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Posts Tagged ‘Garachico’

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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It’s a weird thing about Los Silos. Venture there during the day and you’ll find a sleepy, picturesque village with an Art Nouveau bandstand, a church that looks like it’s constructed out of icing sugar and egg whites; and beautifully restored traditional architecture. But go there for one of its fiestas and you’ll find yourself knee deep in dreadlocks, harem pants, patchouli oil and peace and love.

Hippies and batucada in Los Silos

Hippies and batucada in Los Silos

And that’s exactly how it was last weekend when Los Silos staged the Boreal Festival of the Whale; out came the Neo-hippies in their droves.
As I wandered up towards the whale skeleton that stands as a sculpture on the headland I had to snake my way through jugglers, a girl practising her Zuni Poi Swings who nearly had my eye out, trainee stilt walkers and a dreadlocked, bare-chested, uni-cycle rider.
The air was thick with the smell of musk, patchouli and the Tree of Moses and the peace and love was positively palpable.

Beneath fluttering, silk pastel flags stalls lined the promenade. In between the juggling paraphernalia, homemade jewellery and henna tattoo stalls, there were information points extolling the adoption of earth-friendly practices in businesses and homes.
At some point some baby turtles were released into the sea but it must have been a very low key launch because I managed to entirely miss it.

A large stage was filled with equipment, chord practising guitarists and roadies muttering “uno, dos” into the mikes. At one point several people including myself thought that the band had started and one woman began to dance but then the song just fizzled and the “uno, dos” began again. I concluded that the sound engineers were rubbish and that the waiting bands were refusing to perform with such an incompetent mixing desk.

Satisfied with my made up explanation and feeling slightly giddy from the atmosphere, I headed off to Garachico in search of rock and chips.

Reaching the tiny harbour the smell of leather and burgers assailed my

Leather and chrome at Garachico

Leather and chrome at Garachico

nostrils and the iconic chords of Kings of Leon soothed my ears.
The car park was lined with the chrome, leather and glass of motorcycles and milling around them were black leather-clad bikers and their chicks.

I grabbed a burger and wandered the rows of bikes feigning any kind of knowledge whatsoever of what a great bike looks like.

I felt like I’d wandered into the anti-Christ of the Eco festival. Goth T shirts and black studded belts and wrist bands replaced pastel hemp. Tattooed fire-breathing dragons and bloodied knives replaced butterflies and wispy spirals and boots the size of astronaut’s moon walkers replaced flipflops.

With just a handful of spectators out front, the bands took to the stage. No sound checks were necessary here as the mixing desk was in the über-efficient hands of a professional sound production team and the opening chords rang out across the harbour, bouncing back off the frozen lava streams on the hillside.

Saturday night in the Isla Baja region proves that the culture on Tenerife can be every bit as diverse as its geography.

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I have a friend who insists that when she was a girl her family holidayed in France near a small village where free wine was dispensed from a standing pipe in the village square and you could just wander along with your bottles and fill them up whenever you liked.
I’d have hot-footed it to this town had my friend been able to remember, even vaguely, where it was. As she couldn’t, it became to me a French urban myth and the stuff that only dreams are made of. Until last week that is.

I went to the Romería San Roque in a little town called Garachico on the north coast of Tenerife. I’ve been to many fiestas since moving to Tenerife almost four years ago but I’ve never been to a Romería before and I was completely unprepared for what took place.
In an impossibly quaint town on a warm Thursday afternoon in August, hundreds of people gathered in traditional Canarian dress, both sexes and all ages. The streets were lined with flags and bunting as they usually are for fiestas and there were loads of stalls selling CDs, T-shirts, wicker baskets, jewellery and mechanical toys to name but a few.
But the best thing about the Romería, was the Romería itself; a whole series of floats, each pulled by a team of two oxen and packed to the gunwales with people in traditional costume playing music, dancing, drinking and handing out FREE grilled prime cuts of beef and pork, skewers of kebabs, sausages and spare ribs from barbecues mounted onto the back of the floats as they slowly paraded through the narrow streets.

As well as the meat, there were boiled potatoes, hard boiled eggs, small cakes made from ground corn known as gofio, bread rolls, peaches, melon slices and lemon pears being thrown to waiting hands, through open windows and onto crowded balconies. One such ‘missile’ of a nectarine nearly broke the nose of an elderly Canarian woman sitting behind her open window right next to me.
And to wash it all down?
Barrel after barrel of vino del país (a strong, fruity, locally produced red wine) from which plastic pipes and ladles dispersed a never-ending supply of FREE WINE to anyone who held out a cup, a glass, a beaker or a bottle.

This is no urban myth. This is simply the wonderful people of Garachico sharing the bounty of their harvest with their friends, family, neighbours and complete strangers alike…qu’el bon idée!

Read more about the San Roque Romería in Garachico…

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