Friday, October 30, 2015

Mobile phone reception to improve soon

The relatively poor mobile phone coverage in several part of Valle Gran Rey is set to improve soon as the Canarian ports authority has finally issued a permit for the erection of a new mobile phone mast yesterday. The new equipment is to be installed in the outer harbour area of the port of Vueltas.
The controversial and sabotaged mast in La Calera is to be completely dismantled soon.

Vueltas port

Monday, October 26, 2015

Red bananas

Bananas (Dwarf Cavendish)growing in Valle Gran Rey, La Gomera's south-west
It is amazes me every winter when I'm here on La Gomera how many regular visitors and people, who like me have lived here for longer spells of time, I meet in one of the small local bars. Maybe not surprisingly there's also a strong connection with regulars from the southwest of Ireland where rural life is somewhat similar. Yesterday I met writer Damien Enright once again, a man who discovered La Gomera long before I did, and was reminded of the regular Monday column he writes for the Irish Examiner. As we can't get any Irish newspapers here on La Gomera, I am posting todays article by Damien below:

Tenerife farmers smitten by the lure of red bananas

Red bananas. Waiting in the south Tenerife port of Los Cristianos for the ferry to the smaller island of La Gomera, I read in a local newspaper that a Tenerife farmer had successfully grown red bananas and they would soon be cultivated in the Canaries.
Bananas don’t come only in yellow, and are not always the variety popular in banana splits.
Your correspondent knows a thing or two about bananas, having lived among them for long or short periods over three decades, and having once upon a time owned his very own banana plantation, with all of 27 plants in production.
I did not cultivate them himself; the produce of 27 plants wouldn’t have made the game worth the candle. Also, even then 30 years ago, the thought of hefting up 50kg ‘piñas’ (pineapple-shaped bunches) up 30m of terraces would make the deepest suntan pale. I donated the plot to neighbours; they worked it, and reaped the rewards. Meanwhile, I sat on the balcony of my renovated Canarian bothán, smoking a cheroot in a style suitable to a plantation owner.
Most of my knowledge of bananas comes second-hand, from evening-time conversations sitting on a stone wall with a complaining farmer, my neighbour and friend. He constantly found the prices too low, the government too greedy and the rains falling on the forests above the valley inadequate. He once conveyed to me the astounding fact that 1kg of bananas requires 400 litres of water to reach harvesting.
He is now retired. We mulled over the red banana idea together. Unquestionably, as they went through the various stages of green to yellow, to orange to vivid red, they would be eye-catching on the greengrocer’s display. Fried or roasted, rather than eaten ‘raw’, they also produce more ‘hijos’ (sons) from the fruit-bearing plant, thus stock multiplies more rapidly.
I’ve seen red banana chips in Cuba and Jamaica, sold in plastic bags at bus stops, and filling stations, and I’ve eaten them in Mexico. They were tasty but savoury, nothing like the sweet bananas we know. Perhaps red banana chips will become popular in Europe and compete with potato crisps in the pub. Plantains, like much bigger, green versions of the yellow, Canarian Cavendish banana are a major element in Caribbean and African diets.
The original Cavendish fruit was called for Sir William, the sixth duke of Devonshire. It was cultivated by his gardeners and dispersed to tropical regions in the 1850s. However, many authorities think bananas first reached the Canaries in the 15th century from Africa, having come there from Asia.
Thomas Fyffe, with headquarters in Dublin, started importing Canarian bananas to the British Isles in 1888. In a joint venture with Chiquita Bananas in 2014, Fyffes became the largest importer of bananas in the world; however, this union was terminated later that year.
Fyffes, an Irish company, is still very much in business, employing 5,000 workers worldwide. Canary Island bananas are famous for their intensity of flavour. Smaller than Latin American imports, they receive less water, and more sun. Like Canarian tomatoes, they are sweeter than those grown in equatorial regions or under glass. Now enjoying an exclusive brand name, ‘plátano de Canarias’, they are marketed as premium fruit. For the EU, the distance between plantation and market is shorter than from tropical producers. The carbon footprint is smaller, and the fruit retains a higher degree of moisture and a juicier flavour.
We have enjoyed our acclimatisation here; the weather has been like a continuation of our Irish non-summer, only warmer. The local people love it. “¡Muy fresco!” they say gleefully — with an inverted exclamation mark —while it rains buckets and the asphalt on the roads cracks and red earth is washed out, to look like blood veins when it dries. The weather suits us. The sun will come, whatever.
As a bonus, migrant birds are blown in by the storms — while the sand on the main valley beach is entirely swept away, exposing hard, rounded stones.
On a sheltered strand, where the small number of visitors gathered to grab snatches of sun, a migrant whimbrel descended, along with a common sandpiper. The whimbrel walked daintily between sunbathers, quite unafraid; I have never seen the like. At home, whimbrels always stay a safe distance out on the slob.
I could only surmise that it was this year’s bird, born on a remote Arctic moorland, and had never seen humans before. It was heading for Africa. The tail-end of Hurricane Joaquin had blown it in.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Finally some rain yesterday

