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Beaches and Swimming

We knew before leaving home that La Gomera was no place for swimming.
Not that you could not jump into the water, but a 400 m wide lonely beach,
just for the two of us, like the ones we found on
Fuerte Ventura and Lanzarote we would not find here...

The full length of the reachable coastline in Valle Gran Rey is just about 4 kilometers.
But, of course, also here we just had to go hunting for 'a lonely beach'
.

In the port, Vueltas, lies what is probably the most popular beach for families
and children of all ages, and for others who love sand and a lot of people
(and dogs?) around. Here the very tall pier covered for the large Atlantic waves,
but was still open enough to let fresh water in. Yes, it was a sandy beach, and you did
not suddenly disappear into deep water when you went out there,
so children were happy, and parents relaxed. But sure, those loving to swim,
could swim as far as they wanted, too. The beach was big enough for everybody.

And you could dive and look at fish, too. At least when waves were not too big
or the sea too rough . For then the water got mixed with sand. Fish? Oh, yes.
Small, colourful - and bigger, too.

A foreign woman (german?) went around offering some interesting tasty
samples, something hot baked-in vegetables (No, you don't need extra spice!)
and some other tasty things.

A sign told us that further out, around and below a terrifying tall mountain-wall -
normally they don't feel that tall, as you soon get pain in your neck looking
up at them all the time, so soon you don't see them any longer...

Outside this wall we found another two or three beaches of different accessibility,
but it looked to us as the meditation-centre out there, and its followers and
hippies, too, ruled the area - and also the waves were to big for us to enjoy it there.
So now there was only the northern part of the coast left.


The lagoon at sunset

North of the harbour, you first come to Puntilla, where you find the two bigger
hotels , Charco de Conde and Hotel Valle Gran Rey. Between those, you will find a
small lovely bay or lagoon, to use when tide is high. When we saw this place at first the
tide was low, and there was hardly any water in it. But the sun and sand made it
a perfect place for parents with babies and small kids.

10 days later: The day showed up with a fantastic view of large waves,
hammering on the cliffs. We assumed it to be high water, and we had a short tour
down here to watch the sea. At this time there was surely enough water in the lagoon.

We had to climb out the rocks on the left side, to have a better look at the huge waves,
shining bright and greenish in the sun. More waves rolled in, each more fantastic
than the other. So came one sized XL - extra large. "Look at that one", we said
to each other. "That one is certainly going to nearly hit us!". Well, it did.
And not just 'nearly'. So we went back home, and put on dry clothes.

By high water and quiet sea, this really is a fine beach for children. When some
days later we passed by, at highwater, the beach was crowded, and the lagoon full

of children bathing, and grown ups, too. Way out in the middle of the lagoon,
it was no deeper than it reached an adult about the height of his stomach. And the
barrier outside took off for the waves, and everything was just nice. At least here...

Further up the coastline, we passed an area full of pebbles and boulder, and the
waves came in bigger. So the longest beach, La Playa it is called. And as you can see
from the picture above, a very nice and sandy beach - at least at low water. At high
water the sea are about two metres, or some 6-7 feet higher, and touching the boulders
higher up. But according to locals that is normal at this time of the year. So the sea
takes all sand away into the ocean, and then at summer, it brings it all nicely back again.

In the far end, just before the white houses of the village La Playa, there was plenty
of space, and quite a few visitors. Perhaps because the pier also covers for the
higher waves here. And at sunset, the younger people, and others too, are gathering
here to watch the sun disappearing into the sea. Sometimes accompanied by local
drummers and musicians.

Both this beach, and the other popular beach at the harbour, were totally
without the famous beach-chairs, so popular in the larger tourist centres on
the other islands in the Canary group

But in our never-ending hunt for a lonely beach, we had to search further on.
Next stop was "Playa del Ingles", well behind the village of La Playa. That was the last
sandy beach. Nature here was different, with grass and bushes growing in the black sand.

Here the Atlantic waves run into the beach in their full height - 1-2-3-4 meters,
and a lot of persons were lining up in the water, waiting for them to roll in.
Some people jumped right through the waves, others got caught. Then nobody were
in the line any longer, and if there were just as many out there after the wave hit ,
as they were before, we just don't know... By the way, some of those people out here
apparantly had a bad childhood with no parents to teach them how to care
for their clothes. It seemed like this to us as they couldn't find them anywhere.
In fact, some of them even had lost their bathingsuits....

It was great fun following the coastline back again from Playa del Ingles, to the beach at La Playa, instead of walking
back the ordinary road. Here you had to climb, but at least we were not the only ones climbing. Lots of crabs, small
and big ones, the larger ones a good dinner, were all climbing high and low on the boulders and rocks, or they were
just sunbathing - or trying grasp the rocks when another wave hit.

Don't think they were used to people out here, as when we came too close, they did not just crab away, no, they
through themselves outside the rocks, and dissapeared somewhere below.

