There are two days in the year that I could tell you what the weather is going to be like in Puerto de la Cruz way in advance. The first is Midsummer’s Eve (always cloudy) and the second is embarkation Tuesday.
For every year we’ve been here, the day that the Virgen del Carmen is taken on her annual sea cruise during the July fiestas has always been a sizzler. In fact a sizzler is an understatement.
It’s usually hallucination levels hot and yesterday was no exception. Ironically the hot weather alert had been lifted yesterday, but nobody told the sun which battered us with searing rays as we plunged into the madness a.k.a embarkation Tuesday during the July fiestas in Puerto de la Cruz.
The smart thing to do at the July fiestas is to travel light, wear as little as possible and cool down in the harbour water as often as possible – early on though; the water which is turquoise in the morning is dishwater brown by 5pm.
We’re suckers for good natured mayhem and embarkation Tuesday is a perfect example of this. It is wet, wild and frantic fun and to get a real feel of what the day is all about it’s essential to embark on a fiesta circuit – from the harbour to Plaza Charco to the water pistol killing fields of Calle Perdomo and then to the open air rave and then harbourside where people are thrown into the water with little disregard for what they are wearing (only the younger people luckily – one thing I’m glad I’m too old for). A loud thumping soundtrack accompanies the route with Latino changing to dance changing to traditional Canarian.
If you’ve ever been to India, it’s akin to the assault on the senses that you experience in cities such as Mumbai, except in Puerto you can add the sensation of touch as nobody, but nobody escapes the attention of the water pistol gunslingers (note: – they have to hang up their guns to use the public loos)
For eight hours Andy and I completed circuits to soak up literally everything that was happening and stopping off for refreshments (beer, beer and more beer) when the heat demanded it. Sit too long in one place at the fiesta and someone with a WPMD (water pistol of mass destruction) will notice that you’re too dry and rectify the situation, so street food taken on the move is the only way to eat. At various times, whilst we watched each other’s backs for water bandits we stopped for best pinchos I’ve tasted in Puerto served at one of the kiosks beside the harbour; pumped up the sugar levels with some fresh and crispy churros and carbed up with cheeseburger and chips.
By the time the Virgen del Carmen was due to make an appearance, the town resembled a battlefield and being in the heat for hours was taking its toll on some.
Every year by this time I’m so hot, sweaty and exhausted that I think ‘stuff it, I’ve got enough photos of the Virgen, I don’t have the energy to stand and battle with tiny Canarian grannies for a good position’. And then, just when she’s due, mas o menos (that means an hour beforehand) we spot a space with our name on it. From then on we re-enact our annual battle with Canarian families who magically grow in numbers magically seconds before the San Telmo and the Virgen appears and are bundled onto their waiting boats as the townspeople sing, clap and cheer with heartfelt emotion.
It’s an exhausting day, but it’s an experience which tells you all you need to know about the sense of community that exists in the traditional towns on Tenerife. It might be boisterous and loud and overwhelming (and not everyone’s scene), but it is compelling fun.