To queue or not to queue, that is the question.
It was around the hour of 9pm and a few dozen bodies had already begun to form a line from the ticket man at the top of the steps on San Telmo to the long bar backed by rows of red hot barbecues laden with smoking sardines.
“Let’s go for it,” said Jack
And by the time we’d made our way to the back of what was a small queue, people were attaching themselves to its rear like iron filings to a magnet.
It’s the night before Embarkation Tuesday and the traditional ‘Sardinada’ on the San Telmo in Puerto de la Cruz. It’s a sultry night and the fragrant smoke from the barbecues is adding to the ambient heat. The whole town is teeming with people and San Telmo itself is a swarming mass of people, most of them under the age of 25 years and the girls are looking stunning in their sun dresses and strappy sandals.
As usual the Tinerfeños have opted for the chaos system of organisation and as usual, it seems to result in everyone eventually getting 4 grilled sardines, a chunk of anis bread and a plastic beaker of beer for the princely sum of €3.50, with not a cross word, a shove or a push in sight.
We eat the fish with our fingers, the tender flesh falling easily from the bones, leaving cartoon-style fish heads on skeletons. Suitably salty and greasy, we dump our plates and head with parched throats and sardine smelling fingers to the bar and the dance floor.
This year there’s been a slight deviation from the usual agenda (no doubt questions will be asked in the Ayuntamiento) and there’s a DJ to warm the sweating crowd up. The music is dreadful; 70s and 80s pop and for a moment, I wonder if we’re lying in a coma somewhere in 2009 but then I remember,we’re in Tenerife. But we lap it up because just for once it’s not Latino and we join the hordes of people getting down to ‘I Will Survive’, ‘Stayin’ Alive’, ‘YMCA’, ‘Waterloo’ and ‘Karma Chameleon’.
Around us everyone’s joining in with the chorus and singing nonsense that sounds like the real thing, which is exactly what we do to the Spanish stuff and when they play ‘La Bamba’ and ‘Volare’, roles are reversed.
The DJ pumps it up with more retro rubbish intermingled with Spanish pop rubbish and finally climaxes with Blur’s ‘Song for Two’, presumably a tribute to this year’s Glasto performance, which goes down a storm and like all good DJs he bows out leaving his crowd hungry for more.
At this stage the Maquinaria Band take to the stage and the dance floor shifts a gear from busy to crushed. Sweltering in the heat of the night and the bodies around us, our throats like sand paper from the garlic-laden food we’d eaten earlier, now augmented by the sardines, we slowly thread our way through the masses and escape to the slightly less overwhelming heat of the promenade.
At around midnight, like salmon returning to spawn we fight our way upstream through the crowds of teenagers making their way towards San Telmo where the band are still on their warming up numbers.
Tomorrow’s the BIG DAY – hour after hour of standing, eating and drinking in the searing sun while all around us people are throwing, squirting, diving into, sailing on, swimming in and predominantly being thrown into… water.
It’s tough, but being privilaged enough to live in Party Town, we feel obliged to join in at every opportunity.