Thursday, November 26, 2015

Ferry connection viability to be studied

The director of the Canarian ferry company Naviera Armas, Antonio Armas Fernandez, has publicly stated recently that his company will study the economic viability of the so-called 'interior ferry line', connecting the ports of La Gomera's capital San Sebastian, Playa de Santiago and Valle Gran Rey. His company runs ten ferries, connecting all the Canary Islands  and also intends to run a ferry from Fuerteventura to Tarfaya in Morocco soon.The announcement came after his meeting with the Canarian minister for transport and other officials at which various other options for this route were also discussed.
The 'interior ferry line' ceased operations early 2012 despite having been declared an 'obligatory public service' by the Canarian government some years previously and the decision to subsidise resident's tickets further.
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.It is worth remembering that by taking the now sorely missed ferry  it 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 currently has to squeeze through the centre of the national park, and that Valle Gran Rey only has one access road which is very narrow in places and prone to rockfalls.
Let's hope that the outcome of the study will be positive, leadiing to a renewed connection between the southern ports of La Gomera.
Click for latest UPDATE

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Cruise ship delayed

The 'Thomson Majesty' during her last visit in Valle Gran Rey
The cruise ship 'Thomson Majesty' was due to dock in the port of Vueltas in Valle Gran Rey on La Gomera this morning at 8am, but due to the late arrival of boarding passengers in Santa Cruz de Tenerife. The ship with a maximum capacity of close to 2.000 passengers is now expected to dock at around midday. As I write the vessel is just leaving the southernmost tip of Tenerife on her way here.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Sunrise San Sebastian harbour

Sunrise over  the harbour of San Sebastian de La Gomera. Image taken Nov. 20th, 2015

Monday, November 23, 2015

Moby Dick

Original 'Moby Dick' poster
spotted on Gran Canaria in the
historic Hotel Madrid in Las Palmas
Very soon the new Ron Howard film 'In the Heart of the Sea' will be released worldwide. It will tell true story of the whaler Essex which was one of mainly two that helped inspire Herman Melville to write his fictional novel many years after the Essex tragedy. Melville himself (played by Ben Whishaw) will appear in the film In the Heart of the Sea. The Ron Howard film (see new posteraims to tell the true story of 1820 as told in the historical book by N. Philbrick about the whaler Essex and its crew's epic fight for survival after their ageing ship had been badly damaged by an enraged whale. It was the most talked-about tragedy at sea until the Titanic sank nearly 100 years later. However, it is true that scenes for the film Moby Dick directed by John Huston were shot on (and off) Madeira, as well as Youghal, Co.Cork, in Ireland and… in the Canary Islands on Gran Canaria, where I spotted this original poster (left) in the bar of the classic Hotel Madrid where the walls are  crammed with historic photos, documents and other memorabilia and where the film's actors were guests .
Now the Canaries were chosen once again for the outdoor scenes of the eagerly awaited 'In the Heart of the Sea', but this time the filming location was the island of La Gomera.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Bar Casa Maria still closed and for sale

For Sale: Casa Maria
Interested ? The numbers are: 659444653 (mobile)
and 922805955 (landline). Prefix for Spain: 0034
The landmark 'Casa Maria' bar and restaurant with rooms to let remains closed after Maria's death in April of this year. There had been rumours that it had been sold, but recently new 'Se Vende' (For Sale) signs appeared on the facade of the substantial building at the beach in La Playa in Valle Gran Rey, fondly called 'Playa Maria' in her honour by many.
The legendary meeting point also known as 'Bar Las Jornadas' always pulled in large crowds year after year since the 1960s when young Americans avoiding the Vietnam war, world-travellers, hippies, artists and intellectuals began to gather on La Gomera and met up to watch the sunset in Valle Gran Rey. It is hoped that Maria's large family who inherited her estate will soon agree on a plan of action that will lead to the reopening of this formerly thriving business one way or another, but some overdue refurbishment may cause further delays. Let's only hope they will keep the huge old wooden chilling cabinet that formed the centrepiece behind the bar, and that the nightly live music will return.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Large sailing cruise ship visits La Gomera

