I’m sitting on the bedroom steps watching Andy try on various potential carnaval outfits – her cowgirl look is a disaster. She’s put on about three layers to ensure she stays warm in the cool February night and looks like a cowgirl in the early stages of pregnancy. There’s an orange weather alert for high winds and rain and the trailer for ER (it’s on Spanish TV and we’re watching it for the first time) looked as though loads of stuff is going to happen on tonight’s episode. I don’t feel in the slightest bit carnaval-y
“You know I’m tempted to give carnaval a miss tonight, Andy.”

Andy’s a sort of Folies Bergères showgirl and I’m Willie Wallace. The cool February night seems to really be a balmy February night as we work up a sweat on the thirty minute walk through the banana plantations, La Paz and finally the centre of Puerto de la Cruz. The streets are near empty as we walk through La Paz. You’d never know that there was a carnaval taking place and the few German tourists that we pass look at us as though we’ve just stepped out of a spaceship. I’m tempted to lop off their heads with my axe.

The Party's just Starting

Latino music is blasting out and the smell of candy floss mingles with sizzling chorizos and fried squid. All around are painted faces, retina damaging luminous costumes, busty girls with cleavages you could park tandem bikes in and ladyboys grabbing at their crotches to adjust too-tight thongs. I’m home. All tiredness and apathy towards carnaval is a distant memory. We grab a cerveza from a chiringuito (beer stall) and dive into the madness.

The streets are really starting to fill up as revellers in fancy dress stream into the town. There are some wonderfully imaginative costumes around this year. Some N’avi from Avatar are particularly good, but Shrek, a Marilyn Monroe who insists on flashing her pants which seem to have a large cucumber stuffed down them, and a couple of Marge Simpsons also stand out. A Cap’n Jack Sparrow comes over to us and takes my photo. I’m flattered – having your photo taken at a carnaval street party is recognition that your outfit looks pretty good. We get another beer to celebrate.

Now it's Getting into its Stride

We go off on another circuit of the various street parties. A live band energetically keeps the crowd salsa-ing to Latino music in Plaza del Charco whilst DJs blast out a sort of Spanish pop-rock with a distinctly Latino beat at the little plaza beside the harbour. There are lots of fairies, Chicago gangsters, sexy nuns, policewomen in fishnets and people in fat costumes. I point out one particularly enormous derriere to Andy. Andy points out that it’s not a costume. The best spot is a new dance area beside the customs house. There are lots of flamboyantly dressed trannies there and the music has a more techno beat, albeit with a Latino influence.

It seems like five minutes since I told Andy it was 2.30am – we’ve entered the carnaval time-warp. A man in lederhosen tells Andy if she kisses his friend he’ll kiss me. I don’t view this as a particularly attractive offer…and I’m not sure they’re in fancy dress; I think they’re German tourists. Andy gets dragged into a group photo and has her beer spilled over her. A man in an Incredibles costume taps me on the shoulder then plonks a rat into his mouth. We’re well into carnaval’s surrealistic grip.

Andy is Kidnapped by Austrians and Dowsed in Beer

The high winds which have been completely missing start to make an appearance, except they’re more strong gusts than high winds and are accompanied by an impromptu mass “WOOOOO” from the crowds. Everyone wants their photo taken and a group of teenage girl’s and boys wearing not-a-lot jump in front of my camera and strike up a fantastic pose. It’s the shot of the night, but the beers have taken their toll and I end up doing what the girls in the picture were doing – outrageously over exposing. The wind is really whipping up and we decide to head home, making friends with a ‘blacked up’ trio on the way.

Removing my blue and white ‘Braveheart’ face paint seems to be taking forever and I’m left with a vaguely ill looking bluish white pallor. The temperature on the way home didn’t drop below 20 and the sweat mixed with the face paint and ran into my eyes stinging them. The living room looks as though a carnaval bomb has hit it – a battle axe here, red fishnet stockings there, a scarlet boa draped across a sofa…
We collapse into bed as the sound of Latino music from the plaza makes its way the three kilometres to our house telling us that the party is still going strong.



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