Posts Tagged ‘cattle’

There’s a defining moment which signals that it might be time to call it a day, that the party is almost over.

At the Dia de la Trilla in El Tanque on Saturday the obvious signal may have been when the fire fighting helicopter with the big orange bag full of water passed yards above our heads on its way to tackle a forest fire which was burning on the other side of a hill near the fiesta. It wasn’t.

My defining moment came when I was squeezed shoulder to shoulder with a crowd of hot, sweaty and slightly glazed looking caballeros at the beer kiosk and the barman informed me:

“No hay cervezas.”

By the look of his seriously bloodshot eyes, he’d probably accounted for a good percentage of the drained amber nectar himself.

The lack of beer wouldn’t normally have been a deal breaker, but in 40+ degree heat when your water has run out, downing a cool beer was paramount to drinking the water of life.

Andy pretends that she knows what shes doing

Andy pretends that she knows what she's doing...someone should have told her farmworkers don't usually take their handbags into the field with them

We’d spent a couple of hours at this wonderfully laid back and unique little fiesta up in the hills above El Tanque where local farmers gather to have a drink and watch prancing horses and lumbering oxen turn a waist high circle of wheat into a threadbare carpet. There’s clearly some agricultural purpose to it, but it looked more like an excuse to have a frolic in the hay to us than the most efficient way for threshing wheat.

The first thing Andy did when we arrived was to purchase of a couple of straw cowboy hats. That might sound a bit kitsch, but:

  • Everyone, but everyone wears them at these fiestas.
  • We wouldn’t have lasted 10 minutes without sombreros of some sort and…
  • I thought they made us look really cool.

I felt my voice taking on a Clint Eastwood/Snake Plissken quality on a number of occasions – in reality it sounded more as though I had a sore throat and a lisp, but hey, I had a cowboy hat and a piece of straw between my teeth and was feeling too cool for school.

El Tanques version of a beer tent

El Tanque's version of a beer tent

As many of the older women huddled in the meagre shade under bushes and trees we braved the hairdryer hot breeze and stood at the edge of the era watching the threshing whilst the caballeros drained the beer kiosk of all alcoholic liquids.

In summer at this level, the heat can become not only unbearable, it also turns the countryside into a powder keg and sure enough a fire must have started in the pines on the other side of a hillock from the fiesta. The Island’s fire fighting helicopter flew over and back above our heads dropping huge bag loads of water on the blaze.

This sight was enough to have us wondering whether we should leg it to the car and evacuate the area pronto – but the fact that the locals hardly even acknowledged the copter’s existence was reassurance of sorts and drove home that in summer months the sight of a helicopter dowsing forest fires must happen with monotonous regularity.

They breed ‘em hard up there. The fact that the hot wind could bring a fire racing in their direction in no time was clearly no cause for concern. The idea that the beer tent was about to run out of alcohol on the other hand…

These guys are getting dangerously close...

See More Photos of the Dia de la Trilla here

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Why was I the only person standing on this side of the street like billy-no-mates while all the popular people stood opposite smirking at my obvious insanity?

The answer was simple – the other side of the street was in shade, my side was in full sunshine and the sun was seriously hot.  I didn’t know if I could last the pace; already my bonce felt oven-cooked and I could feel the dizzying effects of dehydration despite taking occasional glugs of lukewarm water; a couple of hours of this and surely I’d end up as a pile of bleached bones cluttering the immaculate streets.

Glug, glug, glug...

Glug, glug, glug...

But from my position I could see all the way up to the Casas de los Balcones and down to the Plaza de la Constitución. When the camels arrived their angle would be towards me. If I wanted good photos, I’d have to put up with the frying.

A group of people joined me on my side of the street a few feet away, but as they had set up makeshift shelter under a rainbow canopy, relocated some stools and a wine barrel as a table from the rural hotel opposite; they dealt with the sunny side of the street with quite a bit more panache than me.

The Romería de San Isidro Labrador comes only a couple of days after the Flower Carpets and just when you think you’ve seen La Orotava’s best show, the town comes up with another lavish spectacle. This one kicks off with the arrival of the festival queens in full traditional costume atop camels. It’s a spectacular start to the romería, even if the queens look as nervous as kittens on their temperamental carriages.