The 'Wind Surf' approaching San Sebastian de La Gomera
One of the largest sailing cruise ships in the world, the 'Wind Surf' owned and operated by Seattle based Windstar Cruises, visited San Sebastian de La Gomera yesterday. The impressive ship can carry up to 310 passengers in a total of 154 staterooms, including 31 ocean-view rooms and 122 deluxe ocean view staterooms, along with a crew of 214. 
The 5-masted cruise liner which was launched in 1989 in Le Havre, France,  made her maiden voyage in 1990 and is now registered in the Bahamas. The ship boasts bour diesel-electric engines and computer-operated sails with a sail plan of ca. 2,400 m2 (26,000 sq ft) in seven triangular Dacron self-furled sails on five masts which can produce a speed of 10–15 knots .
The American and international passengers really enjoyed their stay on La Gomera and I must say that in the exceptionally good weather yesterday La Gomera really impressed the visitors when they explored the island.
The 'Wind Surf' berthing in La Gomera

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Drowning on La Gomera's south coast

A  77-year-old Austrian named as Richard Liedolter and thought to be a tourist was swimming in the sea off Playa del Medio near Playa de Santiago on La Gomera's south coast at around mid-day last Saturday when he apparently to get into difficulty.  Other swimmers in the area came to his assistance and he was brought ashore but found to be unconscious. The ambulance was sent from the health centre in Playa de Santiago but the accompanying doctor's efforts to revive him proved unsuccessful and it was established that he had suffered a heart attack.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Latest images of scenic road landslide repair works

The bright dots are steel anchors driven into t
he rock for the stabilising measures above the road
The damaged road clinging to the side of the mountain precariously. The road is open even for buses between the hours of 7am and 7pm. every day. I passed through there yesterday and took these images. Click to read more about this... 
The beautiful El Rejo valley below the landslide

Beautiful sunset last night

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Ferry to Valle Gran Rey in the news again

The former 'Garajonay Expres' ferry in Valle Gran Rey
After years 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 there has been silence since the local elections this spring...
This week politicians of the Coalicion Canaria party in the Canarian parliament have been vociferous once again, demanding the reopening of the connection. Further, the mayor of Valle Gran Rey ,who is of the same party, with the unanimous support of the rest of the local council has made the issue a priority and has invited all the other local councils of La Gomera as well as the island's government to join forces and develop a strategy which would lead to a new ferry connection. 
Let's hope these renewed efforts are not just electioneering in view of the Spanish general elections on December 20th, 2015. Meanwhile the building of the new terminal building in the port of Valle Gran Rey is progressing as planned and it is hoped that this may further entice one of the commercial ferry companies to delivery a connection. After all they do get plenty of subsidies anyway.

The 'interior ferry line' ceased operations early 2012 despite having been declared an 'obligatory public service' by the Canarian government some years previously and the decision to subsidise resident's tickets.
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.It is worth remembering that by taking the now sorely missed ferry  it 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 currently has to squeeze through the centre of the national park, and that Valle Gran Rey only has one access road which is very narrow in places and prone to rockfalls.

Let's hope that 'mañana' something more tangible will emerge and not just politicians stating the obvious. Keep praying !

Friday, November 13, 2015

In the Heart of the Sea: Latest movie poster

The latest official  poster (above) for the film 'In The Heart Of The Sea', directed by Ron Howard and shot partially on location in La Gomera, has now been published by Warner Bros., and the film is due for release next month (click for details) worldwide. It's a very impressive and stunningly beautiful poster and having had the luck to work on the set as a picture double I just can't wait to watch the movie...
Below is the previous poster which shows a dramatic scene and is my personal favourite of the three that were published :

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Free concert tonight

German Lopez, the virtuoso timple player from Gran Canaria will give a free concert in the 'Auditorio Infanta Cristina' in Sebastian de La Gomera tonight at 8pm. The timple is a Canarian 5-stringed mini guitar and has a very pleasant sound. Lopez is a renowned exponent of the instrument and has ventured into many styles of music, including jazz and rock. He is also a composer and in tonight's concert he will introduce the audience to his latest CD called De Raiz, which features his own compositions. 
Don't miss this rare opportunity to hear one of the best instrumentalists in the Canary Islands.

Majesty back in Valle Gran Rey

Valle Gran Rey in La Gomera's southwest saw the arrival of the first cruise ship this winter season yesterday morning. Once again the 679ft 'Thomson Majesty'' paid a visit to the harbour of Vueltas with her mostly British passengers. The cruise liner with a maximum capacity of 1.970 passengers had been here before last year and yesterday docked at 7.30 am to the sound of Canarian folk music and El Silbo whistling, organised by the local administration to greet the passengers. A free shuttle bus was offered to visit the distinct parts of the lower Valle Gran Rey area and the music was moved around the different 'barrios' as well. 'Her Majesty' left again at 2pm, bound for Madeira with many souvenirs bought here aboard. Some shops even completely sold out their stocks of bottled water as it was a hot day. I met some Irish passengers who told me that their short visit here was a  great discovery and they now plan to return for a longer holiday on La Gomera.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015


