Friday, April 27, 2018

Fire-jumping fiesta

The picturesque town of Agulo in La Gomera's north will celebrate the highlight of the annual Fiesta de San Marcos', the spectacular fire-jumping event, tomorrow night Saturday 28th of April 2018 (see promotional video below). Following an old custom the fires are lit in honour of the town's patron saint San Marcos every year, and many of the town's population are rising to the challenge and jump over the bonfires. Visitors are welcome to join in and there's even a version with smaller fires for the children. If you're a bit older or just not as daring, you can wait until the fires have burnt down a bit and try the 'light' version. The organisers recommend to cover your hair and avoid wearing flammable synthetics. The bonfires will be lit following the procession and mass in the centre of Agulo.
After the spectacular fire-jumping, there'll be general merriment and dancing to live music all night, and and plenty of cold drinks to quench the thirst resulting from the bonfires. I can reveal that this year a Canadian film crew who are shooting a documentary about La Gomera intend to capture what must be La Gomera's most captivating and spectacular fiesta during its main event.

Friday, April 06, 2018

Angela Merkel in La Gomera for sixth time

Merkel in La Gomera 2016 (Image: Darias/La Opinion)
German chancellor Angela Merkel , often dubbed ''the most powerful woman on earth'', was spending her Easter holidays in La Gomera once again, together with her husband Joachim Sauer. This is the now the sixth time she is spending her private and supposedly secret spring holidays on the island amid tight security. She is known to enjoy walking and exploring La Gomera's national park and ancient forest. She's also said to be fond of a local specialty called potaje de berros which is a soup made with watercress. The German chancellor arrived by ferry in La Gomera on Good Friday for a week's peace and quiet. The above image was snapped by a local couple who spotted Merkel by chance when taking some shots of nature in La Gomera's national park with their mobile phone in 2016 during one of the German leader's previous visits. It is said to be the only photo that was published of any of her visits to La Gomera and appeared in the Canary Islands daily La Opinion. The German chancellor was staying at the island's largest hotel among many average tourists and is reported to have enjoyed a normal relaxing holiday without much special attention

Sunday, April 01, 2018

New hippie caves

The 14 new 'Hippie Caves' (left). Image taken about 5 weeks ago when landscaping work had begun
Tourism in La Gomera started with an influx of hippies in the 1960's, as it did in many other now gentrified tourism destinations in Europe like Nice and St.Tropez in France, West Cork in Ireland, Matala on Crete, Ibiza,  etc., etc., and in all those tourist resorts some hippies still come and go, but now form a minority. They are still a major tourist attraction and 'the main crowd' always followed the hippies who first discovered these scenic locations and the ordinary travellers are attracted by the hippies. There's also the phenomenon of the 'weekend hippies', who are well-off ordinary people having a bit of fun 'dropping out' at festivals and when on holidays and relaxing by acting and dressing like hippies, but generally paying with credit cards.
The hippie tradition in La Gomera's Valle Gran Rey has continued since the first American 'draught-dodging' hippies arrived when the Vietnam war started. However, the Spanish law enforcement agencies carried out 'cleansing' exercises and evicted hippies from their favourite places such as crevices between rocks at Playa del Ingles, the caves at Argaga beach (aka 'Bay of Pigs') and the caves between San Sebastian and Playa de Santiago about once a year. Only a few weeks ago another such campaign was carried out when hippie numbers had increased after the end of a 'Rainbow Festival' nearby. Many hippies' temporary homes were destroyed by the authorities and many of them left La Gomera or had to find more remote spots to hide from public view.
So what to do with the hippies without losing them altogether and what to do with the regular hippies that have been coming for many years ? A novel scheme now offers a solution. Artificial 'safe social caves' (cuevas seguras sociales) have been built in the vast open space in the outer harbour of Vueltas in Valle Gran Rey. They consist of simple cells with a shutter that when opened make the room appear like a proper cave, but can be closed during bad weather or to protect their occupants' belongings. 
The first 14 caves of this novel social housing scheme have been completed and the first batch will be allocated to hippies who have been legally resident in Valle Gran Rey for at least five years. They can apply to the local council and will just have to pay a monthly maintenance fee. Each of the fourteen modern caves can sleep up to four people just as uncomfortably as in a real cave, but WIFI and electricity for charging 'phones and laptops, etc., is provided, making it a luxury cave fit for the digital age. A communal barbecue area will be built in front of the caves and an elevated platform will be erected to the right hand side with sweeping views across the Atlantic. There the hippies can gather at sunset to dance and play their drums which they artfully make from local agave stems, a well established tradition here, predating even the 'bajadas' of the local patron saint. The platform will boast a fine view of the sunset all year round, which the current favourite  hippie gathering spot in La Playa only offers during the winter months. Tourists and 'weekend hippies' are invited to participate, but are expected to make a small donation. Unlike in a zoo, here you are allowed to feed the exhibits and food donations are readily accepted. However local authorities have stressed that they do not intend to charge tourists to enter the compound, which when landscaping has been completed will be very attractive and a welcoming green area. The resident hippies are expected to decorate and paint their 'caves' internally and externally and will be given free paint to express their creativity.
There will be an official opening ceremony with fire-eaters, jugglers and dancers, didgeridoos, flutes and other instruments including about 50 drummers, tonight April 1st 2018, from just before sunset. All are welcome, but don't forget to bring food and lots of drink. The first ten people who'll arrive barefoot and with a flower in their hair will get a free henna tattoo, I've been told. With a bit of luck Tony Reece's 'Cave Song' will also be sung around the campfire tonight: ''You've got to be brave to live in a cave...'' See video below:

Happy Easter

Image taken in the church 'San Juan Bautista' of Vallehermoso,  La Gomera's north-west