Yesterday up to lunchtime it was mostly sunny, but then within a short time it began to rain moderately and the rain continued for more than two hours. The image below shows people still enjoying the beach when the rain started to come down the valley.
This morning in Valle Gran Rey the skies are blue and the sun is shining, but a warning for heavy showers is still in place. 
Yesterday's rain was moderate here, but other areas had heavy rain and the mountain village of Chipude on La Gomera recorded 30,4 mm. Some areas of Gran Canaria got even more again with Cuevas del Pinar accumulating 55mm yesterday. 
The outlook is for the weather to improve, with just the occasional scattered shower expected next week - see top of sidebar for up-to-date details

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Video of yesterday's heavy rain on Gran Canaria

While here on La Gomera the eastern half of the island had some good showers yesterday, here in Valle Gran Rey I'm still waiting for the rain. However, for today until 7pm we again have an 'orange' level rain alert, and from then until Sunday night a level 'yellow' one.
On Gran Canaria and on Tenerife some areas had torrential rain yesterday, and the town of Telde on Gran Canaria, where over 100mm of rain fell in a short time, even had to declare a state of emergency, but luckily no one was seriously hurt. See video below:

Friday, October 23, 2015

Waiting for the rain

Below a slideshow of images taken last night at around sunset (music by Can). We've only had a couple of very light showers in Valle Gran Rey so far, but elsewhere a lot more rain fell and present indications are that there's more to come. For all of the Canary Islands the 'orange' weather alert remains in place for today. A 'yellow' weather alert applies for tomorrow, Saturday. 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Severe weather alert: Heavy rain predicted

Schools and colleges have been closed for tomorrow, Friday 23rd of Oct. 2015, in view of adverse weather conditions. There is an orange level weather alert issued for La Gomera of very heavy showers and rain for tonight and all day tomorrow, Friday.  Foreboding image, taken earlier:
Very heavy rain approaching La Gomera

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Rapid cloud formation

Here's a sequence of four images, just taken within 45 minutes from 7pm, showing how quickly showers can develop during the current weather situation
Taken at 7pm: Cloud developing
Taken at 7:15 pm: A bit like a 'donut cloud'
Taken at 7:30pm : Note the plume on left
Taken at 7:45pm : Rain in the distance

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Giant lizard of La Gomera breeding success

In the eighties a completely new and rather large species of lizard was discoverd living quietly in the cliffs of La Merica mountain high above Valle Gran Rey. It caused quite s stir in the zoological world because the last reported sighting of the giant lizard Galliota Bravoana had been recorded almost one hundred years previously and the species was assumed to have become extinct. They can grow to more than three feet in lenght, the large specimens weighing more than ten pounds and live for more than fifty years. 
A breeding and study station was built in the La Playa area of Valle Gran Rey and the reptiles were bred successfully in captivity. Island reports:
'' La Gomera's ongoing efforts to restore the island's native lizard population take a major step forward in the coming months with a special training programme to ensure the survival of more than a hundred lizards when they are released into the wild. 
© Cabildo de La Gomera
La Gomera - 20.10.2015 - The lizards were born under the Cabildo's captive breeding scheme, which was launched several years ago to increase the numbers of the under-threat native population, and they are due to be released onto rocks in various parts of the island. However, before that they will undergo "training" which will see them learn to recognise predators, including sparrow hawks, and they will be kept away from all human contact for up to six months to force them to fend for themselves at the breeding programme's premises, where a replica of the conditions they will encounter in the wild has been created. Carers at the facility say that there are high hopes for the current generation of young lizards, which are due for release in the spring once they complete their preparation. La Gomera's large lizards were on the verge of extinction until the authorities stepped in with the recovery programme, which has become a model for other parts of the world.''

