Thursday, October 31, 2013

Hola Halloween

... or All Saints, Hallowe'en, All Hallow Even, (Celtic) Samhain... now being marketed as a silly horror show.
Enhanced section of original 'cARTon' by resident artist © PERO 

Study to turn lighthouses into hotels

The harbour authority of the Spanish government which administers lighthouses around the coast is to study the possibility to turn lighthouses in the Canary Islands into small hotels. La Gomera's president has welcomed the 'interesting' initiative. There is a beautiful lighthouse, the Faro San Cristobal, near San Sebastian de La Gomera which would lend itself to conversion. This lighthouse still operates but  like most European lighthouses it now runs automatically and doesn't need keepers anymore. The substantial keepers' quarters, offices and stores would make a nice boutique hotel. In Ireland several lighthouses have already been successfully converted into B+B's and ho(s)tels and recently the Irish government has announced the conversion of another 30 lighthouses. The idea would suit La Gomera and could be successful here as well.
...would make a hotel with spectacular views.
Faro San Cristobal on La Gomera...

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

News: Garajonay Express proposes ferry connection

Garajonay Express arriving in Valle Gran Rey in the good ol' days. 
Great news just in: The ferry line Garajonay Express which up to a few years ago covered the connection between the three La Gomera ports of Valle Gran Rey, Playa de Santiago, San Sebastian de La Gomera and then continued on to Los Cristianos on Tenerife wants to re-establish the same connection. This was announced today by the mayor of Valle Gran Rey, Miguel Angel Hernandez, who said that he has received a solid proposal by the same company which aims to sail the route twice daily seven days a week with a 250-passengers fast ferry.The company, according to well informed sources now with changes in shareholding, proposes a price for the journey from Valle Gran Rey to Los Cristianos of 33 Euros and from VGR to San Sebastian of just 12 Euros. These are presumably maximum prices without subsidies. No news as yet as to WHEN the service might begin - ALL here say: 'The sooner the better'. Keeping the fingers crossed I'll keep you posted...
+Update 30-10-13: 
The latest 'well informed rumours' say that a fast ferry boat for Garajonay Express is already on its way from Italy. 
+Update 31-10-13: 
The mayor of Valle Gran Rey has once again confirmed the proposal and has stated that all the company wants is the Canarian government's honouring of the 50% subsidy of prices for passengers resident in the Canaries and no harbour dues for the first three years of re-introducing  the service. He also said that the governments of La Gomera and of the Canary Islands should be up to date on the offer and that the Italian director of Garajonay Express had a meeting with officials of both authorities at the end of September already. 
Let's just hope this doesn't become a political football. The competing larger companies carry a lot of clout, too, and will undoubtedly lose some business if 'our' ferry runs again.
UPDATE 05-01-14:
The only news since my last update was that the company Garajonay Express have submitted their proposal for covering the service to the authorities together with a viability study. They have their (reasonable) pricing included and they have estimated that they would be employing 34 people. However the company is demanding that they'd be exempt from any harbour dues in the ports of Playa de Santiago and Valle Gran Rey for at least the first year of service. One of the shareholders in the  company, Hector Cabrera, was quoted as saying 'We have one ferry already available and can supply another' and once given the green light by the authorities it would only take a month to begin sailings. 
It appears that it all depends on the Canarian government now...

UPDATE March 27th, 2014:
President confirms subsidies for La Gomera ferry

UPDATE Dec. 17th, 2014:

Frangipani seat

Spotted this bench under a fragrant Frangipani tree in La Calera, Valle Gran Rey,
La Gomera, which was decorated with the flowers by local children a few days ago.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Lizard on Beans with Toast

All summer and into autumn young and newly-hatched lizards flit about at speed everywhere on La Gomera and they are very curious and inquisitive. They don't respect your home like their mature counterparts do and they use the tiniest opening to enter. Finding a way out again is a lot more difficult for them and often needs the gentle help and lots of patience of the evicting landlord. I just rediscovered some photos I took a few years ago when one of the little intruders had made it into a temptingly open pack of dry beans, only to discover that uncooked they were inedible. The smooth inner surface of the pack prevented escape until the noises in the cupboard were heard. Then first the failed robber's mugshot was taken and the case was mulled over. Finally the probation act was applied with subsequent release into freedom. Further, a crumb of toast was given because the little rascal hadn't got anything to eat in self-imposed captivity and was found completely exhausted from struggling with organic food.

Enjoying the view from your bean bag seat ?

