Saturday, May 31, 2014

Shock news from Madrid on Canarian holiday

While the Canary Islands were celebrating and enjoying the bank holiday weekend of yesterday's Dia de Canarias, the Canarian show of national/regional pride within  a  Spanish state which 'conquista-ed' the archipelago about 500 years ago, there was the shock announcement of the Madrid Ministry for the Environment that they'll have no objections to dangerous oil exploration by the Spanish multi-national company REPSOL. This oil company is one of the very largest in the world and wants to drill for oil just less than 60 kms east off the Canary islands of Lanzarote and Fuerteventura. 
Yesterday's protest 'Canaries Say No' (Source: gomeratoday,com)
There has been massive protest by the Canarian people and their government against such oil drilling and prospecting which the Spanish Ministry for the Environment  now has supported - down to depths of  between 800 and 5.000 metres. Some of the area affected is just 40 miles east of the popular holiday islands of Lanzarote and Fuerteventura. There is massive opposition all over the Canaries against the now possible oil exploration. Further, Morrocco is exploring for oil just east of the area and has been warned-off by Canarian officials. The latest news of a 'carte-blanche' from the  Madrid ministry for the environment for a Spanish multinational oil company on the eve of the  Canaries' national' holiday has met with consternation and anger in the Canarian archipelago. The Canarian people fear that oil drilling will affect tourism, the environment could even further stifle investment in property. There were protests yesterday at the main festive act of the Dia de Canarias adressed the Canarian president and clashes with police  The Canary Islands keep stating that they have endless renewable energy to be developed yet, and neighbouring El Hierro will very soon be the  first island to be totally self-sufficient with 100% renewable energy.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Dia de Canarias: Live show in Valle Gran Rey tonight plus all-night dancing to three bands tomorrow night

Today is Dia de Canarias, the Canarian 'national' holiday when the inhabitants of the Canaries are allowed to proudly say ''Soy Canario'' (I'm Canarian) and celebrate their national identity under Spanish colonial rule.
A major spectacle and concert will be staged in Valle Gran Rey on La Gomera called 'En busca de Valentina' by a troupe of musicians and dancers from various islands in the Canarian archipelago under the heading  Mestesay y Taburiente. Local musicians and dancers from Valle Gran Rey and from the rest of La Gomera will also perform as part of the show, as will the traditional Chacaras y Tambores.
The show has been touring these islands for quite some time and the performances have earned the highest of praise from spectators and press. 
Tonight's performance will be staged open-air at Plaza San Pedro in La Playa, V.G.R., from about 9:00 pm and admission is free of charge.

The following night of Saturday 31st of May three salsa-pop bands will invite revellers to dance the night away at the same location until dawn, beginning from about 10 pm.
While it is a bit breezy here in Valle Gran Rey this morning, the sun is shining and it should be a pleasant but windy bank holiday. However it is a totally different picture up in the mountains where the wind is very strong and gusty accompanied by fog and outbreaks of drizzle. All festivities planned for Dia de Canarias in the mountain village of Chipude had to be cancelled after some of the decorations and parts of the stage were blown down early this morning. The events in V.G.R. and in other parts of La Gomera are to be staged as planned.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Pop-rock concert tonight

As part of the celebrations around Dia de Canarias, the Canarian 'national' holiday, the well-known Canarian five-piece band Ni 1 Pelo de Tonto will play in La Gomera's capital San Sebastian on the main square tonight Thursday at 10:30 pm.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Three companies 'interested' in providing new ferry

