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Posts Tagged ‘fire’

As we drove around the wide El Guincho corner of the fancy new road on Sunday night we saw the line of red tail lights ahead in the darkness and thought “uh oh”.
A small patch of flat earth lay just before the opening of the tunnel that took six years to build and replaced a ½ km of road with 500 km of space-age concrete tubing.
What about parking there?” I tentatively suggested, following the Golden Rule of fiesta attending on Tenerife which clearly states ‘as soon as you see vehicles beginning to back up, park at the very first available space you see’.
But we were still a good 2 km from Garachico and fatally, we nudged forward and the opportunity was lost.

Fun exhibits in the town

It took us 20 minutes to crawl, bumper to bumper through that tunnel before we finally emerged and Jack did a nifty u-turn manoeuvre, drove up the slip road to El Guincho and parked to one side. Within seconds others were following suit.
We joined the ranks of fellow car-abandoners all walking in the direction of Garachico, and it now being 9.30pm, desperately hoped that the scheduled 9.45pm start for the fuegos (fires) would follow the usual Tenerife mas o menos punctuality.
By the time we reached Garachico our numbers had swelled and we joined the thousands already crammed into El Caletón and the harbour area.

Once every five years the charismatic little town of Garachico commemorates the event that changed its history; the night Arena Negras volcano erupted and sent rivers of burning lava down the cliffs to engulf its streets and destroy its harbour.
Almost overnight Garachico’s status plunged from Tenerife’s wealthiest town, to the town that got buried by an eruption. Any other place might have thrown in the towel at that point, but not the folks who have Glorioso en su Adversidad (Strength in Adversity) embroidered on their coat of arms. Garachico rose from the volcanic ash and re-built its town and its pride. Today it’s one of Tenerife’s most popular excursions where folks flock to swim in the delicious rock pools hewn out of its trademark frozen lava.

At somewhere around 10.30pm a small procession arrived at the harbour carrying the candlelit Santísimo Cristo de la Misericordia. When the procession came to a standstill we saw the first bonfire flare up on the cliffside above the beach and large drops of molten fire began to drip from the road above the cliff into the flames. A cheer went up  from the crowd and all heads turned to watch as fire after fire was lighted. With the rocks ablaze, the street lights all went out and we were plunged into total darkness, the glow of the fires blazing on our retinas.
As the fires spread around the cliffside and a pall of scarlet smoke began to rise, our eyes were drawn to a flare in the cliffside, high above the road. A fire sprang into life, the flames licking the rock face as they gained strength from the breeze. In seconds, a ball of fire broke free from the conflagration and to roars of “fuego!” from the crowd, began to careen down the hillside leaving a fiery tail in its wake. But its progress was short-lived and to theatrical disappointment from the crowd it came to rest.

Seconds later four fire balls began their descent, this time gathering pace and strength as they fell and bounced off the cliff face. Roars of approval, shouts of “bravo!” and wild applause greeted each new fireball as one after another they scorched down the cliffside to the barranco where the Bomberos were waiting to douse the flames.

Finally, their display spent, the fire chasers took a well deserved bow to tumultuous applause and we turned our backs to the cliffs to face an explosive kaleidoscope of colour splitting the night sky over the harbour.
To an impassioned performance of classical music; rockets, flares and air bombs burst open sending cascades of illuminated colours across the sky and sound-waves ricocheting around the harbour.
As Handel’s Messiah Hallelujah reached its crescendo, a full sized Christ on the crucifix burst into golden fire on the cliff below the mirador, every feature of the face alive in its flames.

When finally the fireworks climaxed, we made our way through the beautifully garlanded and paper-flowered town, booms still ringing in our ears, and headed towards the tunnel and the long trek back to the car.
Provided Mother Nature doesn’t try to upstage the night with her own version before then, it’ll be 2015 before Garachico next stages the Fuegos Del Risco and I for one, can’t wait.

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Dressed cross in Los Realejos Alto on 3rd May 2008The opening shot across the bow comes with an ear-splitting explosion out of which a magnificent glistening gold crucifix forms and hangs in the firmament above the church square. The crowd draws its breath in a gasp and the fading crucifix is replaced by a fiery row of red and silver fountains above which barrages of colour explode across the night sky in rapid fire. Vivid sunbursts spread like blossoming stains; tiny whorls race around the firmament like tadpoles released into a stream; shooting stars run amok in psychedelic rain and scatter gun air bombs rip through our ears and vibrate the windows of the houses.

Last weekend was Fiesta of the Cross; a traditional fiesta dating back to the conquest in 1496, during which every cross on the island, from the humblest wooden crucifix placed in the open window of a small cottage to ornate gilded processional crosses carried on the shoulders of devotees, is decorated with flowers, candles and incense.

In Los Realejos Alto in Northern Tenerife, the day is traditionally rounded off by Europe’s largest firework display. Originating from the rivalry between two firework factories in the municipality, one aligned to Calle del Sol, the other to Calle del Medio, the 3rd of May displays take the form of pyrotechnic aerial skirmishes between the two streets and the still, black, night sky provides the battleground on which the factory armies of Los Realejos wage war with their gunpowder cannons.

Europe's biggest firework display in Los Realejos on 3rd May 2008When the first display finally subsides the rival street retaliates. But the still night air contrives to hold the smoke pall hostage and much of the display is lost within its murky mass; it’s a dastardly ploy, perfectly executed. Though the sky blazes red and pulsates with the beat of the strobe-lit explosions, all that can be seen from the little church square are fiery comets which thunder from behind the veil and hurtle towards the earth; tantalising glimpses of clouds of gentle fairy dust twinkling behind the haze and slender ribbons of jewelled lights suspended above the valley for what seems like an eternity.

Silence falls and the smoke cloud drifts painfully slowly across the plaza where we’re standing and where crowds are now converging to watch the finale. With all eyes trained on the football stadium, we wait, and wait…and wait. After an hour of silent skies, the cold night air of Los Realejos Alto in early May starts to diminish enthusiasm for the contest and people begin to drift away, unsure of what has happened to the final battle. I head back to the car and join the queue for the motorway, the air conditioning turned to warm for only the second time in the car’s four year life.

All the way home I’m accompanied by the air raid soundtrack of the delayed final denouement and in the rear view mirror I can see the night’s bloodstained front line.
In Tenerife it seems, even a war succumbs to the ‘mañana culture’.

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