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Howard movie replica ship of whaler 'Essex' has arrived in Playa de Santiago, La Gomera, for filming

Well, the replica of the whaling ship 'Essex' 'sank in the tank' at Warner Brothers' studios near London and now the 'real replica' has arrived afloat and well in the little harbour of Playa de Santiago on La Gomera island to get ready for further scenes of Ron Howard's adaption of  Nathaniel Phibrick's 'In the Heart of the Sea' to be filmed in the fine weather here over the coming weeks. For cinematic purposes she will probably have to be 'sunk' once again in La Gomera's waters. Fascinating !
+NOV. 4th:Ron Howard's Heart of the Sea getting ready to roll on location La Gomera. Latest images of preps + props ++
Photo (C) Ramos
Update midnight:
The film's director tweeted just a short while ago (...and I'll sing 'Hoooray and up she rises' to that):

Soon we will be off the stage .... And shooting on the open ocean on our real Essex

Fancy a fartone ?

Recently spotted in La Laguna on Tenerife by :

                     Ten of these might put the wind in your sails
Spotted in a well-known La Laguna bakery, where the owners are probably wondering why the trays of pastries do not sell to British tourists who visit the city in considerable numbers.

Salsa pop music marathon

Typical salsa group
La Gomera's patron saint La Virgen de Guadalupe continues her procession through all the parishes of the island and will travel to the town of Chipude today. Next week she will come to Valle Gran Rey and a big fiesta will be held in her honour. The main event will be a marathon of American-style salsa-pop groups (called orchestras here). Nine of these 'orchestra-bands' (well, at least one of them being a one-man-band with full orchestra sound coming out of his keyboards) will play modern salsa-pop from 10.30pm until the following morning competing for the dancers and for the highest possible volume. The 'marathon' event takes place in the harbour of Vueltas on Saturday Nov.2nd 2013 and will guarantee a sleepless night for residents there and revellers' sore legs from the the shuffle-dancing or standing around the drinks stalls. We won't mention what all the cuba libres can cause...
 Setting-up the salsa for another fiesta in Valle Gran Rey recently. This is only a fraction of the gear of just 2 bands!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Hiking Festival on La Gomera

A hiking festival will take place on La Gomera from the 2nd to the 6th of December 2013 which culminates in the the hill walking day on the 7th of December. There are some new routes as well as some old favourites and the programme includes stops for local food and drink and cultural events. La Gomera boasts excellent hiking trails in one of Europe's most fascinating, picturesque and breathtaking landscapes. Click poster to go festival website:

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Students on strike today

Students of schools and colleges are on strike today to protest against cuts in spending on education and to highlight the extremely high unemployment rate particularly of younger people in the Canaries.
Striking students protesting at VGR's town hall this morning

Major wildfire on Gran Canaria - updated

A major wildfire with more than one front has been raging in the Cruz de Tejeda region on Gran Canaria since 11am this morning and the flames are still not under control as I write, forcing the evacuation of villagers in the area and road closures. At least three houses are said to have been burnt down. Let's just hope and pray that the showers expected for later today and tonight will materialise. The rising winds are not helping though.
Click for video:El viento propaga y dificulta la extinción del incendio de Gran Canaria - Noticias
Update at midnight:
The fires are still out of control, but weather conditions are 'favourable to have the blaze stabilised by Saturday or Sunday' according to officials. The photo below was taken just before dark. See their photo gallery
NB: Resorts and tourist facilities are NOT affected. The fires are in a remote rural area in the mountains and will hardly be noticed by most tourists.There is NO threat at all to touristic areas.

UPDATE Friday Oct. 25th 2013, 10am:
The situation appears to have improved a lot and according to some unconfirmed reports the fires have been brought under control.
+++At lunchtime it was officially confirmed that the situation has been 'stabilised'.
UPDATE Saturday, Oct.26th 2013: 
The fire has finally been extinguished.

Cory's Shearwater awareness days

Calonectris diomedea borealis. Image: Wikipedia (click for more)
The local administration of Valle Gran Rey on La Gomera is organising an awareness campaign to draw attention to one of the Canary Islands' most emblematic birds, Cory's shearwater, subspecies Calonectris diomedea borealis. Thousands of the seabirds nest in the cliffs towering over the town and at night their loud and very distinct cries puzzle visitors who've never heard them before. The echoes of their cries are used by the birds to locate their nests when they come in from the sea to feed the young who respond with fainter cries. Cory's shearwater, called Pardelas in the Canaries, spend most of their lives far out at sea feeding on small fish and molluscs and they travel huge distances. They are excellent divers but they only come ashore to breed and mostly at night. Modern street lights and other strong artificial light confuse their navigation and often cause them to crash into obstacles. The awareness campaign begins today with a talk in the town hall at 1pm for staff and all interested members of the public. Further talks will be given at colleges, etc. and there will be workshops. If you happen to encounter a crashed or injured bird you should simply call 112 (ask for an Engish-speaking operator) and give its location. If the bird is on the ground, stay nearby to chase away any marauding cats, but stay a safe distance away from the bird which could give you a nasty wound with its powerful beak trying to defend itself in its confusion.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