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Fishermen's bar reopened. Fish shop planned

The popular bar and restaurant right on the pier in the harbour of Vueltas in Valle Gran Rey had been closed for several months, but has now been refurbished and reopened a couple of days ago. The premises are owned by the local fishermen's coop and one of the conditions of the lease is that it must be open in the early hours of the morning to facilitate the fishermen.
The coop also has plans to open a proper fish shop in the old auction hall behind the bar as Valle Gran Rey hasn't got a fish shop despite the huge demand for fresh fish from both locals and visitors. To date to get fresh fish you have to be on the pier when boats come in and buy directly from the fishermen in the blazing sun. A fish shop on the pier would really make sense.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Trapped hikers rescued from rising flood

 Island reports the following, highlighting once more the dangers of engaging in outdoor activities in adverse weather conditions without local guidance:
The bad weather forecast for the western Canary Islands nearly had serious consequences for a group of tourists who had to be rescued from rushing waters in a popular hiking spot.
La Palma 16-10-15:
The four hikers were walking in the La Caldera de Taburiente area when they became stranded in the Angustias Ravine, in which heavy rain had caused a torrent of water to flow in a matter of minutes. An SOS sent to the emergency services saw a helicopter dispatched urgently to the site and the stranded quartet were airlifted to safety. All four were reported to be unhurt despite their ordeal. La Palma was one of the islands placed on a bad weather alert for strong winds and downpours during the day and throughout the night. Several roads in the Caldera de Taburiente area had to be closed due to the conditions. The Canarian government issued recommendations to the public to take extra care due to the danger of flying debris caused by the winds, which played havoc with flights in La Palma and Tenerife North.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Cruise ship season 2015-16 has begun

The huge 'Mein Schiff 4' in San Sebastian de La Gomera yesterday morning.
The 2.500 passengers were welcomed with Canarian folk music (on left)
This winter's cruise ship season began yesterday with the arrival of the TUI-owned 'Mein Schiff 4' in the port of San Sebastian de La Gomera. Many more will be calling over the next few months, among them the similarly large 'Thomson Majesty' and the sailing vessel 'Sea Cloud'. The former is also scheduled to berth in the harbour of Valle Gran Rey a few times this winter.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Have you seen this giant ?

This giant has been sitting there with his bag of  goodies for millennia, but won't get a lift ...
Image taken near Roque Agando, La Gomera, a couple of days ago ©

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Beautiful new road to nowhere and new town park

 The building project of channeling the last mile or so of the barranco, the mostly dry river bed, in Valle Gran Rey is now finally completed. The work began a few years ago amid massive protests and many changes were made to the original plans. A couple of years ago work stopped completely and the large building site was fenced off and left unfinished. Then eventually the diggers and trucks came back and now the dust has finally settled, leaving the lower barranco as a concrete and stone channel with associated site works such as car parking on a new road from the roundabout at the bridge in La Calera. A 'town park' has  been created and planted with trees and ornamental plants which will give shade in a few years. There is an area for dogs, two playgrounds for children of different age groups, a drinking water supply, exercise equipment for adults, benches, etc. Curiously the road itself leads nowhere and forces you to turn back at the bottom just within spitting distance of the beach. 
Eventually, once the badly eroded coastal road will have been fixed and upgraded it is hoped that the new road will be connected to that.
On the upstream side of the bridge the new channel has also been finished with new railings and a new footpath with some garden areas slightly below the main road through La Calera
A word of warning: Do not enter the barranco  channel itself as there is absolutely no way out anywhere further up.
Layout and map of the park
End of the new road just before the beach

Looking up from the bridge in La Calera

Part of town park

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Back on La Gomera with Irish rain

Image taken at 8:30am this morning
I am back on La Gomera once again and after a very rainy summer in Ireland this year I've brought a bit of rain with me to where it is badly needed.

I woke this morning to light rain and drizzle and it promises to be what we call 'a soft day' in Ireland. The next few days could bring a few more showers but overall rainfall amounts should be fairly small and it will remain warm. As I write the temperature is 22ºC and will certainly rise later when the promised sunny spells will develop. 

The present rain is due to the remnants of hurricane Joaquin which now form a post-tropical low of 992 hPa situated off the western coast of the Iberian peninsula, filling gradually.

By the way the sea temperature is around a balmy 25ºC, so if you get wet in the rain just go for a swim in the sea before you dry off.
Update: This photo was taken about an hour later than the one above and shows that the rain has stopped.