Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Mobile phone blackout caused by 'bonfire'

St. John's  bonfires went out of control in Valle Gran Rey last night causing destruction
The council's recycling yard for organic material in flames, illuminating the whole mountain behind it
First the council's large recycling yard for dry organic material waiting to be shredded went up in a huge blaze (as happened midsummer several times in previous years) and the local  voluntary fire brigade had to attend to prevent the flames from spreading further. 

Mobile phone support equipment destroyed
The 'bonfire' at the mobile phone mast of Valle Gran Rey, La Gomera
Then just after midnight a bonfire at a place called Juan Rejon in the La Calera part of lower Valle Gran Rey apparently spread to metal sheds housing the electronic equipment for the lower valley's controversial mobile phone mast. Flames and a pall of thick black smoke emanated from the site which can only be accessed via steep paths and several sets of rocky stairs. By the time the fire brigade had arrived on the scene the mobile phones in lower Valle Gran Rey were without coverage and this morning it was evident that all the equipment was completely burnt down. 
Not much left of the equipment (behind red facade)
La Calera's controversial mast
before last night's fire
The council yard still burning 12 hours later
Neighbours in the area have been fighting for years for the relocation of the mast and associated equipment. They claim that the mast has caused a dramatic increase in disease rates around it and that it was erected illegally. The equipment had been sabotaged several times in previous years, leaving lower Valle Gran Rey without mobile phone reception for long periods of time. Mobile coverage went dead once again last night after a couple of years of reinstated service. I expect Valle Gran Rey to be without mobile cover for quite some time. The exact cause of last night's fire is still being investigated as arson is suspected.
N.B.: You can get a signal from the mast up in the mountains all along the centre of the floor of the valley. A good spot is the bus station.
Meanwhile the organic material in the council's recycling yard was still burning and smouldering at lunchtime while loud bangers were being fired into the sky to celebrate the fiesta of San Juan. Two fire brigade teams are still working to quench the flames and Canarian TV was seen filming.
Another unwanted 'bonfire' along an embankment half a mile further up the valley is under control but a unit of the fire brigade is needed  to extinguish remaining hot spots. 

Monday, June 23, 2014

St. John's night in Canary Islands

One of the bonfires with fireworks in Valle Gran Rey a few
years ago, where a 'fake house' was burned as a bonfire

If you see fires in the Canary Islands tonight, don't be alarmed - they're bonfires as it is St. John's night, or 'la noche de San Juan' in Spanish. As is the custom in Ireland, here in the Canaries bonfires are lit in honour of St. John. This custom even pre-dates Christian times as it also marks the longest days of the year.
Every district, townland and village lights their own fire(s) and there are competitions for the most spectacular fires. I've seen whole houses constructed from pallets, old doors, etc., complete with old furniture and straw-stuffed 'inhabitants' being burned on St.John's night. The people party around the fires with music, food and drink and often set off fireworks. The fires nowadays are strictly controlled and permits have to be applied for at the local town hall. The burning of tyres, plastics, and other hazardous material is prohibited and the fires have to be within certain safety guidelines. The fiesta de San Juan continues for several days in some parishes.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Beautiful old cave dwelling

This La Gomera cave dwelling with its natural canopy of rock is above the main road leading North from the capital.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Palm honey petition

''I like miel de palma'' logo
After the Madrid government and the EU finally closed the door on the name miel de palma (= palm honey) for La Gomera's concentrated sap of the palm tree, the islands producers of the delicious traditional delicacy and the islands government have started a campaign to maintain the name under which it has been known since time immemorial. As it stands, regulations may allow it to be called mieldepalma only in one word, but in reality a new name would have to be found when it is widely known only as 'miel de palma' or 'palm honey'. The campaign strives to obtain an exemption from the regulations or a change of the legislation to maintain the name. After all 'soya milk' isn't milk produced by soya-munching cows either. Please sign the government-sponsord petition and help save a very old tradition.
An outraged local producer of palm honey was quoted as saying: '' What next ? They will probably prohibit the word honeymoon !''
For further information on the production of palm honey and the controversy read: Palm Honey Problems
Canary Palm trees on La Gomera

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Lichens on rock

Lichens are widespread on La Gomera. Those above I spotted on a rock in the Garajonay national park. Many varieties of lichens found on trees and rocks here have become extinct in most of Europe because of pollution. They need an extremely healthy environment to thrive, especially clean air and a clean supply of moisture.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Petrol or Diesel ? No thank you !

