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Posts Tagged ‘fireworks’

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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Friday night is usually movie night; a second hand DVD and a bottle of wine in front of the telly. But this Friday the action moved from the small screen to the Plaza de San Marcos in Tegueste where previously unseen footage of Pirates of the Caribbean was played out before our very eyes.

Wonderful 19th Century costumes; I particularly like the hats

Wonderful 19th Century costumes

Tegueste is a small, picturesque town in the northeast of Tenerife with a fanatical commitment to preserving its heritage and a definite bent towards the bizarre.

Many towns and villages on Tenerife hold a Romería during the summer, which coincides with the celebration of their particular Saint’s day and often has a history of some special favours bestowed by the Saint on the community. Tegueste is no exception. Except that, when in the 17th Century San Marcos ‘saved’ the town from the bubonic plague which raged all around them, where other towns offered the fruits of the earth in thanks, Tegueste built small galleons with white sails and, being entirely landlocked, ‘sailed’ them on wheels pulled by oxen. I rest my case.

The Teguest boats feature in the town’s annual Romería, and once every 3 years, play a central role in the its Librea (salvation), which was where we were on Friday night.

Arriving at 9 pm for a 9.30 pm start, the stands placed on three sides and in front of the church in the small plaza were packed to capacity and the square that circumnavigates the church was inches deep in sand. We made our way to the far side of the plaza where we had a reasonable view of the full scale castle that had been erected as a façade to the Town Hall, complete with turrets, battlements and cannon.
At 9.30 prompt (I told you Tegueste had a penchant for the bizarre) the action began.

Wandering along the sandy streets from three sides of the plaza came Tegueste townsfolk, attired splendidly

Looking like a ghostly apparition, Prebendado Pachero narrates

Looking like a ghostly apparition, Prebendado Pachero narrates

in 18th Century costumes, the women carrying large bouquets of cut flowers in their arms as they ambled into the plaza where herds of goats, oxen and soldiers were gathered. Narrated by the town’s minister; Prebendado Pachero, who was a key figure in its development at that time, a beautiful pageant unfolded of life in the sleepy agricultural town.
Until, that is, a ‘boat’ arrived on the horizon (the street at the side of the church) and sailed (on wheels, pulled by oxen) towards the castle, followed by another, and another; the first manned by pirates, the second by Moors and the third by the English. All hell broke loose as the corsairs tried to take the castle and a mighty, heroic defence by the Teguesteros began.

Unfortunately, as the ships sailed into the plaza, the Pirates of the Caribbean theme music blasted out from speakers and, with a Johnny Depp lookalike posing, sabre in hand, on the mast of the first galleon, I found myself resolutely on the side of the pirates; not I’m sure, where my allegiance was supposed to lie.

The battle raged for about half an hour during which cannon fired on the ships, artillery railed from the battlements and the ships retaliated, all accompanied by laser beams frantically panning the sky, billowing smoke underlit by red beams, air bombs, rockets, stirring music and frequent casualties who were dragged unceremoniously from the scene of the battle only to miraculously resurrect and get straight back into the thick of the action.
It was brilliant.

The battle for the defence of Tenerifes realm; all those in favour of the pirates, say Aye!

The battle for the defence of Tenerife's realm; all those in favour of the pirates, say "Aye"!

When the pirates, the Moors and the English were finally driven away, there was a three lap retreat around the plaza by the ships at breakneck speed (one vessel nearly coming a cropper at the corner, being led by a young Teguestero who clearly has Ben Hur aspirations), a moving rendition of Ave Maria and a spectacular firework display set to stirring classical music, strangely, including Land of Hope and Glory; err, who won? And everyone wandered off into the balmy night with a head full of heroic deeds and not much idea of where and when they actually took place.

Tegueste, a bizarrely lovely place.

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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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The Cava’s chilling in the fridge; the grapes have been de-seeded and wrapped in small foil bundles; the picnic cool bag has been rescued from the garden shed and its plastic wine glasses rinsed and, most importantly of all, I’m wearing my new red knickers.

New Year’s Eve is a complicated business in this part of the world and care must be taken lest one upsets the omens of good fortune for the coming year and risk the shadow of Bad Luck dogging your every endeavour.

First, there’s the whole grape thing…you have to eat 12 grapes, one for each stroke of midnight.

Our first year in Tenerife we didn’t think to de-seed the grapes and, having nearly choked, the final stroke of midnight found us floundering around grape number 8. The following year we weren’t entirely sure when the actual strokes of midnight had begun, several ‘hoax’ fireworks having been launched in the immediate run-up to the real thing. Consequently, amidst the confusion some grapes were prematurely consumed.

Last year we sussed the start and confidently popped the de-seeded 12 with every pyrotechnic chime despite a fit of the giggles which resulted in several snorts and teary eyes. When the last stroke finished, so did the grapes.

Now, I wouldn’t exactly say that if it wasn’t for bad luck in 2007 we wouldn’t have had any luck at all, on the other hand, neither would I say that things couldn’t possibly have gone better for us and a large dose of good luck was most decidedly conspicuous by its absence.

So what went wrong?

Well apparently, as I’ve since learned, in order to ensure Good Luck for the forthcoming twelve months, one should wear new red underwear, preferably purchased by someone else as a gift.

So, this afternoon we scoured La Villa shopping complex for a suitable addition to my undies drawer and after a few dodgy moments when it looked like all that was left was a couple of G-strings with Minnie Mouse in a glittery frock on the crotch or granny-sized bloomers, we finally settled on a pair of Brazilian fit, plain red knickers in Women’s Secret and Jack parted with the cash.

New Year's Eve in Puerto de la Cruz5! 4! 3! 2! 1! And off we go! Grapes successfully consumed in perfectly synchronised chomp to chime! Cava cork is popped and sails over the heads of the crowds, plopping into the harbour water where it bobs happily amongst legions of its mates.

The sky fills with colour and my ear drums vibrate to the cracks and bangs of the gunpowder explosions which bounce around the windows of the apartments that front the harbour. When the pyrotechnics subside, we finish the Cava and head to Calle Perdomo. The bass beat sends electric currents through our bodies and we dance until 4.15 am when, with all the booze consumed and our legs and feet aching, we begin the 40 minute walk home.

So welcome, 2008, and any time you’re ready to bestow a little good fortune this way, I’m ready and waiting…

¡Feliz Año Nuevo”!

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