Wednesday, November 28, 2018

San Borondon: The Mystery Canary Island

There's even a San Borondon brand of mineral water on sale in the Canary Islands which shows the shape
of the mysterious St. Brendan's island as it was described by many who've claimed to have seen it
As promised in my last post, today I'm introducing you to a myth that has been around for centuries. Saint Brendan's island or San Borondon in Spanish is described by IslandMomma below:
...'' We stood on the northern hillside of Tenerife, overlooking the Mar de Nubes, the famous Sea of Clouds, which often circles the island’s peaks. I pointed out the peaks of the island of La Palma, which drifted above clouds on the horizon, twin, purple,  mysterious humps .

“That reminds me,” my friend said. “The other day from the boat I saw an island, but I wasn’t sure which one it was,” and he described its position. I knew that there should be no island in the direction he indictated, but I also knew exactly what he had seen.
I drew a deep, sharp breath. “You saw the magic island of San Borondon,” I whispered. A tingle of excitement ran down my spine.
It took the Crown of Castille almost a hundred years to seize all of the Canary Islands, most of the 15th century, as the chain succumbed, island by island. The conquerors were aware that throughout history myths and legends had swirled around the archipelago. One maintained that the mountain peaks were all that remained of the lost city of Atlantis. Another claimed them to be the site of the fabled Garden of the Hesperides.
In a time when active volcanoes still struck fear into human hearts, Tenerife was claimed to be the last island to fall in 1496; but was it?
To this day rumors abound of another island, one never found by the Conquistadors, and never conquered by the Spanish crown. Never found because it has the magical power to become invisible, to shroud itself in mists so that we disbelieve what our eyes see, or not to be visible at all to the human eye.
My 1978 copy of the book
It is said that St Brendan of Clonfert, a 6th century Irish monk was the first person to set foot on this ghostly isle. St Brendan, or San Borondon in Spanish, himself a figure of legend, set sail with fellow monks in a simple vessel of the sort normally used for coastal fishing in those days, a vessel not designed for distant travel. It is claimed by some that the group even reached the shores of the Americas, recording the many wonders discovered along the way, from fire-breathing dragons to miraculous columns of crystal floating on the ocean. (It was a large version of a currach with a wooden frame covered with leather in which they set sail from Co. Kerry, and British explorer and historian Tim Severin sailed a replica across the Atlantic in 1977 - Ed.)
After days and days at sea with supplies run out, dehydrated, hungry and weary,  and praying for a safe port at which to land, they saw the mists before them parting, and an island of an emerald green to rival their own Ireland appeared. Thankful, they landed, and finding the island abundant in all the supplies they needed, from fresh sweet water to luscious fruit, they feasted, and then said mass in gratitude to their benevolent god.
It seems, however, that their god was not so generous as they hoped. In the midst of the ceremony the island began to shake and tremble, and fires began to spurt from its steep mountainsides. The monks ran for their flimsy vessel, and set sail once more, fearful as the island disappeared again into the ocean mists.
Another version of the legend tells that the island was actually a gigantic, dozing sea creature, whose awakening scared our adventurers, and others speak of rivers of fire or not-so-friendly natives attacking the landing party.
Although the truths of these legends can never be proven, their substance is clear, rivers of fire or fire breathing dragons could easily be ancient explanations of volcanoes, and crystal columns on the ocean, icebergs. Saint Brendan made it back to his homeland in time, and never returned to the island that now bears his name.
Whether or not there was an additional Canary Island has now been debated for centuries. Its position, if it existed, or exists, was somewhere west of the islands which now comprise the province of Santa Cruz de Tenerife – La Palma, La Gomera and El Hierro as well as Tenerife island itself. There are said to be reports of sailors or islanders who have actually set foot on it, but no definitive proof that it ever existed, despite explorations, notably one in the 18th century.
There are stories in Canarian folklore which reference this mythical island, stories which involved dragons and magic gardens, and lives untainted by man’s usual preoccupations.  To hear one of these stories told by a good storyteller is to be transported to another place and time, without the aid of moving pictures or even still ones, an expert teller of tales can make you believe in just about anything so long as you are willing.
It is, of course, possible that a volcanic island emerged from the ocean at some point, but that further volcanic activity destroyed it, causing it to sink back into the depths. Me, I prefer to suspend my disbelief and think that what my friends spied on the horizon that day was the missing island. ...''
One of many old maps showing San Borondon

Monday, November 26, 2018

A new tropical island in the Canary Islands...