Plenty of energy for free in the Canary Islands
There are several public charging points for electric cars all over La Gomera. The fairly new one below is about a mile west of Hermigua on the main road to Agulo. Here you can charge your car with a mix of solar and wind power. All we need now is affordable electric cars.
Wind and sun power this electric car charging-point

Monday, June 16, 2014


The Canary Islands chiffchaff (Phylloscopus Canariensis) is probably the most common bird in the archipelago and can be encountered almost anywhere. Chiffchaffs love to come out when it has rained or when the garden has been watered to wash themselves in the drops left on the leaves of trees and shrubs. These insect-eating warblers are called mosquiteros locally and do useful work picking bugs off fruit trees.

Canary Islands chiffchaff (Phylloscopus Canariensis)

Saturday, June 14, 2014

First oil explorations to last 100 days

The 'Rowan Renaissance' as seen by opponents (click)
The first two oil explorations in waters near the Canary Islands in an exploration area just about 40 miles east of the popular holiday resorts of Lanzarote and Fuerteventura have been allowed by the Madrid government for a duration of 45 days each and the rest of the time of a maximum total of 100 days will be needed for repositioning the rig. These facts came to light when the obligatory enviromental impact study was published a couple of weeks ago. This also revealed that depending on the outcome of the initial sampling further exploratory drilling will be allowed at another site nearby for 180 days as this will be in very deep waters. The vessel to be hired by Spanish oil giant REPSOL to carry out the drilling is called 'Rowan Renaissance'', an exploration vessel which recently had to abandon drilling off Namibia due to problems with ship's the blow-out preventer. 
There is strong opposition to oil drilling in the Canary Islands and 72% of the population are opposed to exploration leading to many thousands taking to the streets in protest recently. About 200.000 have already signed the main petition against oil, which is sponsored by nearly 50 organisations. Many individual celebrities, politicians, entire councils and the Canarian government are also opposed to oil drilling here and all are calling for a referendum on the issue, which the Madrid government insists they're not entitled to hold. The debate is heating up daily...

Friday, June 13, 2014

Big Game Fishing Competition this weekend

The annual game fishing competition is held in La Gomera's waters this weekend and more than 30 teams have entered their boats this year. They mostly hunt for white and blue marlin, tuna and swordfish off the southern and south-western coasts. The prestigious international event has seen record-breaking catches in previous years. All the fish caught is released back into sea alive after having been recorded. Only some tuna is landed at the cometition base port San Sebastian and donated to charities.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Fiesta time again in Valle Gran Rey

Click programme to view
This weekend it is the Fiesta San Antonio in Guada (upper Valle Gran Rey) on La Gomera at the church within the bend of the main road that wraps 180 degrees around it. Expect the usual mix of procession, entertainment and dancing all night to pop-salsa bands this Friday and Saturday. Food and drink will be available as usual.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Cars trapped on ferry last night

Image of the ferry and the assisting crane. Source:
The Armas ferry sailing from San Sebastian de La Gomera at 5pm yesterday docked on time in the port of Los Cristianos on Tenerife at 6pm. The roll-on roll-off ferry Volcan de Taburiente berthed bow-to at the port and when attempting to open the bow and the extendable car ramp that also serves as a second door in the bow interlocked with the half-open bow due to 'technical problems'. This left the cars and trucks aboard trapped on the vehicle decks  for more than five hours. 
A large mobile crane was bought to the scene which eventually managed to lift the heavy bow to free the mechanism, which allowed the vehicles inside to finally disembark more than five hours after docking. Passengers intending to travel on the return sailing to La Gomera at 7:30pm were left stranded in Los Cristianos.
The ferry company Naviera Armas now had to suspended all sailings of the ferry Volcan de Taburiente, but intends to provide a replacement service until the ship has been repaired.
The same ferry had damaged the ro-ro ramp in the port of Los Cristianos last week due to heavy weather, and in April a truck went on fire on its car deck resulting in another disruption of the schedule of sailings.

