Last night I must have bumped into someone dressed as Sylvester Stallone, cos I feel as though I’ve been pummelled by Rocky Balboa for 15 rounds. Mind you, it isn’t all down to over indulgence at Carnaval’s opening party.
It was one of those days when everything seemed to be happening. A deadline for a regular walking feature was looming close and calima and high clouds on Tenerife for the last couple of weeks had ruled out the chance of any decent photos, until yesterday. So the day started with a three hour hike along an old merchant’s trail on the island’s northern coast. Trouble was Spanish TV was screening the Tottenham v Man Utd game, so we had to hot foot it home for that; the sweat barely had time to dry under the rucksack straps.
Man Utd had hardly managed their last gasp escape when it was time for an early dinner of Mediterranean pitta pockets (a semi home made concoction of flat breads filled with mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, red onion, sweet pepper, fresh basil and oregano which is lightly fried in olive oil). Delicious and quick; essential given that Carnaval’s opening parade was due to start at 20.00 (or so it said in the official guide).
Andy and I work on the basis that nothing, but nothing starts on time here – it’s a pretty sound principle, so we didn’t drive to Puerto until nearly 20.30. Unfortunately, by that time, there wasn’t a parking space to be found in, or near the town. The nearest spot we could find was in the La Paz district above the town, a 15 – 20 minute walk to the centre, most of which is down stairs; it’s okay going down, but a killer on the thighs on the way back up. We eventually reached the town centre about ten to nine and guess what? The parade had only just started.
There were about 1500 people in the parade; dancing troupes in wildly colourful costumes, cute kids in even cuter costumes and the stars of the show, the Carnaval Dames and Carnaval Queen wearing…a smile and not much more.
The only problem was that the drivers of the floats carrying the queens seemed to think they were in the Daytona 500 (I suspect because they started late and were trying to make up lost time). Each one sped past the spot where we were standing, giving me just about enough time to take one photo per float before they were gone.
It did mean, however, that the parade finished quickly. We legged it backed to La Paz, drove home (now about 22.00), stuck on some Ministry of Sound, poured a vodka sprite, laid out all our potential fancy dress clothing and decided it was time to think about what we were going to wear to the opening street party.
Two hours later, two ghoul/witch/monster thingys were striding through the banana plantation next to our house on the three kilometre walk into town.
It was near one in the morning by the time we hit Plaza del Charco; probably still a bit early for seasoned Carnaval veterans, the streets hadn’t filled to the point where it takes an aeon to move anywhere (that happens about 03.00).
After that, we salsa’d our way (or, in my case, a stiff legged, British version of it) around the three streets where the partying takes place, checking out the weird, wonderful and occasionally, lewd, rude and highly amusing costumes all around.
The thing about Carnaval is that it’s such an incredible high. Even when it reaches its peak and you’re jostled and bumped by the swaying mass of friendly beaming creatures around you (at one point I became far more intimate with a trumpet around someone’s waist than I was comfortable with) it’s impossible not to be swept away, almost literally, by sheer wave of joy that engulfs the place.
Somewhere at very-early-in-the morning o’clock, my legs screamed that enough was enough and we decided that it was time to wend our weary, but ecstatic way back home.
As always, the first night of Carnaval exceeded all expectations. It was hard work and, at this point, I’m not sure I’ll survive the week, but it was great fun, honest, despite what my body’s telling me today.