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Friday, October 19, 2018

Some rain from this weekend (updated)

Rain shower in upper Valle Gran Rey, La Gomera (Archive image)
Some welcome rain is forecast for the Canary Islands from this weekend and especially in the early days of the coming week. The rain will be in the form of light to moderate showers and will mostly affect northern and mountain regions in La Gomera, while the south will be less at risk and there should be good sunny spells, too. Winds will be mostly light to moderate with maximum temperatures in the mid twenties ºC. 
UPDATE: 
For Monday, Oct.22nd 2018, more widespread showers are predicted, some may be heavy and accompanied by isolated thunderstorms.
For the days after that more showers are expected, again with the risk of isolated thunderstorms, but there'll be good sunny periods, especially in the south, too.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Hurricane Leslie: will it affect Canary Islands ? Updated

Hurricane Leslie yesterday evening with the Canary Islands and the Moroccan coastline on the right
The tropical storm system named 'Leslie'  has been meandering in the Atlantic for 19 (!) days now without having made up its mind where to finally dissipate. Most of that time it was, and still is, a powerful large hurricane with a current central pressure of 969 hPa and maximum winds exceeding 150 km/h. It is now situated about 730 kms SSW of the Azores and rapidly moving with increasing forward speed towards the island of Madeira, where the first ever tropical storm warning has been issued. Some models suggest that it may finally dissipate near or over the Canary Islands as a remnant low from Sunday, Oct. 14th 2018. There may be some stronger winds up to gale force and the heavy swell generated by Leslie may affect the Canary Islands as well as some showers and the odd thunderstorm, but it seems unlikely that it will be a weather system of great significance, if any, in these islands. According to several models it should turn more to the north towards the Iberian peninsula and not affect the Canaries at all, but other models are in disagreement. Here's an extract from a bulletin of the National Hurricane Centre in Miami explaining the situation and the various track forecasts:
''...The initial motion is now 065/24.  The guidance is in good agreement that this general motion should continue for 24 h or so. After that, there is a major model divergence.  The GFS, ECMWF, and the various consensus models now show a continued east-northeast motion until landfall in Portugal or Spain.  On the other hand, the UKMET, UK ensemble mean, and Canadian models show a turn toward the south and then back to the west (- which would bring it to the Canaries - Ed.) Since the previous forecast showed a southward and westward turn, the new forecast track will also follow this scenario.  However, it is shifted well to the east of the previous track due to the forecasts of the other models. Needless to say, the latter portion of the track forecast is low confidence.
Leslie should gradually weaken as it approaches Madeira Island during the next 24-36 h. After that, the intensity forecast is dependent on what track the cyclone takes.  If it follows the GFS/ECMWF scenario, the system would likely make landfall on the Iberian peninsula and quickly dissipate.  If it follows the UKMET scenario, a combination of shear, cool water, and dry air entrainment should cause weakening.  Since the track forecast is closer to the UKMET scenario, the intensity forecast follows the previous forecast in having Leslie decay to a post-tropical low by 72 h.  However, this is also a low confidence forecast due to the uncertainties in the track forecast. ...''
In 2005 when hurricane Delta powered up again after having almost disintegrated west  of the Canaries and gradually regained tropical characteristics, it was briefly a subtropical storm on November 22, then moved erratically for a few days before moving towards the Canary Islands. It became a powerful extratropical storm just before it passed to the north of the archipelago bringing severe disruption, widespread damage, and claiming seven lives there. However, please note that this was a different and very unusual scenario and most unlikely to be repeated by Leslie, and current indications are that it will not bring any disruptions.
The Spanish and the Canarian authorities have not issued any alerts or warnings for Leslie, but are monitoring the situation under a pre-alert for the western Canaries. However, a warning for strong winds and heavy seas has been issued for the high seas area called 'Madeira' which includes the high seas just north of the Canaries. Some cruise ships which were scheduled to cross the Atlantic westward are now sheltering in the Canaries until the system has dissipated.
UPDATE edited 10:30 pm, Oct.12th 2018:
The latest model runs all predict that Leslie will pass the Canary Islands much further to the north (see latest graphics below to compare with the earlier one above) and instead of having an impact here will instead affect the Iberian peninsula. Below a quote from the latest bulletin of the NHC in Florida:
''...Leslie is moving quickly east-northeastward on the southern side of a powerful longwave
trough centered over the north Atlantic. The track forecast reasoning has changed since the last advisory, with the GFS, ECMWF, and now the 06Z run of the UKMET all showing a more eastward motion of Leslie toward the Iberian Peninsula as the cyclone is picked u by the aforementioned trough. The new NHC track forecast has been adjusted significantly to the north and east, especially beyond 24 hours...
...Key Messages:
1. Leslie is expected to bring near hurricane-force winds on Saturday to portions of Portugal as a powerful post-tropical cyclone. Tropical-storm-force winds are also likely to affect portions of western Spain.
2. Leslie is expected to produce rainfall amounts of 25 to 75 mm (1 to 3 inches) with isolated amounts as high as 100 mm (4 inches) across portions of Portugal and Spain, which could cause flash flooding. ...''