The former Garajonay Expres in the harbour of Valle Gran Rey
Months of rumours and fruitless waiting for the re-opening of  the ferry service between the ports of Valle Gran Rey, Playa de Santiago and San Sebastian on La Gomera and Los Cristianos on Tenerife have passed and then there was silence...
The 'interior ferry line' ceased operations over a year ago despite having been declared an 'obligatory public service' by the Canarian government some years previously.
Yesterday the Canarian government minister responsible for transport Domingo Berriel was quoted as saying that thanks to his government's agreed  increase in the subsidies for resident's tickets to 75% of the price on the connection between the three La Gomera ports, the ball was now in the ferry companies' court to make applications to provide the service. 
Berriel revealed that ''all the ferry companies'' had shown an interest in providing the service. In reality ''all'' can only mean three companies, i.e. Fred. Olsen Express, Naviera Armas and the former Garajonay Expres. 
He also stated that the further connection from any of the three Gomeran ports to Los Cristianos will be subsidised with 50% of the ticket price for passengers resident in the Canary Islands. He added that to renew or maintain the status of the line being an 'obligatory public service' was ''very complicated'' because the Spanish state maintained that there were alternatives to travel on land.
The ferry route had been operated by three different companies over the years and attracted 150.000 passengers per year on average before it ceased operating about 15 months ago. 
It is worth remembering that by the now sorely missed ferry service it just took just about 30 minutes to travel from Valle Gran Rey to the capital San Sebastian, while the public bus needs about 110 minutes to get there. The route by sea would also reduce the amount of traffic that has to pass through the centre of the national park now.
Let's hope that 'mañana' something more tangible will emerge and not just politicians stating the obvious, but 'mañana' could take a long time to arrive here, I fear.
Click for latest UPDATE
Olsen and Armas ferries in the port of San Sebastian de La Gomera. Olsen once ran a small ferry to V.G.R. called 'Benchi'

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Vehicles burnt in Valle Gran Rey

A van was completely gutted by fire and another vehicle badly damaged in the early hours of last Saturday morning. The incident happened in the La Calera area in a small private car park near the restaurant Sebastian. Neighbours alerted the local voluntary fire brigade who were quickly on the scene but couldn't prevent the van from burning out completely and this fire also damaged a Jeep parked beside the van. The fire brigade had to concentrate their efforts on preventing the fire spreading further to the second vehicle and to an adjoining patch of dry scrub. The cause of the fire is unknown and being investigated.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Did you vote yesterday ? EU election results as voted in Spain and on La Gomera - see below:

First the preliminary European election results for all of Spain as of now  with more than 99% of votes counted (escaños means seats in the EU parliament) Source: El Pais

ABSTENCIONES:1880886154.16 %
VOTOS NULOS:2901861.82 %
VOTOS EN BLANCO:3573342.29 %

PP16407425526.06 %
PSOE14359621423 %
PODEMOS512459347.97 %
UPYD410159806.5 %
CEU38506895.44 %
EPDD26290714.02 %
C'S24951123.16 %
LPD13245282.07 %
VOX02449251.56 %
PACMA01762351.12 %
EB01153030.73 %
MOVIMIENTO RED01051830.67 %
PARTIDO X01001140.64 %

The preliminary results of yesterday's EU election as voted on La Gomera with all votes counted (Source:
Total votantes7.01143,08%  
Votos nulos1732,47%
Votos en blanco741,08%

Porcentaje de votos

PARTIDO X230,33%
FE de las JONS60,08%

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Expats leave Spain in large numbers

The number of foreigners living in Spain keeps falling rapidly. Besides the  economic crisis, many returning to their countries of origin cite the new tax laws which oblige expats to declare all their assets (including property) at home worth over 50.000 Euros as a reason to leave. This law was introduced by the current Madrid government last year. The Local reports:

''The number of Brits living in Spain fell by over a fifth in 2013 as the exodus of Spain's foreign residents brought the country's total population down for the second year in a row, data released on Tuesday shows.