The waves showed a fantastic view. Huge emerald-green waves build up, and were
crowned with the cleanest white foam (scum?) you have ever seen, before they were
smashed on the cliffs.

Here you could have the pictures you just had dreamed of. However, a couple we met, also trying to save these sights
for ever, went a little bit to far out, but yes, they did survive -
but with no dry clothes. I am also quite sure they will pay a little more attention to the
Atlantic Ocean and its waves next time...

So we went on, hunting for our 'lonely beach'. Once again, northwards, passing
Playa del Ingles once more.

Now there was only an unknown coastline left. Playa del Ingles and its sandy beach now
were behind us, and huge boulders and big rocks that had come down from 'up there',
with the tall steep wall of the mountain of Merica, rising to 850 above sea level.
Somewhere with only a few yeards between the sea and the wall, sometimes less.

When at low water, it is absolutely no problem climbing out there. The waves come
faithfully rolling in, and where they meet huge boulder or large rocky stones, they give
a good show. When the beach widens out in between, and pebbles or sand is dominant,
the waves smashes a bit further out in the sea.

Some hundred meters (less than a mile?) further north, it is definitely stop.
From here on is what the spaniards call "Costa Risco". We would rather call it
unapproachable - or where the mountain comes right down into the sea...

But that was ok to us. Up here lavaflows and the sea once made a small basin, and with
every little wave, fresh water was brought into it. There we could sit, or even lye,
and have the sea cooling us down - at time i a bath full of foam (scum?). By clearing
up a little on the beach, and moving a few smaller rocks, we made ourselves a nice
and pretty place to sunbathe while waiting for the next time to have another bath.

While putting this down onto paper (a few days after our first visit here) we still do not
know how this place will be when tide is higher or lower, or when the waves cools
down (do they ever?) or when they are several meters higher? Just before Christmas
they measured waves up to 6-7 meters high down here on La Gomera.

Just a few days later, we found out more. We were on our way out about 11 AM, as the
sun does not reach 'our beach' till then. The sea looked quiet, and we were convinced
than low water was next to come, about noon. But El Mar de Atlantico did not agree to this. And for whatever
reason, that we had a full moon yesterday, or that high water and low
water did nott follow the usual timeschedule, so the waves started rolling in - the one
worse than the next - and our basin was somewhere way out in the waves.
So all we could do were to bathe in the sun only.

Suddenly, to our big surlprise, the waves came closer and closer, and we had to consider
twice of what we were up to. We then found it most wisely to return, before it would
become to difficult to pass where highwater nearly hit the mountain-wall on the way back.

WARNING!
Keep away from it all, when high water and low water and fullmoon and the Atlantic Ocean do not agree to cooperate!

After two or three huge waves, there always are some 4-5 smaller ones, and then we run.
Half way over the 10 meter low bit with boulder, a huge wave smashed into the wall behind us, and water was all
around us - first soam, the the water pressed us up the wall. We put our fingers right into the mountain.

The next wave, however, which obviously was not on schedule, was even larger,
and while trying to keep my position as best I could, I grabbed my glasses somewhere
round my stomach - my wife was brought 10-15 meters out into the ocean. I desperately
shouted "Come back!", and she did. Immideately. Riding on the third big wave.
Full speed back to the beach, and there she were grasping onto a big stone,
and managed to get her feet down again.

Later we sat down on 'the reght side' and had to dry absolutely everything we had,
except for her glasses, which the Atlantic Ocean kept. We dried our passports,
our camera, telescope, sacks, towels, bathingsuits, clothes and what else we brought.
(By the way, the customers did accept our passports when we came back home...)


Good advises:

1. Are you going to challenge the Atlantic, and use glasses, so bind them
to your neck before doing anything else.
2. Check if low-water and high-water are on schedule.
3. Check the difference in level of tie, followed by full moon or not.
4. Check if the waves of the Atlantic do agree to your plans.

Have a nice trip!

Later we found out what seemed to be the reason for what happened.
In the picture above, you can see a huge black stone in the background.
That's where 'our beach" is. During our fatal visit the other day, there were big boulders,
as in the back, ALL the way up to where this picture was taken.
Not as shown in the picture, a lot of pebbles, or small stones, in a big pile or heap.

The critical point is where the person stands, and the next ten meters in direction
towards the photographer. That part was a few days before consisting of the same
surface as behind, and at the same low level. Way below the small peblles shown
on this picture, there should still be the stone to which my wife was grasping herself,
while returning from the sea. That stone was about 2 meter tall, now it is totally unvisible, burried by pebbles -
which we know must have come at a late time - when La Gomera
was visited by the sandstorm from Sahara, sending in huge waves from southwest.

Those waves must have brought several tons of stone from a place further down the coast,
and put them down here, a layer at least 2 meters thick. If anyone told us before we had
seen this ourselves, we would never believed.

...Oh, forgot to tell - in the picture above, it is once more low tide...

See also our page with WAVES from La Gomera 2004!

Beaches

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