Thursday, March 07, 2013

Death in Argaga, La Gomera, during storm March '13 +SPECTACULAR VIDEO of previous accident there

Will fences and more signs prevent accidents ?

The storm died down just as predicted and all modes of transport are operating normally again. All warnings and alerts have been lifted and the weather forecast is for lots of sunshine this weekend as high pressure is becoming established again.
Here in Valle Gran Rey there still is shock and disbelief after the death of a 26 years old German tourist (see updates 17 + 19 of Storm will affect Canary Islands (+ 21 updates) ) on Monday during the storm. The victim had attempted to walk to a ravine called Argaga with a friend when she was killed by falling rocks just after a very heavy squally shower. She had been warned and advised not to walk out there, but decided to risk it anyway in the face of the worst possible weather conditions and a red alert.
Let me explain about the extremely dangerous path they took:
Argaga is in the municpal area of Vallehermoso, but can only be reached by following a private dirt track from the harbour of Vueltas in Valle Gran Rey which follows the coastline for about half a mile below a several hundred feet high sheer cliff. This path is extremely dangerous even in the finest weather, as every now and again rockfalls do occur in this area and there are 3 huge signs plus another regular sign warning of the risk. In bad weather this path becomes a deadly trap. Some images taken yesterday will explain the location better (click to enlarge):

Warning sign even in English

Only about two weeks before this fatal accident there was another death caused by a minor rockfall in Playa de las Arenas, aka 'Schweinebucht' (see my post: Mother of two killed by minor rockfall on La Gomer...) .
My sincere condolences to all concerned.
Now let me stress that thousands and thousands have walked, cycled and driven out there  without any problems. There are three attractions in the Argaga ravine: 
First the 'Finca Argayall, which is a retreat and yoga centre operating like an alternative hotel (see: ). Then there is a fruit farm where more than 160 varieties of fruit are cultivated and guided tours with fruit tastings are offered twice a week (see: ) and the hippie caves at Playa de las Arenas, better known as 'Schweinebucht' , where the young mother died tragically two weeks ago. There are also about half a dozen private houses in Argaga and a banana plantation owned by an Englishman. The whole Argaga ravine is privately owned and also contains some demanding and dangerous hiking trails, which regularly see the rescue helicopter being called when inexperienced hikers attempt the ascent to the mountains from there.
Now the local administrations of V.G.R. and Vallehermoso want to close the track completely and erect fencing at the end of the harbour beach to prevent access and put up more signs. V.G.R. wants to spend 8000 (!!!) Euros on this project which to me sounds like they plan the erection of an 'iron curtain'.
The existing signage is loud and clear and whoever wants to risk walking out there is well aware of the danger. When you're under that sheer cliff and see fallen rocks and debris around you, you don't even need any signs to put 2+2 together ! Should every dangerous bend on a road that has caused fatalities, indeed all dangerous locations, be closed and fenced ? Accidents DO happen and humans DO take risks and will continue to do so no matter how safe the location.
A few years ago I made a personal decision not to use that track anymore when returning from Argaga I found a huge wedge of razor-sharp granite stuck a foot deep in the ground exactly where the imprints of my boots were in the dust from walking out there just an hour before. 
Others had much narrower escapes as the video below illustrates (watch the white car !). It also shows what that track is like in heavy rain, and you can watch big lumps of rock crashing into the harbour:

The story behind the video:

Harry,the driver of the white car, had just finished work at the 'Finca Argayall' that day (Feb. 17th 2010) and could see bad weather rapidly closing in, but being tired after work wanted to make a dash for home. He knew that it was dangerous and also knew that if he din't make it home in a hurry that he might be stuck out there for hours, as it is often more dangerous AFTER the rain when loosened material heats up and expands in the sunshine.
What happened then is seen in the video, but what you don't see is that just before he reverses the car a lump of rock fell straight through the roof of the car, missing him by a couple of inches. The car was also scraping on fallen rocks on the ground and got stuck in the end. Harry scrambled out and escaped on foot, leaving a totally wrecked car.
I meet him directly after his miraculous escape in a local bar where he once had worked and where I was sheltering from the rain. He was as white as a sheet and badly in need of a stiff drink !
Very sadly, less than three years after the incident he died in his mid-forties at home on the sofa of a heart attack.

P.S.: While I was writing this post the rescue helicopter was circling the mountain behind my house once again. A local man put it to me a couple of days ago: ''The helicopter hardly ever has to come for one of the locals. Why don't the visitors stick to the hundreds of miles of SAFE walks and paths and why do they feel attracted to danger and go places we avoid in poor weather ? This is getting worse every year !''

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