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Friday, December 08, 2017

Drought leads to water rationing in capital

Parched terraced farm land in La Gomera's north
The severe drought which is affecting the Canary Islands has now begun to affect the drinking water supply even on La Gomera, which normally has an abundant supply of spring water. Recently the council of the capital San Sebastian de La Gomera introduced emergency measures to ensure a sufficient supply to the taps of the town. Water in specific districts will be cut off in rotation at night from 11pm until 7am when supplies have fallen, in a measure to allow the supply to be maintained everywhere during the day. It is generally prohibited to use drinking water to wash cars, water gardens, etc. Public green areas will be irrigated with recycled and purified waste water. The town has already installed pressure-reducing valves in many locations to conserve water and is continuing to repair any leaking pipes.

Rainfall has been below average in the Canary Islands for four consecutive years now and the situation is grave, particularly for agriculture. In October and November of this year only 25% of the average amount of precipitation for this period fell in the Canaries. Crops have failed or couldn't be sown, fruit trees died and many irrigation-water reservoirs are completely empty. The low humidity, unseasonal heat and lack of rain have also led to a proliferation of pests and plant diseases. The beekeepers of La Gomera report that honey production is down to just 40% of normal because of the drought, and many wild bees are literally dying of hunger while beekeepers are having to feed their bees with sugared water.

Tourists and visitors hardly notice anything abnormal, except for the less green countryside, as the taps and showers still run. I don't want to sound alarmist, but I would appeal to all to please use La Gomera's water sparingly and help conserve what's left of the island's precious resource. Unlike the other Canary islands we don't have desalination plants to supply the tourism infrastructure on La Gomera, and even if some rain may fall soon it will take a lot of rain over a longer period of time to percolate deeply to feed the springs and to return the water deposits to normal levels.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Colourful pageant tonight plus concert and dancing

Tonight a spectacular pageant will be staged at 8 pm in the harbour of Vueltas in Valle Gran Rey re-enacting of the arrival of the medieval painting above many years ago.
According to local lore a foreign merchant brig or a pirate sailing ship (depending on the narrator) anchored in the the natural harbour of Valle Gran Rey and the sailors rowed ashore urgently looking for provisions and water, sometime in the middle of the last millennium. The area was very sparsely populated in those days, and the the locals were very poor but they made the sailors welcome and brought goats cheese, honey, water and more to provision the ship. They were promised the religious painting  above in return for the goods and a feast to celebrate the deal was held on the beach.
When the locals were asleep the sailors re-took the painting and tried to steal away, but the previously calm weather suddenly changed to continuously stormy weather that made it impossible for their ship to leave the bay. They eventually repented and  returned the painting to the locals, praying to be forgiven. Miraculously the weather immediately calmed again and they could continue their journey. 
The much venerated image has since been housed in the oldest church in Valle Gran Rey up in El Guro, and the valuable medieval painting is the focal point of the 'VII Bajada' fiesta which officially starts tomorrow (see: The Great Fiesta begins).
The pageant will be directly followed by a concert on the pier entitled 'Cabañuelas en La Gomera' featuring Pedro Manuel Afonso from Gran Canaria. After that there'll be salsa bands and dancing 'til late...well, early morning more likely.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Learn to leap

From tomorrow Dec. 7th 2017 the annual national gathering of the federation promoting the traditional Canarian shepherds leap (salto del pastor Canario) will take place in the municipal regions of Vallehermoso and Valle Gran Rey on La Gomera. There will be workshops and classes concerning this spectacular form of pole vaulting as well as other forms of culture and traditions in the Canary Islands. More than one hundred 'leapers' will be travelling cross country using the long poles. Here's how they do it...

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Three bands to play festival in Hermigua

Three bands from three islands will bring rock and contemporary world music to Hermigua this Wednesday,
Dec. 6th 2017, from 7pm. The event is free of charge and held in the open air in the upper part of Hermigua.

Monday, December 04, 2017

The great fiesta begins

...here in Valle Gran Rey on La Gomera with a special fiesta of our patron saint 'Nuestra Señora de Los Reyes' in earnest this weekend and will continue until the 7th of January 2018 ! 'Los Reyes' (Epiphany) is also the celebration of Christmas in the Canaries and X-mas presents are given on that day, Jan. 6th. 
This year It is the 'bajada' which is celebrated only every 5 years and means that the image and the statue of the saint is going to be taken from the church in El Guro to be processed through every hamlet and part of the parish and staying temporarily in many different churches and chapels. Some associated events like a torch run have already taken place in preparation for the month-long event.