Monday, June 09, 2014

Coach on fire in national park last night

Images: (2 above)
and (1below)
A coach went on fire on the main road through the forest of La Gomera's Garajonay national park between 7 and 8 pm last night. The private bus was travelling in the direction of the island's capital. All passengers could leave the coach unharmed in time before the fire spread and they were taken to their destination by a replacement vehicle. The incident happened in a thickly forested area between La Laguna Grande and Pajaritos. Fire brigades had to  concentrate their efforts to prevent the fire from spreading to the dry vegetation on both sides of the road as some of it had caught fire already. The bus burnt out completely and the road was closed for a while with diversions in place. The latest news late last night was that the situation is completely under control and that the fire has been put out. A unit of the fire brigade remained on the scene of the incident to keep watch. The cause of the fire is not yet known.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Gorilla escape drill misfires on Tenerife. Overdressed?


The story below happened in Loro Parque on Tenerife last Wednesday and was widely reported in the international media. Here is how The Independent summarised it:
''A man dressed in a gorilla suit has been shot with a tranquiliser dart by a panicked vet who thought a real ape was on the loose in Tenerife.
The unlucky zoo attendant had been charged with dressing up as a gorilla for an escape drill and apparently played his part a little too well on Monday.
In an suspected communication failure, police were called to the Loro Parque theme park in Puerto de la Cruz to reports of an escaped gorilla.
The 35-year-old man was running around in the suit as part of the planned training exercise at the time and a confused vet reportedly shot him in the leg with enough sedative to knock out a 200kg animal.
According to La Opinion de Tenerife, the 35-year-old suffered an allergic reaction to the drug and was taken to hospital in a serious condition and given an antidote.
Health and safety authorities are investigating the accident and the tranquiliser gun and sedative have been confiscated by police...''
However, a few days later the zoo, trying to save face, denied the victim was dressed as a gorilla as the The Telegraph reported: 
''A Spanish zoo has denied that one of its keepers was wearing a gorilla suit when  mistakenly shot with a tranquilliser dart by veterinary staff. Authorities at the Loro Parque on the Canary Island of Tenerife insisted late on Thursday it was a simple accident that occurred during a routine emergency drill."A routine exercise to simulate the escape of a gorilla from its enclosure was carried out on Monday during which a zookeeper was accidentally hit by a tranquilliser dart that vets use in these instances," said the statement issued by the Canary Island zoo. "The zookeeper was immediately treated by emergency services and admitted for observation to the University Hospital, Tenerife."...''

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Anti-oil demonstrations on all Canary Islands tonight

Click to enlarge
Many organisations, trade unions, political parties, local authorities, artists and public figures have called on the public to support the demonstrations against planned oil exploration near the eastern islands and to demand a referendum on the issue. The peaceful demonstrations will take place on all islands including tiny La Graciosa tonight, Saturday June 7th, at 6pm. The demonstrations will call for a referendum on the issue and also for more support for tapping sustainable, renewable clean energy which the islands have in abundance. The mottos of the demonstrations tonight will be 'one single voice against prospecting' and 'Canaries Say No'. Recent opinion polls have shown that more than 70% of the Canarian population are opposed to oil exploration in the vicinity of these islands.
UPDATE Sunday June 8th, 2014:
There was a massive turnout last night and tens of thousands of people took to the streets. Members of the Canarian government such as the president and the vice president joined the protesters.There were secondary demonstrations in mainland Spain and as far away as New York and Berlin in support of the Canarian demand for a referendum on oil exploration. On small La Gomera it is estimated that up to 800 people took part. 

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Canary Islands to get firefighting plane this summer

A water-bomber in action 2012

A fire-fighting plane for the Canary Islands will be permanently stationed at La Gomera's small Playa de Santiago airport for the duration of the dry summer season. The airport is very quiet with only a couple of commuter flight to Tenerife and back daily. All the islands with important forests are reached very quickly from there and the forested national park of La Gomera which suffered a devastating fire in 2012 is close by. There is also an ample supply of water at the island's airport allowing a rapid response to any fire. The amphibious water-bomber is to be on stand-by there from the first of July until the end of October.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Major golf tournament starts on La Gomera today

The Fred. Olsen Challenge tees-off on Playa de Santiago's beautiful 18-hole Tecina golf course today and continues until Sunday. A total of 138 professional golfers from 21 countries have entered the tournament which is part of the European Challenge tour.
Source: Tecina Golf

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Delicious wine made from... bananas !