The very top of the 'Roque de la Zarcita' , a volcanic cone or plug, which at 1234m height
(about 4000 ft) stands even taller than La Gomera's landmark 'Roque de Agando' just across the road.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Scenic road blocked by landslide now reopened

The reopened road,    Images above and below:
The scenic road past the El Rejo volcanic cone was closed for a few days after a larger landslide late November last year, then briefly reopened after debris had been cleared off the road. Then another landslide only a few days later forced the renewed closure and it had remained closed since, while work was being carried out to stabilise the mountainside. Due to the very steep incline  this proved very difficult as conventional methods such as strong mesh-wire and concrete walls could not be employed due to the unstable terrain and for environmental reasons. The same stretch of road had been blocked before by a huge rock in February 2014.
Yesterday afternoon it was announced that the road will be open to the public again from today, but initially only during the day from 7am to 7pm. Drive with caution as only one lane will be open at the spot where work is continuing and two men with walkie-talkies are regulating traffic. The island's government, which is responsible for the road, has asserted that the works are nearing completion and the road should be reopened fully soon.
The spectacular mountain road is popular with tourists and connects the main north road with the main west and south roads through the national park. For locals in the area the closure of this byroad had meant very long detours.
The extent of the landslide 

Monday, November 09, 2015

Island of El Hierro exemplary in renewable energy

Our smaller neighbouring island to the south, El Hierro, has become self-sufficient in electrical energy. The Spanish daily El Pais reports:
An aerial view of the Gorona del Viento wind-hydro plant. / DESIREE MARTIN (AFP)
In the coming decades the system will save El Hierro around €80 million that would have been spent on 6,000 tons of diesel each year
El Hierro, the smallest and most westerly of the Canary Islands, has become the first isolated territory in the world to meet all its energy needs using renewables. For four hours from 12 noon on Sunday August 9, the Gorona del Viento wind-hydro power station generated all the electricity for the tiny island of 10,000 inhabitants using clean energy – the culmination of a project that began 30 years ago.
“It’s amazing!” says Gonzalo Piernavieja, head of research, development and innovation at the Canaries Technological Institute, one of the entities taking part in the local council-led project, along with power company Endesa and the Canary Islands regional government.
The Gorona del Viento wind-hydro power station has been hooked up to five wind-powered generators that together are able to produce the 35 GW/h the island requires. In the coming decades the system will save El Hierro around €80 million that would have been spent on 6,000 tons of diesel each year, as well as reducing carbon emissions by around 20,000 tons annually.
The project, which has cost €82 million, has been hailed as a major achievement around the world. It represents the first time that wind and hydro power have been combined. Once the wind farm has generated enough energy to meet the island’s needs, the excess is fed into the power station’s pumps, which raise water from a reservoir located at sea level to a height of 700 meters. On days when the wind is not sufficient to provide the required energy, the hydraulic installation comes into play. The water is channeled back down to the lower reservoir, moving the turbines that produce the electricity needed for the island.
Around 80 percent of El Hierro’s energy is already produced via renewables, but that figure can rise to 100 percent for certain periods, sometimes of up to a week, says Piernavieja. “There are Pacific islands with fewer than 1,000 inhabitants, as well as some African communities, that have also been able to meet all their energy needs using renewables, but nothing compares to what we have achieved on El Hierro, both in terms of the number of people we are supplying, as well as the fact that our system is not connected to the outside world, and is housed entirely on the island.”
Belén Allende, the head of the local council on El Hierro, says she is proud of the achievement: “This is a day that will be remembered by the rest of the world.” She hopes that El Hierro’s know-how will be used by other islands. “There are around 17 million people living on islands in Europe, and 600 million across the planet,” she says, adding that the plan now is for El Hierro to become a kind of open-air laboratory for other environmental initiatives. Representatives from Japan, Taiwan and the Faroe Islands have recently visited El Hierro to look at how to adapt the technology to their own needs.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Quake of 3,7 close to El Hierro

07/11/2015 20:01:13UTC    27.6906 (Lat.) -18.0586 (Long.) 

There has been an earthquake of 3,7 magnitude with the epicentre at 14 kms depth just off the southwest coast (see above) of the island of El Hierro just after 8pm (UTC) last night. The quake was widely felt on El Hierro.
The seismic activity had become very quiet over the past year and a half after a relatively active period which began in July 2011 and culminated in the underwater eruption of a new volcanic vent which came close to the surface and several stronger tremors which caused landslides and forced the closure of the island's main road tunnel. Luckily there were no injuries and life returned to   normal. The total number of seismic tremors recorded there since July 2011 now stands at an impressive 22.000 !