I just love this guys expression

I just love this guy's expression

These fiestas are all about eating and drinking and it made me smile to see that even as people were going to join the processional carts which are filled with food, they were stuffing their faces with ice cream and crisps.

Once the Romería gets into full swing it becomes an overwhelming cavalcade of colour, sounds and smells. People shout to have their photos taken, children thrust ‘papas’ and boiled eggs at you, men offer chunks of barbecued meat and goatskins filled with wine; dancers twist and swirl along the narrow streets and musicians pluck at timples and instruments made from olive oil cans. The sunshine made the traditional rainbow coloured skirts and scarlet bodices positively zing with vibrancy. It was a feast in every sense of the word and I snapped away, pausing only to munch on potatoes and a type of crackling as seventy or so ox drawn carts lumbered by.

Traditional...but chic

Traditional...but chic

I’ve been to a number of romerías, but I think La Orotava’s is my favourite. The historic streets are a perfect backdrop for the parade of traditional costumes, but there’s also something sophisticatedly stylish about La Orotava’s romería which reflects the town’s noble history. I came away from the town once again completely wowed by this wonderful island of Tenerife.

See more pictures here

Dancer from El Hierro

Dancer from El Hierro

A Yorkie riding a pony; an iguana squaring up to two bulldogs, a donkey wearing a straw bonnet and a mongrel in full traditional Canarian costume…you really don’t need to take mind altering narcotics when you live in Tenerife.

The weekend had been bizarre enough when we returned home from watching Man Utd beat Spurs in the FA Cup to find a rock concert taking place in the neighbour’s garden. The band wasn’t half bad either. After an initial set of enthusiastic Spanish rock they switched to rock and did a pretty good job of Pink Floyd, Clapton and Hendrix. So sitting listening to a rock concert from the comfort of our house was a pretty surreal start to the weekend.

Sunday we dragged ourselves out of bed (the concert didn’t finish until 2am) to head to Buenavista del Norte for the Fiesta de San Antonio Abad. Last year we had enjoyed the equivalent fiesta in La Matanza, so we were interested to see how Buenavista’s would compare.

It was a pleasant day, the sun making intermittent appearances which immediately scored better then La Matanza’s which, lying quite a way up the hillside, is more prone to cloud at this time of year.

I’d been expecting a bigger event than the fiesta in La Matanza, so was surprised to find that it was quite a bit smaller and there didn’t seem to be nearly as many animals. Today’s El Dia reported that there were over 1000 head of cattle. Personally, I reckon that whoever was doing the counting must have been partaking of generous quantities of the beer and wine from the jam-packed stalls and bars all around the town and was seeing three of everything.

Unusual opponents

Unusual opponents

However, numbers aside, it was a completely enchanting fiesta with a wonderfully welcoming atmosphere. The Teno Massif provided a dramatic backdrop to the fields where the livestock were gathered and the town of Buenavista was looking at its best; bright streamers lined the roads and antique wooden balconies were decorated with wicker baskets adorned with fruit and vegetables.

Small groups of musicians strummed their timples outside nearly every bar, whilst dancers in white costumes with twirling skirts, reminiscent of the Turkish national dress, whirled to the haunting pito herreño (flute) and drum riffs from the island of El Hierro.

Whilst the ‘show’ animals (horses, cattle, goats, dogs) looked magnificent, it was the fringe events which I found the most interesting. There were nearly as many animal ‘spectators’ as there were human ones and when a small crowd gathered in one spot it was a clue that something different was going on. The most bizarre of these being the iguana squaring up to two bulldogs who barked and strained at their leashes…until the iguana responded by lumbering slowly toward them which shut them up big time.

Love me, love my python

Love me, love my python

As always, everybody was only too happy to pose for photos; the event is a photographer’s dream with any number of potential impossibly cute ‘greeting card’ type shots. I particularly liked the Yorkie riding the pony which seems to be an annual favourite. But cats in scarves, bunnies in bows, kid goats with ribbons around their throats, donkeys in straw boaters and a girl doing an impression of Salma Hayak in ‘From Dusk Till Dawn’ with a python around her neck all added an ‘Alice through the Looking Glass’ element to the whole affair.

Despite many animals wearing more clothes than some of their owners, the only uncomfortable looking creature I noticed all day was a cat in a scarf, but then cats don’t really do social events do they?

Buenavista del Norte is on the Hidden Depths route of Island Drives