The processions are noisy affairs with loud firecrackers being shot into the air along the route. A traditional dance is being performed by many worshippers during the processions, accompanied by 'chacaras y tambores', the former being 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 homemade goatskin drums with a muted snare sound.The percussion beats a steady, restrained rhythm that could put you almost into a trance.To all this the participants chant a repetitive song that has a distinctly North African feel and probably originates in pre-Christian times. So the processions go from place to place, stopping here and there for prayers, followed by shouts of 'VIVA...'
Ahead of the processions, and even ahead of the statue of the saint, the 'ramo' is being carried which is an artfully bound bouquet of fruit and vegetables of considerable weight, and even the fabrication of this offering is celebrated with music, food and drink by the volunteers and onlookers. 
Culture aside, the fiesta is a perfect occasion for just having a good time. The secular parts of the proceedings usually begin after mass and mostly start with Canarian folk music followed on stage by salsa and merengue bands  who play for the dancers and revellers until the early hours of the morning through professional (and loud) sound equipment, often even until the sun has risen. Stalls serve food and drink throughout the proceedings and young and old are having a party.
The main programme for the 'bajada' 2017/18 can be found here: VII Bajada

Sunday, December 03, 2017

A few welcome showers

Finally we had a couple of light showers in Valle Gran Rey, like the one in the image above which I took last night showing the precious drops of rain. There's a nice fresh smell in the air this morning. The coming week should be mostly sunny.

Friday, December 01, 2017

Large port and marina planned for Playa de Santiago

The existing harbour in La Gomera's southernmost town of Playa de Santiago will be dwarfed if the plans for a large extension of the pier and port will get funding. The plans have been around for quite some time but nothing has happened yet due to lack of financial support. Recently there have been renewed political efforts to have funds for project included in the 2018 budget of the Canarian government and to apply for some EU aid under the cohesion heading.
The project when first drawn up had a price tag of around 106.5 million Euros and will involve massive movement of rock and concrete, of which the municipal region of Alajero, in which Playa de Santiago is situated has more than plenty. The new port, if built, will provide berths for ships and ferries of up to 340 ft in length, a marina with berths for about 350 pleasure craft of various sizes, a dedicated comercial fishing section and ancillary works. 
If only they would finish the port of Valle Gran Rey, which badly needs a marina and has been awaiting the final 'phase two' for many years, first...
Below an impressive animated introduction to the ambitious plans for Playa de Santiago

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Cruise ship season in full swing

La Gomera is fast becoming a very popular cruise ship destination and this winter season more cruise ships are visiting the island than in previous years. It now regularly happens that two cruise ships are arriving in the harbour of San Sebastian de La Gomera, forcing one to anchor outside the port and having to bring guests ashore by ship's tender. This was the case yesterday when P&O's Aurora was occupying the cruise ship berth on the pier and the Ocean Majesty anchoring just outside the harbour's mouth in glorious weather.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Benchi Express ferry winter timetable

 Benchi Express passenger ferry in the port of San Sebastian de La Gomera
The new passenger ferry which connects the La Gomera ports of Valle Gran Rey, Playa de Santiago and San Sebastian de La Gomera on the so-called  interior line has now become more reliable with three return trips a day and a fixed winter schedule (see below). Sailings are mostly on time, weather permitting. The only gripe is that some sailing don't directly connect with ferries to Tenerife, but the new ferry must firstly serve commuters between the three towns. They do serve good coffee, though, and lots of tourists too are using the service for excursions and exploring and to start or finish loop walks.
The Benchi Express winter schedule

Monday, November 27, 2017

Back to blue skies and drought


The first image shows the sky in Valle Gran Rey at dusk last night and the second was taken this morning. The low which stayed west of the Canary Islands for several days causing alarm and threatened to bring a lot of rain and wind is now dissipating. There were lots of thunderstorms near the islands still last night, but only a few scattered moderate showers came down over the weekend, and the drought continues. The high pressure over North Africa won out and the dry air from it consumed and blocked the moisture-laden air that the Atlantic depression had steered our way. Locals here were not impressed, but some are now depressed as their crops suffer.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Disco floor collapse in Tenerife leaves 22 injured