...close to the south-western coast of La Gomera was discovered and pointed out to me by a friend yesterday. Several people immediately were taking photos of it and I rushed to get my camera. Strangely, the lush green island could only be seen from a certain angle and by looking away from the coast. However, it wasn't the rarely-seen mythical island of San Borondon (St. Brendan) as that looks completely different and is much larger. More about that in another post soon.
Well, it wasn't a mirage either, but an optical illusion created by reflections in several panes of glass in an open folding door of a local hostelry and if you look closely you can make out a tv aerial on the left (below).

Sunday, November 25, 2018

25N in La Gomera

"“Not until the half of our population represented by women and girls can live free from fear, violence and everyday insecurity, can we truly say we live in a fair and equal world." — UN Secretary-General António Guterres-
Above: Local recognition for the cause seen in La Calera, Valle Gran Rey. Same was seen all over the island.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Mushroom season

A very orange and odd-shaped form of beefsteak mushroom growing on a tree trunk
The mushroom season on La Gomera is not really dependent on the season of the year, but fungal growth happens whenever the conditions are right. Especially in the 10.000 acre Garajonay national park and the surrounding buffer zone of roughly equal size there's an abundance of mushrooms, fungi and toadstools of all kinds, including all the edible ones known in northern Europe. So, whenever there's good humidity and a moderately warm temperature it is worth visiting the national park and keeping an eye on the ground, as I did a few days ago when I snapped these images. Please keep in mind that you're not supposed to take anything from the national park in order to preserve it in its pristine condition.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Last chances to hear this..

...amazing duo of Tom Words featuring Strat 7rieder (sic) play in Valle Gran Rey this year as Tom is leaving the island soon again. Tonight, Friday 23rd Nov. 2018, they'll be playing in Monolo's intimate music and sports bar 'Teguerguenche' which is near the statue in La Puntilla and beside the wood-oven pizzeria Pinochio. So, get into Manolo's  from  around 8:30pm and enjoy some fine Blues, Rock, and Tom's own songs with a few drinks and snacks.
You can see them again at Ramiro's bus station bar near the bridge in La Calera on Sunday from 1 pm lunchtime with a spectacular view across the bay and there may even some surprise guest musicians apearing. Then there will be the usual Sunday afternoon open session/sing-song to follow from 3pm towards sunset...

Video of heavy rains and flooding in La Gomera

Yesterday's very heavy downpours caused flooding in the island's capital San Sebastian de La Gomera, as the above video by Gomera Today shows. As in most of the other Canary Islands a lot of rain fell in a relatively short time with which the drainage system couldn't cope, here leading to flooding of several business premises in the centre of the capital. The video also shows the many waterfalls in the valley above the town and roads turning into rivers. 
 Radar at 22:40 hrs last night
during the thunderstorm

Last night there was a spectacular thunderstorm which brought some more rain, but thankfully without further incidents. The AEMET weather station in San Sebastian de La Gomera yesterday recorded 26,4 mm of precipitation and most of that fell in the afternoon when most of Hermigua weather station's recorded total of about 45 mm fell as well. As all of the island got some rain, caution on the roads and hiking paths today and in the coming days is advised when the sun heats and expands drying material and debris that then may fall.

The forecast is for some further well scattered showers today gradually dying out, and for a ridge of high pressure to bring mostly sunny weather over the weekend.
Ominous looking sky yesterday afternoon seen from Valle Gran Rey, where most of the rain fell in the morning though.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

1000 posts now guest writers wanted

Just now I realised that today's previous post was in fact my 1000th on this blog. I never dreamt of reaching that figure when I started in 2012 not having a clue about blogging, just as a response to all the fake news during the devastating fire that summer. I realised that there wasn't anyone reporting in English from La Gomera and struggled to keep you informed. I learned a fair bit, but I still don't know all that much about blogging.
What kept me going over the years was the encouragement from the many readers I met in person, and the surprisingly high volume of interest in La Gomera's affairs from all over the world, but mainly from the UK, Ireland and the rest of Europe. Over 645.000 page-views on this blog by now, and well in excess of 10 million visits to the associated Google+ site which I started some years later, have convinced me to keep going, even though sometimes I don't write that regularly. Muchas gracias and thanks for visiting my blog, and don't be shy to comment. I am also now looking for guest writers, so please contact me through a comment on any newer post if you'd like to contribute, even if it is just a La Gomera holiday snap you' like to share - all copyrights will remain yours. 
End of 100th post this year💯💤