Saturday, September 01, 2018

La Gomera features in Irish press again

La Gomera's emblematic Roque Agando on left.
(This image © lagomera1.blogspot.com . The article in the Irish Times has several different stock images)
When I opened the magazine supplement in The Irish Times this morning I was greeted by a two-page article about La Gomera by Conor Power, published in the travel section. While this article, too, contains some inaccuracies, it does serve as a nice introduction to the island. La Gomera is definitely being discovered by more and more discerning Irish tourists as a destination a with touch of the west of Ireland and away from the mass tourism in most of the rest of the Canaries. I'm sharing the text part of the article below:

''  La Gomera: The beating heart of the Canary Islands

With the heavy iron key that looked like a prop from a Harry Potter film, Pedro opened the old wooden door and I peered down into the well. As my eyes adjusted to the darkness of the room, I could see the gentlest of vibrations on the surface of the water. Just as Wolfgang had said, it was the ancient beating volcanic heart of La Gomera. I thanked him and went back into the bar to rejoin my friends and my beer.
Whether or not the legend was true, there is no doubt that if you’re coming to the Canary Islands and looking for an authentic link to the islands’ ancient past, you’ll find it all around you on this most effervescently green isle.
Located just 20km or so to the west of Tenerife, La Gomera is easily accessed by a regular ferry link from Los Cristianos. Depending on whether you get the hydrofoil or the standard version, it will take either 40 minutes or an hour and a half.
La Gomera looks a bit like the upturned half of a huge green orange that has been broken into rough segments. A permanent rainforest of sorts resides across much of the upper reaches of the island, which are almost permanently shrouded in mist. It’s unlike any other of the Canaries that people are used to seeing, with their characteristic lunar landscapes and bare volcanic fields.
Here in La Gomera, all is lush – from the vast forests of banana trees that run to the shoreline at Santa Catalina to Europe’s largest primitive forest, in the Unesco-listed Parque Nacional de Garajonay. Along the roadsides, exotic papaya fruits heave alongside banana trees. It looks as if the island could keep the entire population of Spain in fruit for the rest of their lives.