BP joins search for oil between Canaries and Morocco

The crystal clear waters of the Canary Islands 
Reuters news reported the following in their UK edition a few days ago:

'(Reuters) - Oil major BP has struck a deal with U.S.-based Kosmos Energy for a share in the exploration of three blocks off the coast of Morocco.
Modern technology has helped firms to discover huge new oil and gas fields over the last decade in regions that were formerly overlooked, not least Africa's Atlantic coast.
Kosmos Energy, which specialises in exploration and production in frontier and emerging areas, said BP had acquired a non-operating interest in the Essaouira, Assaka and Tarhazoute blocks in Morocco's Agadir Basin. Drilling will start in the first half of 2014, Kosmos Chief Executive Brian Maxted said in a statement.
Under the agreement, BP will fund Kosmos's share of the cost of one exploration well in each of the three blocks and pay a disproportionate share of the cost in the event that a second well is drilled in any block. BP declined to put a value on its investment.
"It is over 25,000 sq km of new area for us," said spokesman Robert Wine. "It fits with our exploration strategy of looking for significant opportunities in new basins."
Morocco has attracted a growing number of companies in recent years, including the second largest U.S. oil company Chevron, with the promise of a link to the energy-rich geological formations of west Africa.
The announcement sent the shares of Fastnet Oil & Gas, a junior partner in the Assaka block, up around 14 percent by 1240 GMT. BP shares rose about 1.3 percent.
The agreement remains subject to Moroccan government approval, Kosmos said. The U.S.-listed independent will keep about a 30 percent share in each of the three blocks. BP will have a 45 percent share in two of the blocks and a 26.3 percent share in Assaka once the deal is closed...'

Monday, October 21, 2013

Progress on La Gomera film set for Ron Howard movie

The 800-bed Hotel Tecina where cast and crew are staying

La Gomera already buzzing

Work on the film set for 'In the Heart of the Sea' is progressing as planned and slowly the first details are emerging. At the larger set at the remote Tapahuga beach a large triangular water tank directly on the beach with a circular 'deep water section' in its centre is nearing completion and a large area has been cleared and levelled behind it. In the town of Playa de Santiago itself part of the pebbly beach is being altered and decorated and a derelict building is being transformed into a Hollywood set. 
Filming at the Warner Studios in England is continuing and it will be November when the full crew with director Ron Howard  and the cast of actors will arrive on La Gomera. The whaling ship 'Essex' will 'sink' in  the Warner studios' tank near London and the 'survivors' will continue their epic fight for survival here on La Gomera. 
There is a noticeable buzz of excitement in the town of Playa Santiago and all over the island of La Gomera. The advance crews, most of them British specialists, have been out and about in their spare time and are very happy to be in this sunny film location while their colleagues are still working in autumnal England.

+Update - click: 'Essex' arrived here
+NOV. 4th: Ron Howard's Heart of the Sea getting ready to roll on location La Gomera. Latest images of preps + props ++
Scaffolding to accommodate backdrop
This natural backdrop doesn't need any work done
Playa de Santiago film location with clifftop Hotel Tecina
The 'Essex' beginning to sink in the tank near London. Picture tweeted by Ron Howard.
Playa de Tapahuga film location
The large concrete water basin with deeper circular section (centre)

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Ferries Canaries '13: More Rumours, Rumblings, Runs.