Showers today Nov. 22nd 2018

These two were caught by a heavy shower coming down the mountain this morning. She looks drenched
while he's closing the umbrella as the next sunny period starts. At least they had rain gear.
There will be scattered showers today and some may be heavy and even an odd thunderstorm can't be ruled out. Good sunny spells also, these best in the southern coastal regions. It will turn noticeably colder tonight, but daytime maxima should reach the low twenties in the south. The mainly northerly winds will remain mostly moderate, but fresher in mountain areas. Tomorrow morning some more showers are expected but they will become less frequent as the day progresses. The outlook for the weekend is for more settled weather as a ridge of high pressure is expected to build over the Canary Islands.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Replica of Columbus' ship in La Gomera

A fine replica of Christopher Columbus' flagship Nao Santa Maria with which he discovered the new world on his epic voyage in 1492 is visiting San Sebastian de La Gomera now. Columbus made a final and longer stop in the same La Gomera port before crossing the Atlantic in 1492. The replica was built by a foundation in southern Spain (Fundacion Nao Victoria) which builds replicas of legendary vessels and boats and then sails them along historic routes. The Santa Maria is now retracing the steps of Columbus and berthed in her final port of call before crossing the Atlantic to Puerto Rico. The 90 ft exact replica 200 ton sailing vessel is open to the public from 2-6 pm now and this weekend including Sunday, November 25th 2018, all day from 10 am to 6 pm. The boarding fee is just 4 Euros per adult or € 10 for a family of four.

Natural water bowl...

...formed by tree stump and roots with a young tree growing from it.  Spotted in La Gomera's Garajonay national park.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Warning: Rainy day(s)...

...ahead, and they're welcome by local farmers who're just after planting the first spuds and other crops for you to enjoy, and by those who want to have a shower here without feeling guilty. 
BUT there's a status 'yellow' warning of heavy showers and possibly persistent rain of up to 15 mm per hour for  Wednesday 21st of  November 2018 valid for La Gomera from 9 am 'til 9 pm. More showers, some possibly heavy, are forecast for Thursday. After Tuesdays perfect day for exploring the island (images on this blog soon), please don't be deceived and avoid the spectacular valleys, cliffs, and mountains.
Thankfully it won't be very windy, but the downside of that is that the latest cold front will have more time to 'linger' and discharge precipitation to leave locally persistent rain, if and when and where. Even the odd thunderstorms cannot be ruled out. The temperature is expected to go down a  bit from tomorrow in all areas, but more markedly so in the mountains. However, still feeling warm by northern European standards and up to the low twenties ºC in the southern coastal areas.
...and don't you dare blame me for catching a nice sunny spell on a southern beach and/or a heavy shower while there. You have been warned...
For all the western Canary Islands, including all of Tenerife a 'Yellow' rainfall warning applies for Wednesday and for La Palma island they've given a 'status orange' warning.  
Tonight there's a halo around the moon, and an ol' saying goes: Ring around the moon - rain coming soon.
UPDATE: La Gomera rain alert now valid from Wednesday 1 pm 'til midnight
Relative vorticity 500mb  for Friday 12:00h UTC. Stay tuned...

Monday, November 19, 2018

Video of large waves smashing into block of flats

Yesterday's heavy swell, which damaged some coastal properties on Tenerife and La Palma islands, was felt all over the Canary Islands. More than 100 people had to be evacuated from their dwellings in the northern coastal town of Garachico and near Tacoronte on Tenerife. In the south of Tenerife waves smashed into into the restaurant of a hotel in Adeje while guests were eating. The above video by 'Beats From Tenerife' shows large waves smash into a block of flats and tearing into balconies three floors up, leading to the evacuation of the lower floors. In La Gomera some stretches of coastal roads were closed to traffic but thankfully no incidents were reported.

Direct ferry between Tenerife and Valle Gran Rey

The Alcantara 2 in the port of Valle Gran Rey 
For some time now the ferry company Naviera Armas has covered the route between Los Cristianos on Tenerife and Valle Gran Rey on La Gomera. Different vessels were used and some days stopovers and even a change to another of their ferries in San Sebastian de La Gomera were involved making the the whole journey a bit cumbersome at times.

Presently the company offers a twice daily direct connection between the two ports in both directions with the fast catamaran ferry 'Alcantara 2'. The service is bookable with Canarian ferry operator Naviera Armas (see the Travel, etc., page of this blog), even though this ferry still sails in the colours of the ferry company Trasmediterranea. The explanation for this is that Naviera Armas bought 92,71% of Trasmediterranea which was owned by yet another company, Acciona. This € 260 million deal, which had to pass Spanish and European competition legislation, makes Armas now the largest passenger and freight ferry operator in Spain.

