Friday, January 29, 2016

Big Buddha Finding New Buddies In La Gomera

The two ton  Buddha of La Gomera
What's a huge marble statue of Buddha weighing two tons doing  in the middle of nowhere in a remote part of La Gomera's northwest, you may wonder...
Well, the (true |) story goes that someone who bought a house in the area had befriended the Buddha in South East Asia, bought it  and had it shipped in a wooden crate from Singapore to La Gomera. All went well until the transport by road on La Gomera to the new owners home came to the end of the paved part of the road near Arguamul in the parish of Vallehermoso and got stuck, unable to continue along the track to the final destination due to the heavy load. They tried this and they moved that but the truck was stuck.
Finally the Buddha in his wooden crate was offloaded and deposited by the roadside with the transport documentation marked as 'delivered'. There the two tons of marble statue remained for quite some time while a solution to the transport problem was sought. Various options were pondered, even including the carving up of bulky Buddha into manageable chunks for further transport which would then be reassembled at the final destination.
However, eventually it was decided that the scenic location where fate had decided to deposit the statue was just as nice as any other and would have to do. Buddha was freed from his wooden cage and there he remains sitting smilingly as if he had chosen exactly this location himself.
He's finding more and more new buddies and some of them travel long distances to see the rare sight. Locals and visitors even drop offerings, mostly in the form of coins, into his left hand which The Big Buddha of Arguamul then duly passes on to the local church. Who knows, in a few decades' time he may even become another patron saint of Arguamul and get his own dedicated fiesta.
A visitor tickling the belly of The Buddha of Arguamul for luck  (Images courtesy of  R.N.)

Thursday, January 28, 2016

La Gomera carnival season 2016 begins

Carnival time in the Canary Islands has begun and this is a huge event that doesn't exactly keep to the traditional carnival timetable. It may go on well after Ash Wednesday, even getting close to Easter some years, as each community stages their own and wants participants from neighbouring towns. The main events are in Las Palmas on Gran Canaria and in Santa Cruz on Tenerife, the latter being the second-largest carnival in the world after Rio de Janeiro (see their 2016 programme)
The 2016 carnival season in La Gomera begins today in San Sebastian de La Gomera. Below is the programme of events in the island's capital and I will post information on the carnival in the remaining towns on La Gomera when available:

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Fire quickly extinguished

The remote mountain village of El Cedro.
A fire broke out in La Gomera's Garajonay national park yesterday at midday affecting 1100 sqm of palm trees, sweet chestnut, heather trees, laurel and brush near the village of El Cedro. Fire brigades as well as national park personnel and police rushed to the scene and the fire was under control about an hour  and a half later, but due to the very dry conditions this winter the area around the outbreak was hosed down as well as a precautionary measure.
The El Cedro valley is normally one of the wettest areas in La Gomera receiving a lot of rain, drizzle and fog, but this winter conditions there, and in the rest of the island, have been exceptionally dry and warm.

Injured walker rescued

A woman out walking had climbed the mountain of La Fortaleza near the town of Chipude in La Gomera where she suffered a broken limb after a fall yesterday lunchtime. As the 51 year old German national could not descend the steep part of the mountain the emergency services rescued her by helicopter and transferred her to the island's hospital in San Sebastian de La Gomera where she received treatment.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Vallehermoso's Roque Cano

The volcanic plug Roque Cano towering over the town of Vallehermoso in La Gomera's northwest

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Live music returning to Valle Gran Rey

Guitars are for playing - not shelving !
...nice idea, though, spotted in a bar in V.G.R.

There's been a notable and most welcome increase in small live music gigs all around Valle Gran Rrey on La Gomera lately. Some bars such as 'Ramiro's' at the bus station in La Calera, the Cacatua in Vueltas, Manolo's bar 'Teguerguenche' in La Puntilla and the Gomera Lounge in La Playa (they even invested in sound proofing) are hosting live music fairly regularly again and other bars and restaurants have followed suit. La Gomera's best and most eclectic live venue is once again the social club 'Casa La Familia' where they now hold concerts and spontaneous sessions as private parties, but all are welcome to attend and become members for the night. This cosmopolitan place is just off the main track towards the statue along the beach in La Playa, up a bit beside a rough looking builder's yard. Their facebook page usually lists the main events and highlights the bohemian atmosphere with a distinct 70's hippy touch. You never know what may happen there musically, and a few years ago I met a well known jazz musician from the US who joined an impromptu session in dusty Casa La Familia in his expensive suit and was very happy to have found live music in those days when it had almost died here due to the repressive interpretation of some regulations which made it almost impossible to play music.
Local musicians still find it hard though to get paying gigs and legendary music bar and meeting place Bar Maria is still closed and for sale. Also some bars and venues remain fearful of a sometimes over-enforced law and/or punctilious and jealous  neighbours.