We were fortunate to run into Wolfgang and his French Moroccan-born wife Danielle near the start of our stay on La Gomera. With three friends, we had rented a house close to the village of Hermigua on the northeast of the island, just a 15-minute drive along the spectacular, twisty and perfectly-tarred road from the main town of San Sebastián.
Roomy terrace
The central meeting point in Hermigua is Pedro’s bar, with its views over the valley from the roomy terrace outside. Every night there was a themed music night. The first was a French night, where accordion-playing singers brought many of the French-speaking tourists and everyone else out to enjoy a folk-like, convivial atmosphere that turned the place into a little piece of Montmartre.
The second night was a Cuban night where we were treated to live music from a smashing band that wouldn’t have been out of place on a pavement in Havana. The infectious music got everyone up and dancing around the terrace in the warm evening air.
The climate in La Gomera is a little bit different to most other Canary Islands too. The Canaries are known for the variation in temperature between the balmy middle of the day and the cooler evenings but, on La Gomera, you can experience cool spring weather requiring layers and rain gear up in the mountains while, by the seashore, high summer reigns supreme, with temperatures in the mid-20s and seawater warm enough to comfortably bathe in.
The next morning, I travelled north, near the beautifully formed and perfectly located village of Agulo, to a lookout area known as the Mirador de Abrante. Here, the car park ends in stunning red rock cliffs and a restaurant. Inside, the restaurant has a narrow glass floor extension to give you a dizzying perspective of the extraordinary views over the sea and colourful Agulo below.
The restaurant is also well known for the fact that some of its staff communicate through the fascinating whistling language El Silbo. Waiter Fabio was only too happy to give us a demonstration on site, asking us to tell him something in English or Spanish and then translating it into El Silbo. The language was brought to the Canaries by the Guanche people and has survived Spanish colonialism; it is now a mandatory subject for all Gomerans in both primary and secondary schools.
Quiet paradise
Wolfgang and Danielle had bought a house nearby and habitually spend most of the spring living in this green and relatively quiet paradise. After a first day of hard walking along the steep slopes of Hermigua and El Cedro, it was they who advised us to try the more user-friendly trail (10km return trip) from Pastrana to Benchijigua on the south side of the island.
We parked the hired car at the tiny village of Pastrana before heading north along the Barranco (ravine) de Benchijugua – a deep, rocky indentation where the waters flow at a variety of volumes depending on the weather. We started off at around 11am, and the weather was warm and sunny. The spectacular views towards the sea and up into the mountains were superb and the trail was well signposted and provided decent challenges for the average walker.
Along the way, we passed a number of isolated, deserted villages and hamlets before arriving at Benchijigua. It was a very quiet walk as well, and we only encountered a handful of walkers on the way. Benchijigua didn’t have anything by way of refreshing pitstop – just a few unoccupied holiday homes and a closed church – but it was a truly gorgeous spot with panoramic views in all directions from its elevated position looking down on a series of ravines and across to craggy hillsides on three sides.

The atmosphere is low-key, with a complete absence of the lager-lout brigade or the post-Leaving Cert party platoon
At this point, the weather was positively autumnal and even in three layers and with our hoods up, we had to keep moving to stay warm. By the time we got back to Pastrana, the afternoon sun was beating down on us once more. It being a Monday, the one restaurant in the hamlet was closed so we got in the car and drove down into the resort town of Playa de Santiago.
There are plenty of hotels and accommodation centres here to cater for all kinds of visitors, but the atmosphere is decidedly more low-key than most resorts you’ll find in the Canaries, with a complete absence of the lager-lout brigade or the post-Leaving Cert party platoon. Sun and sand it has a-plenty.
Comprehensive package
Valle Gran Rey offers a more comprehensive package for sun-worshippers looking for that little bit less Canary-like Canary Island sun resort, while the fine beaches at San Sebastián have the advantage of being next to the island’s largest town. This is where Christopher Columbus stopped over before his historic voyage to the New World, and much of the town has managed to retain an old-world atmosphere. It’s a place to wander around and take in the Spanish colonial vibes of its colourful, authentic streets.

