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It’s the highlight of Carnaval week in Puerto de la Cruz and last year it attracted more than 35,000 spectators.
It’s only 7.30pm. Registration of contestants isn’t scheduled to begin for another hour but already crowds are claiming their places along the route and against the barriers in Plaza Charco.

Tonight is double pleasure for us; not only are we here to watch the arrival and registration of the contestants in this surreal event, but its early start gives us the perfect excuse to eat at the Meson California guachinche in Plaza Charco.

The music strikes up and the beer barrels beside the stage are loaded, ready to oil the heels of contenders. Then it begins – a trickle at first but quickly gaining strength into a river of weird and fabulous costumes emerging from the crowds to be registered, have their heels measured for minimum height and be introduced to the audience.

It’s a process that takes in excess of two hours during which time the contestants imbibe copious amounts of alcohol, building nerve and diminishing co-ordination until heels morph into shifting mountains beneath their feet.

This year the costumes were a triumph with the Cinderella shoes and the chickens coming out top of my list.

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And this is supposed to be fun...?

I can’t say my heart was really in it as we set off on Saturday afternoon to watch the Canarias Infinity Xtreme Race which was taking place in Puerto de la Cruz. I was feeling decidedly lazy and the prospect of having to walk for 20 minutes to and from the car because the event was being staged in the harbour car park, was doing nothing for me at all.
The irony of my lethargy was completely lost on me at the time.

The Canarias Infinity Xtreme Race is a 10 kilometre run, swim and assault course designed to test fitness exactly in the way it says on the can: “to the Xtreme”.
We arrived at the harbour just in time to see the front-runners plunge into the sea for the swim section. It was a gusty, sunny day with a slight coolness in the air which must have been a relief for the contestants after the high temperatures we’ve had all winter.
Although contestants were predominantly male, there were plenty of women participating too, and as if just surviving this event weren’t enough, some had chosen to do it Carnaval-style in wigs and tutus while others had carefully painted faces. At the point that we first witnessed them, they were still dry, clean and relatively fresh.

We watched as contestants poured into the water like Lemmings and swam to the top end of the harbour wall before climbing out and continuing their run through the car park.
It was while struggling to step up from the harbour wall and finally making it with a grunt and a twinge in the left knee (I blame over-tight drainpipe jeans) that I suddenly felt Xtremely un-fit and I’m pretty sure my neck had the decency to blush.

Mud, barbed wire and still smiling...these people aren't real!

We made our way to the assault course section where contestants were now on their bellies, crawling through mud beneath barbed wire before running up a muddy, slippery slope while being hosed in the face by a bombero. Then it was off to Playa Jardín.
We waited in the warm sun; listening to the music, counting the empty, crushed Red Bull tins that had been frantically consumed pre-race and keeping an eye on the stragglers until the front runners returned for the final, cruel obstacles between them and the finishing line.
The first half dozen or so men completed the course, their faces barely registering fatigue. If it wasn’t for the fact that they were completely covered in mud, you’d think they’d set off five minutes ago after spending the day in a hammock.
A loud cheer registered the arrival of the first female contestant and she too dealt with the final obstacles as if they were no more than a minor inconvenience.

Once the super heroes had finished, the human beings began to arrive and the pain of their endeavours was etched into the mud on their faces as they struggled to get up the side of the wooden pyramid before sliding back down. But the camaraderie brought a lump to the throat as contestants went back to help others, lending their shoulders as ladders to the tumultuous applause of spectators.

With a little help from my friends.

With the last of the stragglers finally home, if not dry, we made our way back, all across town and up hundreds of steps, to La Paz and the car.
I was exhausted by the time we got home.

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