The collapsed floor seen from below. Image: Tenerife fire brigade (bomberostenerife.com)
22 people were injured and treated in hospital when the floor of the Butterfly Disco Pub in the Playa de Las Americas area of Adeje on Tenerife collapsed at about 2:30 am this morning when the place was full of Saturday night revellers.
Among the  injured were locals as well as tourists from France, Belgium, Romania and a 59-year-old British man. Two were seriously hurt, but miraculously no one suffered life-threatening injuries when a 40 square foot section of the disco's concrete floor collapsed under the feet of customers and all fell into the basement below. Police and local authorities are investigating the cause of the incident.
The 40 ft hole from above.  Image: Tenerife fire brigade (bomberostenerife.com)

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Gloomy sky

The sky just before 8 am this morning. There was a lot of  lightning and some thunder in the early hours. See previous post.

...and this image was taken about 15 minutes later

Friday, November 24, 2017

Severe weather alerts Nov. 25th and 26th 2017

Latest water vapour satellite image.
A vigorous Atlantic depression of about 1000hPa has formed WNW of the Canary Islands and is slowly moving closer, while a large anticyclone is almost stationary over North Africa. The resulting southerly airstream is drawing subtropical and very humid air from near the Cape Verde Islands. Current models and predictions are for heavy showers and at times persistent precipitation to affect the western Canary Islands, including La Gomera, and for gale force southerly winds. Thunderstorms can also be expected as the very active cold fronts associated with the low pressure system clash with the warm subtropical air. The Spanish meteorological service has issued 'yellow' wind and rain warnings for La Gomera and even status 'orange' warnings for the islands of La Palma and El Hierro, all warnings valid from midnight tonight until Sunday night. (see 'Weather' on top sidebar, which I will try to keep updated regularly). An 'orange' rainfall warning for La Gomera has been added for the first half of Sunday, with amounts of up to 30 mm in one hour and 100 mm over the 12 hour period of this additional warning. A 'yellow' warning of thunderstorms for Saturday and Sunday over La Gomera was also just issued. For Tenerife 'yellow' warnings for wind have will be activated for Sat. and Sun. and a 'yellow' rainfall warning just for Sunday.
The whole situation is a bit difficult to predict as the high pressure over North Africa may
ultimately decide who gets what, if anything, in the Canaries. 
Alerta Maxima (click)
But you have been warned...
Rockfalls and landslides can be expected, especially with rain combined with strong winds after the prolonged drought. Roads may also be slippery when the dust dissolves during the first rainfalls. Be extremely cautious and avoid unnecessary journeys, walks, etc....
Update: The government of the Canary Islands has increased the alert level to the highest (Alerta Maxima) for rainfalls on the islands of El Hierro, La Palma, and La Gomera from midnight tonight until further notice. Emergency crews will be on standby and other measures, like the closure of the path from
Valle Gran Rey under the cliff to Argaga, have been taken.
+ UPDATE: Alert cancelation see 'Weather' on sidebar

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Severe drought

Percentage of available water: Less than 10% of La Gomera's average. (Muy seco = very dry)
We're entering the last week of November and the severe drought in the Canary Islands continues. Most water reservoirs and tanks are empty and agriculture is badly affected. Many farmers are desperately waiting for rain to be able to plant crops in the currently barren and parched fields. While the wells that supply drinking water on La Gomera still produce a good volume of water, even the soil in the forest of the national park is too dry for this time of the year. So please use water sparingly, even if it does rain as predicted this weekend (see 'Weather' on sidebar).

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Drive only the hours out !

