With the pressure on our ‘schedule’ eased a little because of the rearranged election of the Carnaval Queen, we were able to enjoy Man U beating Blackburn and actually have time to eat some dinner, before slapping on the face paint and setting off on the trek into town at around 23.00.
For those who don’t know Tenerife, there are two Tenerife’s. There’s the one built predominately to cater for people looking for a sun and fun holiday and then there’s the rest of Tenerife; what we call the ‘Real Tenerife’. In the former, Carnaval is little more than a footnote which can pass by almost unnoticed. In the latter it’s the biggest event of the year and you might as well write off trying to do anything other than selling your soul to the gods of fun for a week. Even in Puerto de la Cruz, which is first and foremost a Canarian working town, the differences between these two Tenerife’s can be illustrated depending on which side of town you happen to be in.
The approach into town passes the La Paz area and Avenida Generalisimo where there are a clutch of hotels. On these streets nobody is wearing fancy dress, so Andy, kitted out as Cleopatra, and me as Willie Wallace (Braveheart) stood out like sore thumbs, attracting strange looks from visitors sitting at the bars and restaurants we passed. It’s only when you get near to the older part of town that you enter the magic kingdom that is Carnaval and the streets fill with belly dancers and vampires, so many batmen that the bat mobile would have to be traded in for a bat bus (but strangely no jokers), smurfs, sexy nurses, nuns with slits in their habits up to their armpits, cavemen, clowns, witches, zombie nurses, cowboys, Indians and assorted superheroes enjoying a well deserved night off. In this surreal land, it’s the ‘civilians’ which look out of place and we learned very early on that to be part of Carnaval, rather than to watch Carnaval requires simply throwing on some sort of fancy dress costume, even if it’s only a false wig, or a hat from one of the stalls surrounding Plaza del Charco.
By midnight, when we reached the plaza, it was filling up nicely with revellers in costume, but it was strangely silent. There was no live band, no pumping dance music from the stall in Calle Perdomo, just hordes of people in fancy dress milling about looking as though they were waiting for something to happen. The only music was provided by a gang of mime artists, all lads of about 16 – 17 years old, who were circuiting the plaza, stopping at anyone not in fancy dress to jump up and down and hum loudly something that sounded suspiciously like a riff from ‘I will Survive’. This is the things I love about Carnaval, the bits which are slightly trippy and surreal.
The lack of music was because the Gala involving the election of the Carnaval Queen was still taking place beside the harbour, so we wandered through a new addition, a ‘Dance’ tent (so in terms of dance area that makes it, the plaza for live music; Calle Perdomo for dance music, the square beside the harbour for dance music for teens and now a dance tent – isn’t it great?) to the main Carnaval stage where the Carnaval Queen was just being announced to the accompaniment of a barrage of fireworks. The judges chose well; this year’s Carnaval Queen, Elsa Eichner is a beautiful girl with a smile which would light up a dark room with no windows. (see our CARNAVAL PHOTO OF THE DAY)
The fireworks were also the sign for Carnaval to really let loose and no sooner had the explosion died down when the boom of the fireworks were replaced by thumping drums and a Latino dance beat which announced Carnaval 2009 was underway at last and the assorted trannies, monsters, angels and creatures of the night could begin their week long party.