The policeman’s expression was the same as a rabbit caught in a car’s headlights. Standing at the centre of a crossroads where four single lane roads converged, he was faced with the prospect of trying to manoeuvre the four cars which had emerged from each road at exactly the same moment; it was impasse.
The driver in each car stared at the policeman, like band members waiting for their conductor to orchestrate their next move.
He turned full circle, seeking a possible solution, then shrugged and raised his arms, palms upwards; a gesture which spoke volumes, it said:
“What do you expect me to do about it?”
No, this wasn’t the amusing, but not unexpected, chaos which faced concert goers trying to get in to the Elton John gig in Costa Adeje (clearly not funny to those stuck in the queue as Reg started belting out his tunes), this was the approach to the small village of San Antonio, home to one of the ‘other’ big events that were taking place on the island last week, the Fiestas of San Antonio Abad, taking place on the slopes of La Matanza, however the principle was the same.
Tinerfeños love fiestas and generally organise them very well, it’s just the small matter of how you get to them and where you park when you do that’s left in the lap of the gods.
Thankfully we’d seen that movie many times and knew that when we spotted the first signs of people leaving their cars and setting off on foot, that it was time to do the same, even though we were still a couple of kilometres from the event.
We left the policemen to his logistics problem and wandered past private garages which had been turned into makeshift restaurants for the day with long trestle tables set with chequered tablecloths. There was no need for a menu; the aromas which mugged our nostrils told us everything we needed to know and by the time we reached the Ermita de San Antonio Abad, where the fiesta was taking place I was drooling like a hungry sheepdog.
Around the small church, paddocks, pens and stalls housed stocky hunting dogs, placid bronze coloured oxen built like the proverbial you-know-what, goats, sheep, mules, donkeys and horses. Caballeros in embroidered waistcoats rode their steeds through vertigo inducing streets. Old guys in felt homburgs, chewing on oversized puros (cigars) sat on walls shooting the breeze.
Although this fiesta wasn’t as big as the one in Buenavista del Norte, there were still a few thousand people and their animals packing the little streets of the small village. We ambled around the town avoiding the little ‘gifts’ left by the animals, passing a trio of girls pulling two dogs and a kid goat (poor wee thing, he was in for a right shock when the time came for him to change from family pet to family dinner – that’s the sort of thought that makes me consider reverting to vegetarianism), ferrets, guinea pigs, a couple of snakes and, clinging to one girl’s side like a 3-D tattoo, a three foot iguana with the most beautiful markings (though they only came in green).
After a couple of circuits, we squeezed ourselves into a space at the main refreshments stall where Desperate Dan-sized pans bubbled away with beefy stews (a bit insensitive I thought considering it was placed right next to the oxen stalls – that could have been somebody’s brother in there), and ordered a couple of cervezas and a plate of carne con papas (meat and potatoes).
Dipping my doorstop sized chunk of bread in the seasoned stew, I thought about the other ‘big event’ which had taken place last week on the opposite side of the island.
Having a legendary pop star play a gig on Tenerife is great for tourism, but for me, standing amongst those smiling, simple (in the nicest sense of the word) farmers and their animals on a hill, that was the real deal.