“Let’s go and see the giant paella on Sunday.”
Horror movies are really not my thing so I wasn’t all that enthusiastic until Jack explained that the Lions Club were making an actual giant paella as part of the Puerto July Fiestas and that perhaps we should pop along and witness the creation.
We left at midday in the firm expectation that we’d be parked and down at the harbour by 12.15 (ish). But having queued for 20 minutes to find that the town’s main car park was closed (of course no signs until you actually get there when 4 Policia Local are manning a 2 foot wide barrier), queuing to get back out again, kerb crawling our way through town and finally driving all the way back up to La Paz district before we could find a parking space, it was after 1pm before we got into town.
It was a glorious day and the small beach at San Telmo was packed beyond capacity for swimming and kayaking competitions (not simultaneous you understand). Although this is low season for Brits and Germans in Tenerife, in the north, it’s high season for Spanish mainlanders and the town was teeming with visitors. Puerto is in the midst of its July Fiestas and there’s a festival atmosphere throughout the month, particularly on Sundays.
I was keeping myself amused by admiring the hordes of young, muscle bound, suntanned men (I think there were women there too) who were milling around the temporary bar, presumably having finished their competition swim and now chilling to the Indie rock sounds that were blasting forth, when my attention was caught by a silver flash in the sky.
I looked up to see a fighter jet at what seemed merely feet above the San Temo rock pools, heading towards me at supersonic speed. It was eerily silent, any engine noise drowned out by the music. Just as it came parallel with the shoreline, it‘s nose went up, it began to climb, the condensation clouds spilling across its wings and the air shattered into an ear splitting roar that silenced Coldplay.
I watched it bank and come back across the horizon, spinning twice and flying upside down before righting itself and once again screaming into the heavens. It was so low I could almost see the pilot.
I felt a surge of adrenalin that sent my heart beat into overdrive. I have never been in such close proximity to such power and danger and I cannot imagine what sort of person would fly a fighter jet, they must be in the top one percentile of the population.
“Tom Cruise” said Jack, bringing me back down to earth.
By the time we reached the harbour, the prospect of a giant paella had paled into insignificance in the excitement of the air show and having long since missed its creation it was now half way to being completely consumed and not all that giant anymore. Still, it rallied a few points with its delicious aroma and bargain basement price; a plate of paella, a banana, a bread roll and a small beaker of wine for €5. Understandably, there wasn’t a spare seat to be had at the makeshift restaurant beside the fishwife.
In the Parque Marítimo car park we discovered why it was closed; four helicopters and several divisions of armed forces were displaying their equipment (sooo tempted to say something very Julian Clary there). Amongst the helicopters was one belonging to M.A.R., the type used in fire fighting. I was surprised at how small the bucket that holds the water was, especially given the double blades power of the helicopter. It brought back the horror of last year’s forest fires and the difficulty of getting adequate water to the island’s interior to deal with such an ecological disaster.
Small children were being placed inside the cockpit of the helicopters while their parents photographed them. I could see the machine guns mounted in the nose, rows of bullets ready to thread their way to destruction should the need arise. Given that the soldiers were Canarios and not in fact Tom Cruise, I gave the nose a very wide berth lest someone had forgotten to engage the safety lock.
I’d gotten just about as close up and personal with military hardware as my nerves could stand for one day.