The Canary Islands produce many excellent wines and have a long tradition in exporting them to Ireland and Britain. Several streets in various towns and cities in the Canaries are named after Irish wine merchants who settled here to conduct their business many years ago. One of the main streets in the capital of La Palma is called Calle O'Daly and in Tenerife there's a Calle Jose Murphy named after the descendant of an Irish wine merchant who even went on to become an early mayor of the city of Santa Cruz.
Calle O'Daly
All the wines were and are made from grapes, naturally, but now a new white wine is being produced here from selected ripe Canarian bananas using the same method as with grapes. The quality of this blanco afrutado de platanos is surprisingly good and it tastes more like a semi-dry fruity white wine made from grapes. It is best served cold at between 6-8ºC, but when drank above that temperature the light taste of ripe tropical fruit will be slightly more pronounced, which will suit those who like a more fruity wine. The new wine is called Plate and it is rapidly making a name for itself after its recent launch on Tenerife. It should not be confused with the failed attempts by a German entrepreneur who tried to produce a sparkling banana 'champagne' here on La Gomera some years ago, but failed miserably and had to give up after most of his bottled stock exploded because the fermentation process didn't stop.

Plate is in a different class altogether and favourably compares with good white wines.  It is skilfully and professionally produced without any additives and definitely worth watching out for. In Valle Gran Rey on La Gomera you can sample and buy it exclusively in the shop and bodega called 'Vino Tinto'  down by the harbour. Recommended to drink here or to take home as souvenir.

Monday, June 02, 2014

King of Spain abdicates. Demonstrations planned all over Spain (+ in Dublin, Brussels, Berlin, London & Paris) by many organisations and parties at 8pm tonight to demand referendum for abolition of monarchy.