Watching the  Fred. Olsen ferry from the Naviera Armas ferry in the  port
of San Sebastian de La Gomera a few days ago. Both ferries were full and
arrived almost at the same time in Los Cristianos causing tailbacks there.
Uncertainty about ferry routes and departure times seem to be an annual feature in autumn just before the peak season winter schedules are finally established. Now it has been announced that the ferry company 'Naviera Armas' is to introduce a new fast catamaran service on the route between Los Cristianos and El Hierro and according to some rumours this service is to stop-over at a harbour on La Gomera, possibly Valle Gran Rey. The council of the town have once again complained about the lack of a connection and called unanimously for the re-introduction of the so-called 'interior line' connecting the three main ports on La Gomera. According to some officials another  company wants to apply for a licence to connect Valle Gran Rey with a smaller boat capable of carrying about 80 passengers. A persistent and seemingly well-informed rumour meanwhile intimates the re-introduction of a  'type of Garajonay Express ferry service before Christmas'.
A further hot issue is the schedule of connections between Los Cristianos and San Sebastian de La Gomera, where often the sailings of the two companies arrive at the same time, leading to traffic congestion in Los Cristianos. Some sailings on the same route have been cancelled leaving less options for travellers especially at weekends, and meetings were held between officials and representatives of the ferry companies to improve the schedules which lead to some amendments having been made now. Keep checking  timetables regularly (see links on sidebar) if you intend to travel.
More rumours not worth mentioning here are doing the rounds and it remains to be seen what will emerge when reliable winter timetables and possible new routes have been established. If you don't need to book very soon it may be worth waiting until the last minute, but remember that all schedules remain subject to change anyway - and the same goes for the prices.
In the eastern Canary Islands the Fred.Olsen ferry line has promised to 'become market leader of ferry connections in the Canaries' by introducing a new connection between Gran Canaria and Fuerteventura with 22 weekly sailings between the two islands. The port of Corralejo on Fuerteventura will to connect to Lanzarote with 80 weekly sailings. Before we applaud too enthusiastically, let's bear in mind that the Canarian government has approved subsidies for inter-island travel services provided to residents by the Fred.Olsen ferry line to the tune of nearly 2.5 million Euros for the first three month of 2013 alone. 
Great and well done - but can we have a very small slice of that cake in Valle Gran Rey, Señores, pliiiiisssss ?!

Update: NEW ferry connection proposed.
Click for latest UPDATE

Friday, October 18, 2013

Guided Night Walk with Observation of Lunar Eclipse

A guided night-walk will take place in Valle Gran Rey, La Gomera from 7pm tonight, Oct. 18th 2013. The meeting point will be in La Calera near the town hall and the walk will be going up the La Merica mountain to the village of Arure from where participants will be brought by bus to San Antonio where the observation of the penumbral lunar eclipse will begin under the guidance of the president of La Gomera's astronomical association at 10pm. The event is free of charge, but intending participants should bring a flashlight.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Ferry to Valle Gran Rey soon again ?

Garajonay Express 
Local media are reporting today that negotiations for the re-introduction of the ferry line which used to connect the  ports of San Sebastian de La Gomera, Playa de Santiago and Valle Gran Rey are progressing well and at an 'advanced stage'. Reportedly there is more than one applicant company interested in  connecting the three harbours on La Gomera and the Canarian government is said to be willing to subsidise the ferries for passengers resident in the Canary Islands.
The ferry line Garajonay Express which successfully operated the line initially with more than two million passengers is sorely missed here. Bear in mind that the journey from Valle Gran Rey to the island's capital takes much less time by ferry than by bus.  Keep the fingers crossed !

UPDATE: Good news !
UPDATE 2: President confirms subsidies

1200 Palm trees affected by fire cleaned

One of the specialised teams of 'palm doctors'       (Photo:
More than 1200 Canary Islands date palm (Phoenix Canariensis) trees which were damaged by last year's devastating fire on La Gomera have been cleaned-up in Valle Gran Rey by local specialists in recent weeks and work is continuing. The Canarian palm can survive fires and often grows even stronger after having been blackened by fire. The work carried out involves climbing up the sooty trunks to the sad-looking crown and the removing the dead fronds with saws and special knives. This is very tough work indeed and it is dangerous not only because of the height to climb but also because of the hard needle-sharp pointed spikes of the fronds' ends. If you're ever passing low-hanging fronds of Canary palms, make sure to avoid them as they can give you very deep and nasty wounds or could easily pierce an eye. The clean-up is part of  fire prevention measures that include the removal of thousands of tons of dead and partially-burnt vegetation as well as other material that could catch fire very easily from all over the island of La Gomera.
La Gomera is home to more than 100.000 Phoenix Canariensis trees,
forming the largest population of the palms in the Canarian archipelago
The following quote is from the Journal of the International Palm Society (Palms):
''The most interesting island of all for palms is La Gomera: thousands of P canariensis live in the most diverse landscapes, from desert to waterfalls, showing every possible aspect that this mighty palm can assume. La palmera is extremely respected by the islanders, los gomeros, because it is still a source of guarapo, palm honey. This tasty product is regularly hand-extracted from incisions made in the apical bud without killing the palm and then sold in the island's markets.(Note: Guarapo is not palm honey but the sweet sap that rises up the trunk at night. This is  boiled down to a syrup which is then called palm honey or miel de palma in Spanish - Willie) One of the most beautiful palmerales of all the seven islands is found in the majestic scenery of Valle Gran Rey: a canyon with 700-m high vertical dry cliffs of volcanic lava, which hang above the very humid terraced floor, intensively cultivated with bananas (Musa 'Dwarf Cavendish'), Arundo donax, and P canariensis. The valley is entirely free of P dactylifera. The only exotic palms are a few washingtonias and Roystonea sp. The entire island is a biosphere reserve and Valle Gran Rey is its pearl...''
 A copse of Phoenix Canariensis. Another beautiful photo by © Alexius Jorgensen