06/11/2015 04:01:00 UTC
Lately there appears to be an increase in seismic activity around the Canary Islands and especially El Hierro again. Only two days ago there was an earth tremor between Tenerife and Gran Canaria, also of 3,7 magnitude on the Richter scale, which was felt in several locations on both islands and according to some press reports even in Vallehermoso on La Gomera. This one was at a depth of 30 kms and is in an area where slight tremors occur fairly regularly.
About a week before that a 3,1 quake occurred far off the southwest coast of El Hierro at the same depth.
All these quakes are minor, but they show that the magma beneath the Canary Islands never really rests and it lets us feel that from time to time. While the 'young' island of El Hierro is especially active, its much, much older sister La Gomera is volcanically long extinct and quiet.
UPDATE: The strength of the El Hierro tremor has been revised and is now set at 3,8. 
On Nov 10th there was quake of 3,1 recorded east of La Oliva on Fuerteventura.

Saturday, November 07, 2015

'Cheese bend' remodelled

The viewpoint at the 'Curva de Queso' ('cheese bend', because it is as round as a cheese) on the road into Valle Gran Rey has been remodelled and is now open to the public again. The works had started last year, then were halted just before termination and now the redesign has finally been finished. New is a semi-circular elevated viewing area with a steel structure at the back that resembles a spider's web, the purpose of which is not clear to me and it also now obstructs the view from the road. Before there was just a large car park. The views down to the upper and the lower valley are spectacular from there, but as far as design goes, much nicer is the existing viewpoint (= 'mirador' in Spanish) of 'El Palmarejo' aka 'Cesar Manrique'  about half a mile further up the road, which is a bit hidden from the road and also houses a restaurant, the latter however sadly closed at present. This complex offers breathtaking views and was designed by the famous architect Cesar Manrique, known for his art of tastefully integrating buildings into the local landscape.
One of many 'vistas' from the mirador designed by Manrique

Steel spiders web or giant cheese grater ?
View down to VGR
The 'cheese bend' as it was before
Upper VGR from 'curva de queso'

Monday, November 02, 2015

New and final trailer for In the Heart of the Sea movie

Above is the latest and final official trailer for the film 'In The Heart Of The Sea', directed by Ron Howard and shot partially on location in La GomeraIt was published by Warner Bros. only a couple of days ago. This one shows more action and drama and La Gomera can be seen twicw as a dramatic backdrop. Even the eastern side of the beach of Playa de Santiago appears in it.
The two hours and one minute long film, which stars Chris Hemsworth, Cillian Murphy and Brendan Gleeson, among many others, is due for release in December.
I'm really looking forward to finally see the movie, especially as I had the luck to have been working on the set as a double during the shooting of many scenes at sea just off La Gomera, now two years ago. 
According to IMDb (click for full listing) some of the release dates are as follows:

The 'Essex' off Playa de Santiago   ©AK
Australia       3 December 2015
Germany      3 December 2015
Italy              3 December 2015
Russia          3 December 2015
Slovenia       3 December 2015
Ukraine        3 December 2015
Estonia 4 December 2015
Lithuania 4 December 2015
Latvia 4 December 2015
Poland 4 December 2015
Romania 4 December 2015
Belgium 9 December 2015
France 9 December 2015
Argentina 10 December 2015
Austria 10 December 2015
Denmark 10 December 2015
Hungary 10 December 2015
Israel 10 December 2015
Netherlands10 December 2015
Portugal 10 December 2015
Thailand 10 December 2015
Turkey 11 December 2015
Taiwan 11 December 2015
USA        11 December 2015
Spain 25 December 2015
UK           25 December 2015
Ireland 25 December 2015
Norway 25 December 2015
Greece 31 December 2015
Sweden 6 January 2016

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Baby please don't throw...

I spotted this funny sign a few days a go in the toilet of a restaurant here.
Well, we wouldn't throw anything at the bathroom anyway, would we ? 
You often see similar signs in toilets here on La Gomera albeit mostly written in better English. So what do they want to tell us ?
The sewerage system in most places here on La Gomera (and generally in the Canary Islands) can't cope with paper and sanitary items and if these are thrown into the toilet bowl it can easily lead to blockages. The general rule is: If you can spot a bucket or other container beside or near the toilet bowl, then you should use that for the disposal of toilet paper, etc. , but don't just throw it AT it, throw it IN please.