Timetable at the bus station in San Sebastian de La Gomera. 'Horario Solo Salidas' normally translates as  'Departure Times Only', in case you're wondering.  At least they made the effort, though.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

You'll never row alone

To mark this year's Atlantic Challenge rowing race across the Atlantic which starts from La Gomera in about 22 days' time, an exhibition was opened in the harbour terminal of San Sebastian de La Gomera on Friday. The exhibition will feature works by various artists under the theme 'You'll never row alone - The interior journey II' and is open to the public in the upstairs lounge until January 8th 2018 and is well worth a visit.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Puppet theatre festival

An international puppet theatre festival is starting today in Valle Gran Rey at 4 pm on the Plaza San Pedro in La Playa, where there'll also be a craft fair. Various puppet performances and workshops for young an old will take place and tomorrow, Friday Nov. 17th 2017, the festival will continue in the Cultural Centre in La Calera  from 5 pm. All are welcome and all is free of charge.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Some Irish tunes in Valle Gran Rey

World music group Sarabande, who are on a visit to Valle Gran Rey at the moment, will give a final concert at Gomera Lounge in La Playa, tomorrow night, Thursday 16th Nov. 2017 at  8pm, before they return to Berlin. They do play a few Irish tunes as well as music from around the globe. They also pop up here and there for impromptu street performances (above). Below is a sample of how they sounded in the Gomera Lounge last week:

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Monday, November 13, 2017

Roadworks progressing

The widening of the twisty stretch of main road to Valle Gran Rey just before arriving at the first houses of Arure village after leaving the national park, which is had been very narrow and dangerous, is progressing well. The major roadworks are ahead of schedule and the new road section should be finished early next year. However, until then you can expect delays at times during working hours as heavy machinery is at work. If you wanted to avoid this road you could take the minor and even more twisty road through Las Hayas. More...

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Further growth for La Gomera's main port

Cruise ship 'Mein Schiff 4' with close to 2800 passengers in the port of San Sebastian de La Gomera yesterday
Latest statistics show further growth in both freight and passenger numbers passing through the port of La Gomera's capital San Sebastian de La Gomera. Freight handling has increased by 11,5% and passenger numbers were 6% more than during the same period last year. It is expected that more than 1,3 million passengers will have passed through the port by the end of 2017. What isn't clear from these figures is whether passengers travelling to and from the island of La Palma are counted or not. They do spend time in the port of La Gomera in large numbers and are included in the docking ferries' passenger numbers, but they don't disembark during the brief stopover.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Sensationalism: Accident forces hikers to WALK home tonight, possibly due to NO major minor earthquake !

Buses delayed by the accident having discharged hikers, forcing them to go home the last bit ON FOOT !

Scene of the ''sensational'' car crash a short time ago, which led to delays on the main road into Valle Gran Rey just a while ago. There were NO injuries, but the first car is a hired car whose occupants wanted to adhere to the rules of the hire contract before moving out of the way. ''Where's the cops when you need them'' was the local comment. What caused the accident is still under investigation, but I'm sure the Express.co.uk will blame it on the 'swarm' of extremely minor earthquakes on Tenerife soon, just to show how dangerous it is to live or holiday in the Canary Islands and quoting German scientist-cum-doomsayers again (we do get our fair share of them here, too). The printing presses may even erupt from a bullshit overload. The MEGA SENSATIONAL HEADLINE I'd propose: ''Shaken hikers forced to abandon buses  and walk home amid traffic chaos due to breaking, shaking earth - amid traffic chaos in Canaries. Officials in fluorescent vests barely coping while trying to control the fleeing masses' with my image above to prove it.  Anyway, it's all over now...

Thursday, November 09, 2017

New roundabout at Apartacaminos fit for UFOs

The new roundabout at Apartacaminos in La Gomera's national park, where the main road west (GM-2) from the islands capital ends and joins the GM-1 to Valle Gran Rey (left) and Vallehermoso (right). Gone is the old junction with the green traffic island and a new two-lane roundabout has been built. I would have preferred a one-lane roundabout with a green area in the middle, as was built in Pajaritos. Maybe the three road signs in the white traffic island are removable to create the perfect secret landing area for UFOs at night ? Some here swear they've seen them trying to land...

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

New surface on main road in national park

The new surface at Raso de la Bruma in the forest of Garajonay national park on the main road known as GM-2, which is the main connection between the east and the west of La Gomera.