The number of UK citizens officially registered as living in crisis-hit Spain dropped nearly 90,000, or 22.8 percent in 2013, the preliminary figures from Spain's national statistics institute (INE) show.
The total number of Brits on Spain's town hall registers was 385,179 on January 1st 2013, but that population had plummeted to 297,229 a year later.
And while the actual number of UK citizens who make Spain their home could be much higher — the British Embassy in Madrid predicts as many as 800,000 Brits could live in Spain for all or part of the year — the new INE figures reflect a clear trend: foreigners are saying goodbye to Spain.
In fact the number of foreigners resident in Spain fell by 545,980 or nearly ten percent to hit 5,000,028 in 2013. For citizens of other European Union countries the slide was even steeper at 13.3 percent.
Germany was the only country to see a bigger drop than the UK, with the numbers of Germans registered as living in Spain coming down 23.6 percent to 138,917 people.French people also left, with that population down 12.7 percent to just over 100,000.
This decline in Spain's foreign population also saw the country's total population come down for the second year in a row.
While the total population of native Spaniards inched up by 141,361 people, the departure of foreigners saw the country's total population slide from 47,129,783 to 46,725,164.    
At the same time as Spain's expats head home, Spaniards are also leaving the country to look for work. Some 51,000 registered with the UK's national insurance scheme in 2013, making them the second largest group of arrivals after Poland.
Spain's unemployment rate is currently 26 percent, while youth unemployment is 55 percent.''

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Canary Islands seen from space at night

The Canary Islands seen from space by night. The population centres on Tenerife and Gran Canaria produce the most light pollution while La Gomera and El Hierro islands are fairly dark in comparison. Image:

Friday, May 23, 2014

Car racing and temporary road closures

Competitor in the last 'Subida Degollada Peraza' on
La Gomera in 2011.    Images: gomeraracing
A stretch of five kilometres of the main road GM-2 starting near the sewage treatment plant  of the capital San Sebastian in the direction of Playa de Santiago and Valle Gran Rey will be temporarily closed at times  tomorrow Saturday, May 24th 2014, from 8:30 am until  about lunchtime to allow motor racing during the ''III Subida Degollada Peraza''. These hill climb trials are part of the Canarian championships and 28 entrants will race their cars in 4 different categories. Spectators will be shuttled free of charge from the bus station in San Sebastian  by the Mesa bus company to the viewing stands  from 7 am.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Meteor shower to be seen tomorrow night

Observatories on La Palma island's highest peak Roque de los Muchachos at about 7500 ft.
Astronomers predict that a meteor shower which is expected to be seen in the sky in the early hours of Saturday morning will be the most spectacular for many years. Scientists who have been monitoring the comet 209P/Linear predict that a major meteor  shower could light up the pre-dawn sky in the early hours of Saturday, May 24th 2014, when debris from the comet will fire off perhaps hundreds of shooting stars. The comet was discovered in 2004 and orbits the sun once every five years. In 2012 it had a relatively close encounter with Jupiter and this resulted in the comet's path coming closer to earth. The meteor shower will probably be seen best from North America, but from many parts of Europe and especially from the Canary Islands it can also be observed.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

BBC filming in Canary Islands

The Local, Spain's news in English, reports:

Doctor Who crash-lands in Spain's Canary Islands

The 55-strong team spent four days in the easterly Canary island filming scenes for an episode which will star the new 'doctor', Peter Capaldi.
It’s the second time the classic BBC drama has chosen Lanzarote’s outer-space appearance as the ideal set for one of its episodes, the first time being in 1984.
According to local authorities, the crew set up shop near the island’s Timanfaya and Volcanes Natural Parks, home to numerous volcanoes and sprawling lava fields.
"The fact that the BBC has chosen to film here will be good for the reputation of the island and will create tourism," the Canary Islands source told Spain's El Mundo newspaper.
Doctor Who, which first aired in the UK in 1964, is known in some Spanish-speaking countries as Doctor Misterio.
Capaldi’s predecessor, Matt Smith, played Doctor Who in a 2012 episode filmed in a desert in Spain's southern Almería province.
Scene from 1984 Doctor Who episode 'Land of Fire', also filmed in Lanzarote:

Monday, May 19, 2014

Two forest fires on La Palma island

Image source: La Palma fire brigades via
Two forest fires which were just a short distance apart were fought in the El Paso region on the island of La Palma yesterday. There was concern that they may have been started deliberately because they were so close to each other. The first was put out relatively swiftly, though not before burning nearly 2000 square metres of trees and shrubs. The second broke out a few hours later and local officials admitted late last night that it looked worse even though firefighters managed to establish a perimeter around it before midnight and were optmistic that it would eventually burn itself out. With temperatures  falling in the area this morning, the emergency services have brought the blazes under control fully, although the smoke rising from the spot has given locals anxious moments,  and  a helicopter was sent to provide support from the air in the battle to quench the flames. One road leading to the area had been completely closed yesterday.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

New warning as plague of stinging jellyfish continues

The administration of Valle Gran Rey have re-issued their warning and have stated that coastal waters in the south-west continue to be infested with stinging/burning Portuguese Man o'Wars. See my previous report for further details and advice. Large numbers of the organisms have been sighted again and several swimmers were stung. The authorities are also appealing to the public to spread the word and caution tourists and visitors who may be unaware of the possible danger. They are stating that swimming is not advisable.
Due varying local and tidal conditions the danger is only present intermittently and swimmers should be extremely vigilant once in the sea as the P.M.o'W.'s tentacles underwater may not be spotted until it is too late. 
Portuguese Man o'Wars, called aguasvivas in Spanish (= living waters) can occur anywhere in the World's oceans and as they have no means of propulsion they are moved by currents and wind, etc., at times accumulating in great numbers in random areas. There are no safe areas anywhere in the global seas. Local fishermen say that this spring has been the worst for many years and normally you would not encounter them that much here.
Portuguese Man o' War (Image source. Ayuntamiento Valle Gran Rey)

Friday, May 16, 2014

La Gomera featured in Irish paper

La Gomera was featured in the travel section of the Galway City Tribune, an Irish local paper recently. The article was written by Bernie Ni Fhlatharta and is full of praise for La Gomera as a holiday destination, recommending it especially for those who like walking and who want to get away from the crowds. The title could have been inspired by the subtitle of this blog...
La Gomera says thank you, Bernie.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Minor earthquake just south of La Gomera

There was a minor earthquake of 1.9 on the Richter scale in the Atlantic about 25 kilometres off the south coast of La Gomera yesterday morning just after 2am local time (1am UTC).The event occurred in a depth of only one kilometre, and while this is a bit unusual minor quakes below the Atlantic seabed around the Canaries happen regularly and are considered normal.

The spectrogram of the seismic station on La Gomera for the time between 1-2 am UTC clearly shows the quake (left)

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Yesterday's protests well attended

The protests against oil exploration between the Canary islands and Morocco were well attended on all the islands yesterday. The largest protest was on Gran Canaria with over 5.000 people forming a chain. Here on La Gomera about 150 people joined hands against oil drilling and for renewable energies, first along the beach of the island's capital San Sebastian. Later on a huge circle was formed around the town's historic Torre del Conde, a symbol of the Spanish conquest of the Canaries:
Yesterday's human chain circle in protest against oil exploration (Image:

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Human chains against oil prospecting today

All over the Canary Islands human chains will be formed to protest against oil prospecting today. On La Gomera the event will take place at the town's beach from 12 noon today. The initiative will also stress the abundance of alternative energy available here and will demand a new sustainable clean energy model for the Canaries.

Coastal clean-up today

As part of the 'Let's clean up Europe' campaign and the European week for waste reduction the local citizens group 'Asociacion de Vecinos La Merica' in Valle Gran Rey is organising a clean-up and litter collection along the coastline. All volunteers are welcome to join and meet at the group's office in La Playa (near the tourist office) at 5 pm today.