The once very promising Valle Luna Festival is still not happening officially again this year, but many musicians and groups such as the 'Gomera Street Band' will descend into Valle Gran Rey in February again this year and will surely find spots and venues to treat us to their performances. 

Overall it appears that the situation has greatly improved but it still is not back to the times when the slogan for the island was 'La Gomera es Musica !'. It is time to take the dust off the 'Musicians Welcome' signs - after all it simply is good business and most tourists and visitors are forever asking for live music.
We're keeping our fingers crossed while enjoying a bit of music again...

I've newly included an Events tab in my menu bar above. This will direct you to a website listing some events on La Gomera. It is not a complete list of events here and i found it to contain some errors (e.g. location of bars, etc), but hopefully they will correct that and improve this welcome service. 

Friday, January 22, 2016

An immaculate Morris Minor

I spotted this Morris Minor 1000 in the harbour of San Sebastian de La Gomera recently. The left-hand drive example had the original old TF (Tenerife) registration plates and was in mint condition inside and out with some rare extras. There are lots of classic and vintage cars in the Canary Islands, where there seem to be a large number of enthusiastic and careful collectors and where many examples of old but well-kept cars can be seen in daily use. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

La Gomera one of Telegraph's greatest 20 destinations

Below the article in the Telegraph's travel section:

La Gomera: the Canary island that time forgot

''This small island was Columbus's last port of call before his voyage to the Americas. It is still a secluded beauty for winter sun travellers today 

La Gomera: getting to know the island is like peeling the layers from an onion.
La Gomera: getting to know the island is like peeling the layers from an onion.  
The jeep juddered to a halt on a dusty red mountain path 400 metres above sea level. With a foot to spare at the side of the track, I looked down as if into a kaleidoscope that had broken open. Below was an intensely green and fragmented world of giant palms, banana trees, huge ferns and mossy boulders blanketed by flowering vines. Beyond, the colour of mercury, the Atlantic Ocean seemed to stretch into infinity. A Cleopatra butterfly floated lazily by, its yellow wings tipped by tiny pink spots. 
It was early December. I was little more than half-a-day’s travel from wet-and-windy London, and just 50 minutes by ferry from the egg-box apartment resorts of southern Tenerife. But standing spellbound on the side of that mountain, on the lesser-known island of La Gomera, I felt light years away from the chaos and brashness associated with the Canary Islands’ more obvious tourist destinations. Bathed in sunshine and silence, with only sea, sky and nature for company, I could have been in a different century. 
The second-smallest of the seven Canary Islands - near-circular and with a diameter of only 25 kilometres - La Gomera feels like the island that time forgot... Read full article...

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Skywalk above Agulo now a major attraction

The Mirador de Abrante skywalk with associated building housing a bar and restaurant has become one of the major attractions in La Gomera's green north since it was opened to the public about one year ago. It is perched about 1000 feet above Agulo and offers sweeping views across the Atlantic (itself a further 500 feet below Agulo) with Tenerife and mount Teide (Spain's highest mountain) forming a spectacular backdrop. Agulo is said to be one of the most beautiful traditional Canarian villages, nestled picturesquely in the cliffs over the Atlantic. The viewpoint's car park, garden areas and the access road have been improved now and from a distance it appears so well integrated into the landscape that it is hard to spot. Today I'm posting some more recent images. How to find it and more...

Monday, January 18, 2016

Hope confirmed

Below I'm posting another article by Damien Enright which appeared in the Irish Examiner last June and which I had intended but forgotten to reproduce here. Having experienced the inferno in the summer of 2012 here myself it still still amazes me how resilient nature and humans can be:

''La Gomera’s lush green valleys have risen from the ashes

TO SEE green shoots rise from blackened branches in the vast swathes of forest destroyed by wildfires in La Gomera in the Canary Islands in August 2012 was at once a joy and a reassurance. 
Garajonay is a romantic place. It was there that my son and his 'novia', a lovely girl from Bedfordshire, made their marriage bond.
The fires had made world news. Doomsayers had predicted that 30% of the ancient woodland that had once blanketed the islands and the Mediterranean shores was gone forever. La Gomera, a World Heritage Site, was its last redoubt.
But our hopes in the resilience of nature were slowly coming to pass. The giant heathers and laurels that grow 15m tall in the cloud-forests of the central plateau had not been irrevocably damaged, even by the salt water which the fire-fighter planes had to use when supplies of fresh water were exhausted and villages were imperilled.
To our joy, treetop-high clumps of wispy heather and shining wax laurel here and there interrupted the view between us and the charnel-house hills, cemeteries not of bones but of skeletal trees, all the more poignant for the secondary growth of wildflowers beneath them and the China-blue sky above.
I’m not sure that the overseas wedding guests that joined us on an expedition to the National Park two days after my son’s La Gomera nuptials fully followed my excited babbling, so entranced were they with the pathways of light and shade, the lichened trees, the ferns, the flowers, the exotic butterflies, the silence and green beauty of the seventy per cent of woodland that remained in good health and heart, untouched by the fire, uncultivated by man, an ecology that is its unique own.
The roof of the island is a long- extinct, forested volcano called for a pair of legendary lovers, Gara and Jonay, pre-Spanish Guanche people, mountain Berbers from North Africa who settled the islands, leaving many legends but little history.
Garajonay is a romantic place. It was there that my son and his ‘novia’, a lovely girl from Bedfordshire, made their marriage bond.
That they should wed on the island, at a small, white chapel perched on a terrace on the slopes opposite the tiny hamlet which was always been our family’s Gomera home, was an inspired decision. The stone-laid paths the guests would walk to reach it passed beneath tall palm trees, past flower-laden walls, under mango and guava trees, past papayas and passion fruit shining in sunlight, to the 109 stone steps, which they, the guests, all tricked out in wedding finery, climbed with no difficulty at all.
The ceremony took place inside the chapel decked with flowers by the village women and celebrated by a shy but smiling priest just a little older than bride and groom. After the ceremony, the readings, the signings and witnessings — and the fine singing of ‘She Walks through the Fair’ by Kate Finn, accompanied on guitar by groomsman, Richard Milner, both of west Cork — the congregation trooped out into the sun, warm but not blinding at seven in the evening.
There, on the high terrace, Irish, English, Czech, German, Spanish and Gomero, we swanned about and drank bubbly cava under the shade of a spreading tree, or posed for photos against the backdrop of the hills, the sea, and the first hints of sunset spreading over the ocean where the valley opened below us to the west.
Needless to say, the women and girls were all stunningly beautiful in the sunlight, suntans and diaphanous dresses, and the men paragons of elegance, dressed for the day and the job.
I leant on the churchyard wall and looked down at the valley floor. How green it was, how fecund, fruit orchards and market gardens. And how glorious were the stately Canarian palms, their heads tousled by a light breeze, their leaves glistening in the sun.
Sad, had been the sight when we drove over the escarpment the year after the great fire, and looked down from 3,000ft onto a cemetery of scorched earth and black trunks, the landscape of a nuclear holocaust. Emblems of the Canary islands, pride of the Valle Gran Rey, they stood stripped and leafless, like tall, burnt gravestones marking where the fires had passed.
But last week, coming down into the valley after six months away, no such devastation greeted us. The valley seemed as it had always been.
Now, from the church, I noticed neat, chain-saw cut slices of palmera trunk on the valley floor. The dead had been downed, but so numerous were the survivors that the fallen were not missed.
If, after looking down on the valley for 34 years, I didn’t notice the absence, visitors surely wouldn’t. Valley Gran Rey had lost none of its magic; it is still one of the loveliest places I have ever been.''      Damien Enright

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Video of day of traditional music and dance

Above a video with scenes from yesterdays romeria, the day of folk music and dance in the capital San Sebastian de La Gomera's streets where the attendance broke all records and even some journalists from abroad were reporting the event.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Folk in the streets of San Sebastian de La Gomera

From noon today there will be folk music and a general party feeling
in the streets and in the main square of San Sebastian de La Gomera.
This colourful 'romeria' is held in honour of the town's patron saint.

The festivities in the capital will continue until January 24th, 2016.

New mobile mast for mobiles

A mobile mast for mobile 'phones
The van-mounted mast 

The currently very poor mobile 'phone reception in many parts of Valle Gran Rey, La Gomera, is set to improve substantially soon when a newly erected mobile mast will have been calibrated and switched on. The temporary unit supplied by Spanish multinational company Movistar was stationed and fenced off at the roundabout by the sea in the harbour village of Vueltas not far from where the final permanent mast is to be erected soon in the outer harbour from where it will reach as far as La Playa in the west.
Reception had been very poor after an initial total blackout in June 2014 when the ancillary infrastructure at the large mast in La Calera was sabotaged once again because of its strongly-felt radiation and damage was such that it could not be repaired. 