Something completely different

The video below has absolutely nothing to do with La Gomera, but I liked it so much that I'm posting it here. It is the song 'When I'm Gone' better known as 'The Cup Song' performed 'as Gaeilge' (in Irish) by 600 students of Colaiste Lurgan in Connemara, Ireland with lead singer Laoise Nolan. The song itself was  written and first recorded by the Carter Family in 1931 and became a hit for American actress Anna Kendrick in 2013.

Monday, October 07, 2013

10.000 celebrate arrival of patron saint in capital

About 10.000 people were cheering the arrival of the island's patron saint La Virgen de Guadalupe who was brought by boat procession from her little chapel at a remote beach in La Gomera's north-east to the island's capital San Sebastian de La Gomera for the Fiestas Lustrales which are celebrated every five years. The event was televised live on Canarian TV and covered by many other stations today. The fiesta continues...
Photo: Diario de Avisos

Light at the end of the tunnel ?

Government of the Canary Islands S&R helicopter in action
The following report was published by a few days ago and comes after some more positive news of unemployment figures slowly beginning to drop, demand for property picking up a little and visitor numbers showing an increase:
"The Canarian authorities have promised not to make any new cuts in the key areas of health, education and social services, despite the latest austerity measures announced by the national government for 2014 
Just days after Madrid announced details of the policy areas that will see budgets trimmed even further as of January, the Canarian government used yesterday's cabinet meeting to give public assurances that it will not follow suit, even though the amount of funding the region receives from Spain is likely to fall for the coming year. The promise was made by official spokesman Martín Marrero, who said that comments made by the Canaries' health minister 24 hours earlier about likely cuts had been "misinterpreted". "We intend to pull out all the stops to ensure health in particular does not suffer further, no matter what Madrid says we should do. We will show that there are other ways to tackle the crisis without simply making more cuts" explained Marrero."

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Some impressions from yesterday's events

Fiestas Lustrales in San Sebastian de La Gomera
Fiestas Lustrales in San Sebastian de La Gomera

Fiestas Lustrales in San Sebastian de La Gomera
Fiestas Lustrales in San Sebastian de La Gomera
Latin music session at Bar Maria, Valle Gran Rey

Rock Festival in Valle Gran Rey

Bar at the Festival
Rock Festival in Valle Gran Rey

Guest writers wanted

The Gomeran Gossip
To open up this blog and to make it more interesting I want to invite ALL those with an interest in La Gomera to write posts for publication here. Whether you're a resident or a visitor or whatever your connection with La Gomera is, your personal viewpoint is most welcome. It may be a one-off contribution or a series of posts. Photos and works of art are also welcome for showing-off here. You may write anonymously or under your own name and there won't be any limitations to your creativity.
A few years ago an English-language magazine 'The Gomeran Gossip' was published here, to which I contributed an article, but after a successful launch and the release of issue number one it sadly perished because the publisher went back to Britain after having been offered a job as a journalist with a newspaper there. Nobody else had the time nor the patience to continue the work and most of its former collaborators have moved on. Since then nothing much has been published on or about La Gomera in English while there is a substantial flow of publications in Spanish and in German. Let's remedy this situation and to help you'll please start writing soon - ANYTHING. If you're interested in seeing your work, or anything  you've encountered on the web, (re-)published on my blah,blah,blog, please contact me  with your email address through the comments option below this post. Don't worry, I will not publish these contact comments and I'll never show your e-mail address. Don't be shy ...and thousands of readers might appreciate your contribution. Let's Gomera !
...and if it doesn't work out just let this old KitKat TV commercial give you a break:

Thanks to La Gomera resident Alexius Jorgensen for allowing me to use his stunningly beautiful photographs. Here's one of them called 'The Power of Magica Gomera':

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Let's rock tonight !

Tonight at the football grounds in Valle Gran Rey (far western end): Five great bands for a fiver. Reasonably priced food and drink available on-site. Be there !