The Alcantara 2 previously served the connection to El Hierro island in 2013, that time chartered by Armas. The 240 ft vessel was built in Freemantle, Australia in 1995 with a top speed of 32 knots. It can accommodate over 500 passengers and 120 vehicles while offering the usual services such as a bar/cafeteria, a shop and a children's play area.

The journey between Los Cristianos and Valle Gran Rey according to the ferry schedule should only take an hour and a half, but that seems a bit over-optimistic as most of the sailings have taken about two hours. Please note that ALL ferry companies seem unable to achieve their ETA (estimated time of arrival) - the sailings usually take a fair bit longer.

Anyway, the service is most welcome and avoids the long haul by bus or car across the mountains and the whole island of La Gomera. The hope is that more delivery trucks will use this service instead of driving through the national park.
When you're planning your trip to the south-west of La Gomera, please note that the Naviera Armas schedule is only available 1-2 weeks ahead of the sailing and even if it hasn't changed much in recent weeks, this makes it difficult to plan ahead. However, there's no shortage of places on this service and it can be booked prior to sailing in Armas' port terminal offices where English is spoken.
UPDATE 23-11-18:
The above ferry service is now bookable well in advance, presently until the 10th of February 2019. As it is 'Black Friday' today, there's a 50% discount available on all bookings with Naviera Armas until a minute before midnight Sunday 25th of Nov. 2018. To avail of this discount you must tick-click the second box under the acceptance of their terms and conditions, which states in Spanish only that you wish to avail of their 'promocion Black Friday'. It is easily overlooked and the booking will proceed at the regular price if you don't tick the second box, but that extra click just gave me 50% off the fare for two.
+UPDATE Dec. 15th 2018: A faster vessel will operate this ferry route from today. Read more...

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Risk of showers continues

Valle Gran Rey during a shower this morning. Ten minutes later it cleared up again
Yesterday La Gomera received the first more substantial rainfalls of this winter season, as did most of the Canary Islands. I collected 11mm of precipitation, while the official weather station near the mountain village of Arure at about 3000ft above the coast of Valle Gran Rey got 30.4 mm. Most of that rain fell during the first half of the day and it brightened up during the afternoon. Down in the valley there was very little wind, but in the mountains it was a different picture where the station on La Gomera's second highest mountain, the Alto de Igualero, recorded a gust of 101 km/h.
The forecast for the next few days is for cloudy periods with some scattered showers, these most likely in the mornings in the mountains and the north, but all areas are at risk. There will be good sunny spells in the southern half of La Gomera at times. Winds should be mostly moderate, fresh in the mountains, mainly from NW. Temperatures will reach the low twenties in southern coastal areas in the afternoons, but will struggle to reach the low teens up in the mountains. The heavy 4-5m Atlantic swell will gradually decrease, but waves will still be up to 2m high on exposed coasts by Wednesday. 

Friday, November 16, 2018

A spell of windy and wet weather this Saturday

A cold front associated with a low pressure system to the north is approaching the Canary Islands and will affect us this Saturday Nov. 17th 2018. The western Canaries will be first affected and the eastern islands later. Mainly westerly winds will become strong and will gust to gale force on high ground, while rainfall amounts will vary, with some areas possibly receiving some heavier falls.
Anyway, not a day suitable for hiking in the mountains and not a day for the beach either (incl. Sunday - see previous post). Due to the expected adverse weather conditions the arts and crafts fair in La Playa (Valle Gran Rey) has been cancelled.
In La Gomera the weather should improve later Saturday  while Sunday and Monday should bring just a few well scattered light showers and longer sunny spells, best in the south. Maxima will be in the low to mid 20sºC in the southern coastal regions.

Rough seas this weekend

Warnings have been issued of a strong swell and high waves to affect the Canary Islands. For La Gomera a level yellow warning of waves of 4-5 metres begins on Saturday, Nov. 17th 2018, at 6pm and extends until early Monday morning. An additional level orange warning of waves of 5-6 metres is valid from 9pm Saturday until Sunday afternoon 3pm. The swell is coming from a north-westerly direction and it is advisable to stay away from exposed coasts. Please be aware that the rough seas may disrupt ferry schedules and cruise ship itineraries.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Some rain today

Due to a low pressure system near Madeira the remnants of the associated cold front will pass over the Canary Islands and should bring some welcome rain. Precipitation amounts will vary and some areas may not get much, if any, at all. La Gomera has become coudy this morning and some drops have fallen. Above image was taken a short while ago, looking south from Valle Gran Rey. It should clear to sunny intervals later today, but more substantial rainfall is forecast for Saturday and there's a warning of heavy seas for Saturday night with waves coming from NW reaching 4-5 metres in exposed areas.