Posts Tagged ‘cowboys’

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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El Baño de las Cabras (bathing of the goats) is a tradition that’s believed to date back to Guanche times.The bathing of the livestock is said to purify them and help ensure that they’ll be healthy over the coming year.

It’s one of Puerto de la Cruz’ weird little fiestas. The sight of goats and boats and horsemen and goatherds, some dressed as though they’ve just come from the previous night’s beach party, filling the town’s harbour falls into the surreal category.

After the previous night’s revelry, I was just about compus mentis enough to take some photos, but that was about it, so I’ll shut up and let the photos show you what was going on.

Personally, I'd be wearing body armour.

Somehow I don't think he's jumping for joy

Puerto's 'swim team'

Equestrian Aquatics

Check out more animal antics at the harbour at my San Juan slideshow here.

Cowboys, Tenerife styleThe policeman’s expression was the same as a rabbit caught in a car’s headlights. Standing at the centre of a crossroads where four single lane roads converged, he was faced with the prospect of trying to manoeuvre the four cars which had emerged from each road at exactly the same moment; it was impasse.

The driver in each car stared at the policeman, like band members waiting for their conductor to orchestrate their next move.

He turned full circle, seeking a possible solution, then shrugged and raised his arms, palms upwards; a gesture which spoke volumes, it said:

“What do you expect me to do about it?”

No, this wasn’t the amusing, but not unexpected, chaos which faced concert goers trying to get in to the Elton John gig in Costa Adeje (clearly not funny to those stuck in the queue as Reg started belting out his tunes), this was the approach to the small village of San Antonio, home to one of the ‘other’ big events that were taking place on the island last week, the Fiestas of San Antonio Abad, taking place on the slopes of La Matanza, however the principle was the same.

Tinerfeños love fiestas and generally organise them very well, it’s just the small matter of how you get to them and where you park when you do that’s left in the lap of the gods.

Thankfully we’d seen that movie many times and knew that when we spotted the first signs of people leaving their cars and setting off on foot, that it was time to do the same, even though we were still a couple of kilometres from the event.

We left the policemen to his logistics problem and wandered past private garages which had been turned into makeshift restaurants for the day with long trestle tables set with chequered tablecloths. There was no need for a menu; the aromas which mugged our nostrils told us everything we needed to know and by the time we reached the Ermita de San Antonio Abad, where the fiesta was taking place I was drooling like a hungry sheepdog.

Around the small church, paddocks, pens and stalls housed stocky hunting dogs, placid bronze coloured oxen built like the proverbial you-know-what, goats, sheep, mules, donkeys and horses. Caballeros in embroidered waistcoats rode their steeds through vertigo inducing streets. Old guys in felt homburgs, chewing on oversized puros (cigars) sat on walls shooting the breeze.

Goat with a mulletAlthough this fiesta wasn’t as big as the one in Buenavista del Norte, there were still a few thousand people and their animals packing the little streets of the small village. We ambled around the town avoiding the little ‘gifts’ left by the animals, passing a trio of girls pulling two dogs and a kid goat (poor wee thing, he was in for a right shock when the time came for him to change from family pet to family dinner – that’s the sort of thought that makes me consider reverting to  vegetarianism), ferrets, guinea pigs, a couple of snakes and, clinging to one girl’s side like a 3-D tattoo, a three foot iguana with the most beautiful markings (though they only came in green).

After a couple of circuits, we squeezed ourselves into a space at the main refreshments stall where Desperate Dan-sized pans bubbled away with beefy stews (a bit insensitive I thought considering it was placed right next to the oxen stalls – that could have been somebody’s brother in there), and ordered a couple of cervezas and a plate of carne con papas (meat and potatoes).

Dipping my doorstop sized chunk of bread in the seasoned stew, I thought about the other ‘big event’ which had taken place last week on the opposite side of the island.

Having a legendary pop star play a gig on Tenerife is great for tourism, but for me, standing amongst those smiling, simple (in the nicest sense of the word) farmers and their animals on a hill, that was the real deal.