Friday, May 09, 2014

New Spanish traffic laws from today

A rare stretch of straight road on La Gomera
On the grounds that ‘ignorance of the law is no excuse’, all drivers in Spain are advised immediately to familiarise themselves with the detail of the new traffic laws which are coming into effect on 9 May 2014 (Ley 6/2014 modificando la Ley sobre Tráfico, Circulación de Vehículos a Motor y Seguridad Vial 339/1990); a mere 21 pages!
Among the new provisions are the following:
  1. Speeding fines apply for exceeding the limit by just 1kph!
    On some motorways, the speed limit is being increased from 120kph to 130kph, but in many towns, the speed limit is being reduced from 30kph to 20kph.
  2. If the Guardia Civil observe a motoring offence and note the vehicle registration number, this provides sufficient evidence to prosecute- no need for them to stop vehicles.
  3. A minimum fine of 1,000 Euros will be payable by drivers caught driving whilst double the drink drive limit or above; or in all cases for re-offending drink drivers; and drivers under the influence of drugs.
  4. The Guardia Civil can seize any vehicle carrying children without legally compliant child seats.
  5. The very specific rules as to where children must sit in the vehicle (according to age/ height) must be observed, otherwise drivers face heavy fines.
  6. Cyclists under 16 years of age must wear helmets.
  7. Drivers have much higher duties to ensure the safety of cyclists of all ages.
  8. Speed camera/ radar detectors are prohibited.
  9. An EU Directive is to be implemented so that driving offences committed in one EU country are reported to the EU country of registration of the vehicle in question.
  10. Much stricter rules are being implemented for the Spanish registration of foreign registered vehicles kept in Spain.
The above is by no means exhaustive. As can be seen, the new rules are far reaching. Knowledge of the details and observation of the requirements in practice is of fundamental importance.
It is clear from the increased powers to prosecute and fine drivers, that the Spanish Authorities ‘mean business’ with these important legal changes. Please SHARE this with your friends and contacts who drive in Spain, to help them to be lawful (and to avoid fines!).
The above is reported by Queenie

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Forest fire suspect to stand trial reports:
A forest warden accused of starting Gran Canaria's biggest ever forest fire is to go on trial seven years after the blaze.
Gran Canaria - 08.05.2014 - Juan Antonio Navarro is to be tried by jury at the Criminal Court on the recommendation of the local court of instruction in Arucas. Navarro is accused of deliberately cusing the blaze in the summer of 2007 which destroyed 20000 hectares of woodland and saw the authorities evacuate nearly 5000 people from their homes on the island. The court has banned him from leaving Spain until the trial and ordered him to deposit a massive bond of 70 million euros within 24 hours or have his assets seized. Given that he worked as a warden at the time, the island's Cabildo is jointly liable for any damages award made if he is convicted. News of the trial has been welcomed as it sends a clear message on the eve of the summer season which invariably sees forest blazes affect the Canaries, many of them caused deliberately. 

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Cochineal and Prickly Pears

In the 1850s the export market for Palmeran wine collapsed, and somebody had the bright idea of going into cochineal production. Before the advent of synthetic dyes, this was far and away the best red dye available, particularly for wool. For one thing, it doesn’t fade.

Cochineal is made from a parasitic insect (Dactylopius coccus), which lives on prickly pears (tuneras), so the plants and insects were imported from Mexico. In this climate, prickly pears grow without needing any special attention. In fact they have a tendency to take over your garden if you don’t fight back. The insects thrive on neglect, too.Peasants collected the pale gray females, which were then dried and ground up to produce the dye. Although collecting the insects was labour intensive, soon it was the mainstay of the island’s economy. And then some rotten so-and-so invented synthetic alizarine dye, which was much cheaper. The bottom fell out of the cochineal market. There’s still a small market for cochineal, because it’s safe to use in food and cosmetics. And of course you can eat the prickly pears. They’re harvested using giant wooden tongs, and eaten with a knife and fork, to avoid the spines.
The above article is from Sheila Crosby's La Palma blog, but here on La Gomera the same story applies and there are still countless prickly pear plants all over La Gomera and a local company makes jam from the delicious sweet fruit.