Spain‘s King Juan Carlos is abdicating after almost 40 years on the throne the country's  Prime Minister Rajoy said today in a surprise announcement.
“His majesty, King Juan Carlos, has just communicated to me his will to give up the throne,“ Mr Rajoy said. “I‘m convinced this is the best moment for change.“ Juan Carlos has lost public support in recent years due to corruption scandals and gaffes.
The 76-year-old king stepping down for personal reasons, Mr Rajoy said.
King Juan Carlos (Source: Wikipedia)
Spain does not have a precise law regulating abdication and succession. Mr Rajoy said his cabinet would meet very soon to set out the steps for Prince Felipe to take over as Felipe VI.
The country is just pulling out of a difficult and long recession that has seen faith in politicians, the royal family all and other institutions dwindle. The Catalan region is planning a referendum on becoming an independent Catalan Republic and there is great unrest in that region after the central government's statement that they will not accept such a referendum.
After the sudden abdiction announcement by the king, republicans and many other organisations today have called for massive demonstrations nationwide at 8pm to demand a national referendum to decide on the abolition of the monarchy and the introduction of a Spanish republic. Spain's authorities however maintain that they have not yet received any requests for permission to hold such demonstrations, while social networks and media are buzzing with further calls for demonstrations. Disruption and unrest may be expected at least in several regions, and all over Catalonia protesters have been rioting over the eviction from  occupied houses for several days now.
Sixty-two percent of the Spanish population were in favour of the king stepping down, according to a national poll held earlier this year, compared with 45 percent a year before. 
However, the support for the royals is even lower in  many regions such as Catalonia and here in the Canary Islands. When prince Felipe, the likely successor to J. Carlos, came to La Gomera in a show of solidarity after the devastating fire here a couple of years ago, only a few old ladies and a some children turned up to great him.
The following demonstrations had been planned (incl. in Berlin, Brussels and Paris)  by lunchtime and many more are to follow according to :
- Alicante. 20:00. Mercado Central.
- Almeria. 20:00. Puerta Purchena.
- Aranda de Duero (Burgos). 20:00. Plaza Mayor.
- Badajoz. 20:00 Delegación del Gobierno, Avenida de Huelva.
- Badalona. 20:00 Plaza de la Villa
- Barcelona. 20:00. Plaza Catalunya
- Berlin (Alemania). 20.00 Puerta de Brandenburgo
- Bilbao. 20:00. Plaza Arriaga.
- Bruselas (Bélgica). 20:00 la Bolsa
- Burgos. 20:00. Plaza del Cid.
- Cáceres. 20:00 Subdelegación del Gobierno.
- Cadiz. 20:00. Plaza Palilleros.
- Castellon. 20:00. Plaza Maria Agustina.
- Ciudad Real. 20:00. Plaza Mayor
- Córdoba. 20:00. Plaza de las Tendillas
- A Coruña. 20:00. Obelisco.
- Donostia/San Sebastián. 19:00. Bulevar.
- Elche (Alicante). 20:30. Plaça de Baix.
- Ferrol (A Coruña), 20:00. Praza de Armas
- Gandía (Valencia). 20:00. Plaça Major
- Gijón/Xixón (Asturias/Asturies). 20:00. Plaza del Ayuntamiento.
- Granada. 20:00. Plaza del Carmen.
- Huesca/Uesca, 20:00. Plaza de Navarra (o de Zaragoza. Es la misma)
- Jerez (Cadiz). 20:00. Plaza del Arenal.
- Leon. 20:00. Plaza Botines.
- Logroño (La Rioja). 20:00. Delegación del Gobierno (C/ Muro de Francisco de la Mata, 3).
- Madrid. 20:00. Puerta de Sol.
- Málaga. 20:00. Plaza de la Constitución.
- Oviedo/Uviéu. 20:00. Plaza de La Escandalera (frente a la Xunta Xeneral)
- Palencia. 20:00. Plaza Mayor.
- Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. 20:00. Parque de San Telmo.
- Pamplona 20:00. Plaza de las Merindades.
- Paris (Francia). 20:00. Pl. de la République
- Puerto del Rosario (Fuerteventura). 18.00. Puerto del Rosario.
- Salamanca. 20:00. Plaza Mayor.
- Santander. 20:00. Plaza Porticada.
- Santiago de Compostela (A Coruña). 20:00. Para do Toural.
- Sevilla. 20:00. Plaza Nueva.
- Soria 21:00. Plaza San Esteban
- Toledo. 20:00. Plaza Zocodover.
- Valencia. 20:00. Plaza del Ayuntamiento.
- Valladolid 20:00. Plaza Fuente Dorada
- Vigo. 20:00. Farola de Urzaiz.
- Zaragoza. 20:00. Plaza de España.

International Cities added later:

Bruselas (Bégica)
Berlín (Alemania)
Cluj-Napoca (Rumanía)
Dublín (Irlanda) (19.00 h at GPO
Edimburgo (Escocia)
Fráncfort (Alemania)
Gotemburgo (Suecia)
Helsinki (Finlandia)
Jerusalén (Israel) (21.00 h)
Leipzig (Alemania)
Lisboa (Portugal)
Londres (19.00 h) (Inglaterra)
Luxemburgo (Luxemburgo)
Marsella (Francia)
Metz (Francia) (19.30 h)
México DF (México)
Milán (Italia)
Montpellier (Francia) (19.00 h)
Múnich (Alemania)
Nantes (Francia)
Nueva York (Estados Unidos) (17.30 h) NEW YORK, USA
Porto (Portugal)
Padova (Italia)
París (Francia)
Praga (República Checha) (20.30 h)
Roma (Italia)
Stuttgart (Alemania)
Toulouse (Francia)
Viena (Austria) (Martes 3 de junio a las 20.00 h)

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Snapshots of some events around Dia de Canarias

Live show 'En busca de Valentina' in Valle Gran Rey:

Rally of vintage and classic cars stopping over in Vueltas, V.G.R.:

Short video of band 'Ni 1 Pelo de Tonto' rocking San Sebastian de La Gomera:

Ni 1 Pelo de Tonto aka N1P really got the  large crowd going and were enjoying themselves, too.