Back at Hermigua, we were invited to spend an evening at Wolfgang and Christine’s lovely home – a chilled-out abode with a lot of traditional touches built on two levels. Upstairs, the tiled roof terrace covered the entire footprint of the building and was designed to cater for the outdoor life, complete with kitchen corner, large stone table and outdoor loo – all with superb views of lush mountains and blue sea and backing onto a tropical garden.
As the sun went down behind the mist-shrouded mountains, Wolfgang enquired if I had been able to witness the “beating heart of La Gomera” – if I’d seen for myself the pulse from the long-dormant volcanoes that formed the Canaries in the ripples on the surface of the water of the well at Pedro’s.
“Yes,” I said, uncertainly. “I think I did.”
He winked and raised his glass. “Then the beating heart of La Gomera will stay in your soul forever.” ...''

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

More praise for La Gomera

The article below appeared in 'Northern Ireland Travel News' (nitravelnews.com) a few days ago:

''La Gomera: Land of the Winter Sun

With only a few months until the summer rays give way to colder weather, you may be wondering about the best places to soak up some winter sun

Look no further than La Gomera, a Canary Island known for its vivid landscapes, black sand beaches and abundant nature. While there’s plenty to see and do, these suggestions are a great start to keep you coloured through the UK’s cold and grey season…

Retreats in Nature
Looking for a peaceful location to revive your love of nature? A hiking or yoga adventure is a wonderful way to do just that. La Gomera offers year-round retreats for those wishing to explore its untouched landscapes.

As you take in the sights, you can follow many hiking trails that criss-cross the terrain. Better yet, each marked path has a different degree of difficulty so you can discover the island at your own pace.
You can also opt for a local guide to lead you into the silver-clouded forest of Garajonay National Park. Not only does the UNESCO World Heritage Site brim with native wildlife, but its ancient scenery is also the perfect introduction to this spectacular little island.

Long Walks on the Shore
For many people, there is no better place than the beach, and La Gomera happens to be blessed with an abundance of them. Another bonus is the beautiful black sand, which provides a relaxing setting to residents and visitors alike.
Many Gomeran beaches are also away from the crowds and only accessible by foot, with clear waters and warm temperatures in winter. On the south coast, for example, Playa del Medio will tempt you with its soothing surf ­– just the thing for an easy day in the winter sun.
Meanwhile, Playa de la Caleta awaits a few minutes from the centre of Hermigua. This slice of paradise is considered the best beach on the north coast and has many convenient facilities nearby, such as restaurants, picnic areas and showers.
There are excellent choices if you’re travelling with kids this winter too. Charco del Conde in Valle Gran Rey is one of many family beaches that are sure to impress. Expect accessibility, cleanliness and a protected natural pool for all ages to swim in at high tide.

Nourishing Local Foods
Gastronomy gives people a direct window into culture – like all the Canary Islands, La Gomera features a variety of nourishing local seafood and healthy dishes to keep you warm and satisfied.
When visiting the green island, one can’t-miss dish is papas arrugudas. ‘Papas’ is the local term for potatoes, and because of the island’s volcanic climate, these potatoes gain a signature taste and texture.
The simple but delicious dish is boiled in water with salt then paired with a generous serving of rich mojo sauces. Mojo verde is bright green and refreshing, while Mojo picón is vibrant red and slightly spicy. Either way, you’re in for a savoury treat.
But when it comes to treats, palm syrup is the undisputed star of Gomeran cuisine. With more than 130,000 palm trees blanketing the island, La Gomera has the highest number of specimens per capita. What’s more, almost every restaurant serves desserts drizzled in the stuff. It’s also used to sweeten cocktails and add the final touch to meat and fish dishes.
If you’d like to keep a taste of La Gomera long after your holiday, you’ll be pleased to know that palm syrup is offered in almost any supermarket and craft fair – a fine purchase to take back as a souvenir.

Getting There
Fly into Tenerife and catch a 50-minute ferry to La Gomera. A short flight from Tenerife will get you there as well. Once you arrive, you can choose from a wide range of hotels as your home away from home this winter. Go to lagomera.travel/en for more information and winter sun ideas.''

