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Ever expanding developments on the coast and abandoned terraces in the hills.

Ever expanding developments on the coast and abandoned terraces in the hills.

Hiking in the hills above the south coast last weekend, the landscape was dominated by dried up terraces overgrown with brown weeds where only the lethal leaves of giant Agave plants punctuated the arid monotony.
A derelict farmhouse told its own story. Set into a hidden valley with the mountains at its back and the Atlantic Ocean laid out at its feet, its once crop-rich lands were today in ruins, a back-breaking life of toiling terraces long since abandoned in favour of the easier and more lucrative option of providing shelter, food and drink to sun-hungry tourists on the coast below.
You could see the attraction. Up here the earth was baked, the only rainfall coming from dense low cloud and the rarest of winter downpours. Just negotiating its contours on foot brought on a sweat, I could only imagine how hard it must have been to plough, sow, weed and harvest the unyielding earth.

Bordering the ocean on the coastline below, the developments of the last fifty years spread ever further westwards, closing gaps between resorts and swallowing small fishing hamlets into their hungry jaws. Down there the terrain was just as barren as up here but everywhere it was dotted with the green swathes of a golf course here and a banana plantation or a hotel garden there.
Despite the distance, I could hear the amplified instructions of an aqua aerobics instructor and imagined her class in their five star swimming pool, unaware that life even existed in the mountains that provided their holiday backdrop.

Further along the road there was a picnic laid out on long trestle tables and forty or fifty hunters were gathered. In all probability they lived quite locally, spent their working days serving in the hotels, bars, restaurants, shops and banks at the coast below and retreated up here at the weekend to don their hunting clothes and get back in touch with a way of life which seems mostly to have been lost. Apart from one or two notable exceptions, these guys all had huge bellies overhanging the waistband of their camouflage pants and were smoking big, fat cigars as they wandered the two strides distance they had left between their parked 4x4s and the tables containing their generous lunches.

I couldn’t help wondering if anyone had done research into the life expectancy of the Canarios over the last fifty years. I wouldn’t mind betting that, for all its severity and deprivation, the old way of life would have kept their grand parents a whole lot healthier than many of their descendants are today. It would have kept their hills a lot greener too.

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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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Just arrived back from Plaza del Charco after a brilliant night and still buzzin’. Calle Perdomo, Calle Mequinez and Calle Marina merged into a single dance floor; speakers strung from kiosks at the harbour end of Calle Mequinez blasted out dance music to the thronging masses below. Drag queens danced with DC Comics’ heroes, pirates, Smurfs and nuns. Two people were pole dancing on the flat roof of one of the bars and the volume was pumping up and up as the spirit of ecstasy spread through the thousands.
What a start to the week!!!

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