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Storm Alex now first hurricane of 2016

Enhanced satellite image (above) of of the first hurricane of 2016, named Alex and of category 1. Alex is also the first January hurricane since 1955 and the unusual location of its formation in the far eastern Atlantic near the Canary Islands and the Azores in relatively cool waters of 20-22ºC make this an exceptional weather event.
Alex’s unusual life as a January hurricane will be a short one. The system is already accelerating northward ahead of a strong upper-level trough, and by late Friday it should be a powerful post-tropical low racing toward Greenland. 
The rare storm was about 900 miles W-NW of the Canary Islands at the time of writing, but it will not affect us much at all. Only with a bit of luck we might get some rain, but hardly any wind at all. A very different and potentially very dangerous scenario for the Azores, though - see latest NHC bulletin below:

1100 AM AST THU JAN 14 2016
LOCATION...31.5N 28.4W
The Azores Meteorological Service has issued a Hurricane Warning
for the islands of Faial, Pico, Sao Jorge, Graciosa, and Terceira in
the central Azores, and a Tropical Storm Warning for the islands
of Sao Miguel and Santa Maria in the eastern Azores.
A Hurricane Warning is in effect for...
* Faial, Pico, Sao Jorge, Graciosa, and Terceira in the central
A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for...
* Sao Miguel and Santa Maria in the eastern Azores
For storm information specific to your area, please monitor
products issued by your national meteorological service.

At 1100 AM AST (1500 UTC), the center of Hurricane Alex was located
near latitude 31.5 North, longitude 28.4 West. Alex is moving toward
the north-northeast near 20 mph (31 km/h) and a turn toward the
north with an increase in forward speed is expected over the next
day or two.  On the forecast track, the center of Alex will move
near or over portions of the Azores Friday morning.
Maximum sustained winds are near 85 mph (140 km/h) with higher
gusts.  Little change in strength is forecast through Friday.
Hurricane force winds extend outward up to 25 miles (35 km) from the
center and tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 150 miles
(240 km).
The estimated minimum central pressure is 981 mb (28.97 inches).

WIND:  Tropical-storm-force winds are expected to begin over
portions of the Azores tonight.  Hurricane conditions are expected
to spread over the central Azores by early Friday.
Wind speeds atop and on the windward sides of hills and mountains
are often up to 30 percent stronger than the near-surface
winds indicated in this advisory, and in some elevated locations
could be even greater.

RAINFALL:  Alex is expected to produce total rain accumulations of
3 to 5 inches over the Azores through Friday, with possible
isolated maximum amounts of 7 inches.  These rains could produce
life-threatening flash floods and mud slides.

STORM SURGE:  A dangerous storm surge is expected to produce
significant coastal flooding near and to the east of the center of
Alex.  Near the coast, the surge will be accompanied by large and
destructive waves.

Subtropical storm Alex to miss Canary Islands

A rare subtropical storm has formed about 850 miles west of the Canary Islands and about the same distance south of the Azores. While the latter islands are likely to feel the full brunt of the storm to hurricane force winds and heavy rain later today and tomorrow, the Canary Island remain under the influence of dry air from North Africa and relatively high pressure. Locals here would have preferred if the system would bring some badly needed rain to the Canaries as the winter so far has been much too dry, but it now looks unlikely that the system will bring much precipitation, if any. Anyway, the good news is that the winds here will remain light to moderate.
UPDATE: Storm Alex now first hurricane of 2016
Here's an extract from the bulletin of the NHC in Florida:


LOCATION...30.1N 29.3W

At 500 AM AST (0900 UTC), the center of Subtropical Storm Alex was
located near latitude 30.1 North, longitude 29.3 West. The storm is
moving toward the north-northeast near 18 mph (30 km/h).  A turn
toward the north with an increase in forward speed is expected by
this afternoon.  On the forecast track, the center of Alex will move
through the central Azores late tonight or early Friday.

Maximum sustained winds have increased to near 70 mph (110 km/h)
with higher gusts.  Some fluctuations in strength are possible
during the next 48 hours. Alex is expected to move through the
Azores with storm-force winds Thursday night and Friday...
The forecast track of STS Alex

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Construction of terminal progressing

The construction of the new passenger terminal building in the port of Vueltas in Valle Gran Rey, La Gomera is making good progress. The terminal will cost nearly 400.000 Euros and should be finished by summer. I have been asked several times if the construction of this building would point to the reopening of the ferry line between Valle Gran Rey and San Sebastian de La Gomera (etc.), but sadly this is not the case. The terminal building is a separate entity even if it should facilitate passengers in case of a re-establishment of the ferry connection. There is still no news concerning the ferry line and personally I am a bit pessimistic about the prospects at this stage. 
The terminal is a step in the right direction, however, and it is also intended to make the now mostly empty exterior harbour more attractive to the increasingly popular cruise ship and yacht traffic. Visiting yachts have to pay the same harbour dues here as in other ports in the Canaries, but do not find the same facilities included.
In any case Vueltas and Valle Gran Rey will finally receive the first (and badly needed) public toilets. Below you can see what the finished project should look like:

Monday, January 11, 2016

Goliath and David

The 100.000 ton 2800 passenger cruise ship Mein Schiff 4 and the three-masted sail training barque Picton Castle in the harbour of San Sebastian de La Gomera on Saturday morning. The latter was leaving La Gomera for Dakar in Senegal after a longer stay in La Gomera while the brand new cruise ship was on her fortnightly 11hr call.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Minor brushfire rapidly put out

Fire brigade at work in Macayo yesterday (Image © gomeratoday)
A small fire in brush and undergrowth in the Macayo area of Vallehermoso in La Gomera's northwest was reported yesterday at 1:50pm and a unit of the fire brigade was dispatched to the location immediately. The fire was declared as completely extinguished at ten past four in the afternoon. The fire brigade praised the rapid intervention of locals living nearby who fought the fire until their arrival, resulting in very small a burnt area of only about 100 square metres.
This time of the year such fires are a rare occurrence and there had even been some fog and light drizzle in the area in the morning.

Saturday, January 09, 2016

Friday, January 08, 2016

Sailing by...

...the banana plantations of La Gomera's southwest last night was this Swedish yacht, the 130 ft long 'Alva', built in 1939 and of 286 gross tonnage. Today she's in the port of Vueltas.

Thursday, January 07, 2016

Three kings - three concerts

Casa La Familia is just a couple of hundred yards down the coast road (and then up a bit on left) from La Playa towards the statue in Valle Gran Rey . The last band on poster comes from Sweden.

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Main Christmas Presents and Fiesta Jan. 6th

Fiesta in Los Reyes, El Guro, Valle Gran Rey, La Gomera
In Spain and some Latin American countries,the 6th of January is called El Día de los Reyes (The Day of the Kings). It marks the day when the Three Kings or Magi, as related in the second chapter of the gospel of Matthew, arrived to worship and bring their gifts to the baby Jesus after following a star in the sky.  In Spanish tradition on January 6th (Epiphany) the kings  Melchior, Gaspar, and Balthazar (representing Arabia, the Orient, and Africa) arrived on horse, camel and elephant, bringing respectively gold, frankincense and myrrh to the baby Jesus. Children (and many adults) polish and leave their shoes ready for the Kings' presents before they go to bed on the eve of January 6. The next morning presents will appear under their shoes as the kings  take the role of Santa Claus here . Most towns in Spain arrange colorful parades representing the arrival of the Reyes Magos to town a day or two before, so children can see them on their camels or carriages and hand them letters listing their wishes.  Wine, snacks, fruit and milk are left for the Kings and their camels. In Spain, children typically receive presents on this day, rather than on Christmas, though this tradition has changed a bit in recent years, and children now receive presents on both days.
Ermita de Los Reyes in El Guro, Valle Gran Rey
The Ramo
V.alle Gran Rey's oldest church is in El Guro and dedicated to Los Reyes. Every year the Fiesta de Los Reyes in honour of them takes  place on the national holiday Jan. 6th when the 'Ramo' is made this morning at the cultural centre in La Calera. From there the procession to the chapel of Los Reyes starts at midday, led by the 'ramo' which is an artfully bound bouquet of fruit and vegetables of considerable weight. All is a noisy affair with loud firecrackers being shot into the air along the way. A traditional dance is being performed by many worshippers during the processions, accompanied by ancient chants and the 'chacarras y tambores'. The 'chacarras' are a locally made very large type of castanets, of which there is a 'male' and a 'female', the 'female' having a slightly higher pitch. The 'tambores' are Gomera's unique goat-skinned drums. After arrival there's a mass in the chapel in El Guro followed by folklore and several salsa bands and dancing until early morning.
Tomorrow, January 7th, is a local holiday in Valle Gran Rey and afternoon mass at 'Los Reyes'  will be followed by Canarian folklore and a party outside the chapel.
Finally, this year there will be additional activities and entertainment for children in La Playa's Plaza San Pedro in V.G.R. on Sat Jan. 9th from 5pm.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Carry a spare leg...

...and a spare wheel when you travel to La Gomera. German camper van with two unusual 'spares' spotted parked at a beach in La Gomera yesterday. But who knows,  maybe the hula hoop cut someone's leg off... ?

Monday, January 04, 2016

Magical forest

Images taken yesterday when out walking in La Gomera's magical forest in the Garajonay national park .