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

La Gomera's south-west from the air

La Gomera's south-west with La Merica mountain and the plains of Valle Gran Rey
in the foreground, seen from the air this summer by Canarian photographer Alvaro Armas (facebook).

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Greetings from hot and sunny Ireland

Greetings from very hot and sunny Ireland where the temperature at midday is already higher than in La Gomera and is expected to exceed 30ºC later today. Above image of a shop window display was taken in Youghal, Co. Cork, last week.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Very large minke whale found dead

The large dead minke whale being lifted out of the water in Vueltas harbour (Image: Speedy Adventure)
A very large minke whale was discovered floating dead in the Atlantic just off La Gomera not far from the harbour of Valle Gran Rey on Saturday. The carcass was towed into the port and lifted out of the water with the crane on the pier and onto a council truck for disposal. The minke whale showed no visible signs of injuries and further examinations and tests were to be carried out to determine the cause of death. However experts were surprised at the unusually large size of the marine mammal. This male dead minke whale measured about eight metres in length (25 ft), which is a metre longer than normally encountered. The waters just off the south coast of La Gomera are a popular spot for whale watching and more than 30 species of marine mammals have been sighted there.
Almost too large for the council lorry (Image: RTVC)

Thursday, May 17, 2018

New public bus service

Valle Gran Rey bus station (Estacion de Guaguas)

A new public bus service has been inaugurated between La Gomara's western towns of Vallehermoso and Valle Gran Rey. Previously passengers had to change buses at Apartacaminos in the forest of the national park with very few connections available. Now the new direct service will travel between the two towns three times a day in each direction (twice on Sundays and public holidays) with the usual stops in between. The new service will facilitate locals travelling to and from the ferry terminal in Valle Gran Rey and will be of great interest to tourists as well, as it is now possible to reach scenic highlights like Epina much more comfortably. The single fare for the full distance between Valle Gran Rey and Vallehermoso is a modest four Euros and the new connection will have the number 8 (Linea 8).
La Gomera's public bus services have been owned and successfully run by the local government for many years now, after the previous private service went bankrupt despite generous subsidies. The timetable for the new service can be found here: Linea 8 Guagua Gomera SAU
Note: A bus is called  'GUAGUA' (pronounced 'gwa-gwa') in the Canary Islands and not 'autobus' as in Spain.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Fire-jumping fiesta

The picturesque town of Agulo in La Gomera's north will celebrate the highlight of the annual Fiesta de San Marcos', the spectacular fire-jumping event, tomorrow night Saturday 28th of April 2018 (see promotional video below). Following an old custom the fires are lit in honour of the town's patron saint San Marcos every year, and many of the town's population are rising to the challenge and jump over the bonfires. Visitors are welcome to join in and there's even a version with smaller fires for the children. If you're a bit older or just not as daring, you can wait until the fires have burnt down a bit and try the 'light' version. The organisers recommend to cover your hair and avoid wearing flammable synthetics. The bonfires will be lit following the procession and mass in the centre of Agulo.
After the spectacular fire-jumping, there'll be general merriment and dancing to live music all night, and and plenty of cold drinks to quench the thirst resulting from the bonfires. I can reveal that this year a Canadian film crew who are shooting a documentary about La Gomera intend to capture what must be La Gomera's most captivating and spectacular fiesta during its main event.

Friday, April 06, 2018

Angela Merkel in La Gomera for sixth time

Merkel in La Gomera 2016 (Image: Darias/La Opinion)
German chancellor Angela Merkel , often dubbed ''the most powerful woman on earth'', was spending her Easter holidays in La Gomera once again, together with her husband Joachim Sauer. This is the now the sixth time she is spending her private and supposedly secret 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 in 2016 during one of the German leader's previous visits. It is said to be the only photo that was published of any of her visits to La Gomera and appeared in the Canary Islands daily La Opinion. The German chancellor was staying at the island's largest hotel among many average tourists and is reported to have enjoyed a normal relaxing holiday without much special attention