Sunday, November 05, 2017

Chipi-chipi rainbow

Looking north...
Last night around sunset time there was this beautiful rainbow over Valle Gran Rey, caused by a bit of chipi-chipi, which is what a soft and light drizzle is called in La Gomera. Everyone here is talking about the severe drought this year and the chipi-chipi is most welcome, even though it barely wet the ground. However, at the weather station near the highest point in the mountains a more generous 6,8 mm of precipitation was recorded yesterday while the rest of La Gomera's official weather stations didn't record any rain.
...and looking south last night

Saturday, November 04, 2017

Valle Gran Rey harbour terminal open


The doors are open as is the Valle Gran Rey office of the Armas ferry  company
The interior of the terminal building in the port of Vueltas, where there are the first public toilet facilities in Valle Gran Rey. Work on the exterior landscaping and car parking has also just begun.  

Saturday, October 28, 2017

What time is it ?

Well, the answer is simple: It's that time of the year again, when clocks go mad and people like me get confused. The sun still rises and sets when it wants to, but somehow at a different time. Well, the recommended procedure for tonight's ritual is to put all your clocks and watches upside down very early this Sunday morning - so don't forget to set your alarm clock to ring at 3 am, by when it will weirdly be 'already' 2 am, to do this. To avoid complications and  repercussions make sure you don't leave any clock unturned before you go back to bed after hours of searching and upturning. Most importantly, don't even think about getting up at all on Sunday. Then from Monday on keep asking people ''What time is it now'' as if nothing had happened for about a week, just to help get the discussion going. After a further ten days of time-related discourse and debating this clock-up a general consensus should have been arrived at and the correct new time agreed upon. Your internal clock will have adjusted a bit to things like disrupted sleep patterns, confused meal times, etc., while your digestive system is still struggling. Now the time has come to turn your clocks and watches back the right way and set the new time - if they're still running that is. Should they have stopped you can just leave them there until March 25th 2018. If turned back at the right time then, they will miraculously show the correct time for about a minute twice every day until this time next year (or just once per day if it's a 24 hour system - still not bad, though).
Seriously though, how many more years will we have to go through this madness twice annually ? It costs more energy than it is supposed to save, that's for sure. An absurd measure that is running out of time, even if it is useful in providing a readily accepted excuse for turning up late for work, missing appointments, and so on. 

It was hot

Yesterday was another hot day during the current heat wave, producing yet another exhausted shirt. I recorded a top temperature of 33,3 ºC, but it should be a bit 'cooler' with the temperature in the high 20s ºC from today. La Gomera needs rain badly...

Friday, October 27, 2017

Update on the new ferry connections

So now that I've had the pleasure of travelling on the Armas car ferry to Valle Gran Rey, which took just over thirty minutes to get from San Sebastian de La Gomera to Valle Gran Rey, let me tell you that all here in VGR are delighted and the lorry drivers of the the regular delivery services are most happy that they now can have a cup of coffee aboard the ferry instead of driving for up to two hours through the mountains and the national park on narrow winding roads. The HSC Alboran has been refurbished in recent times and all services are of a high standard. The food and drink on offer aboard is of good quality and very competitively priced.
The passenger ferry Benchi Express, which so far has only been running two return sailings daily, has proven a success, too, and over 8.000 passengers have travelled on it in the first few weeks. About two thirds of this number have been locals and the remainder tourists. The Fred. Olsen company has announced that from next week the service which connects the ports of San Sebastian de La Gomera, Playa de Santiago and Valle Gran Rey will begin its winter schedule with three return sailings daily.
Cars bound for VGR boarding in San Seb. de L.G.
The high-speed car ferry Alboran which will connect San Sebastian de L.G. and V.G.R. with Los Cristianos on Tenerife is still in the initial phase of operation and schedules are only issued for the week ahead. Some adjustments have to be made to the docking ramp in San Seb. and some sailings involve changing from the vessel Volcan de Taburiente to the Alboran there, but soon all trips will be direct which will make this the fastest connection from Tenerife to Valle Gran Rey ever.
And now there's a 'well-informed' rumour that the Fred. Olsen company will also bring a high-speed car ferry to Valle Gran Rey. I'll keep you posted...

NOTE: Both ferry services are still frequently adjusting schedules and may experience some 'teething problems', so it is advisable to keep checking their websites before travelling. It is best to book your trip just before intending to travel, or at the port offices prior to departure - until the dust has settled.
HSC Alboran in San Sebastian de La Gomera