animal lying dead on the sharp black rocks fringing the beach of black sand.
Presently, there is the annual run of bluefin tuna between the islands of La Gomera and El Hierro, and sharks, orcas and local artisan-owned fishing boats gather to harvest the bounty.
Fishing boats can take a quota of 500kg per year. One of my son’s friends comes from a Hierro fishing family. Last year, his father’s quota was filled by just two bluefin one of almost 300kg, the other of 190kg.
What happens if a boat hooks a bluefin that weighs over half a ton (if any exist still) half the size of the boat and almost as powerful as its engines. How can they let it go? I don’t know. Life’s a learning process.
I’m curious to find out.'' (Damien Enright, Irish Examiner)