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Livin La Vida Loca Carnaval Tenerife Style
(Wednesday, 09 January 2008) Written by IslandDrives

January; a new year; the time for resolution and the opportunity to discard old vices. This year I’m determined to kick the habit. I’m getting too old. My body, in the hammy words of Star Trek’s Scotty, ‘cannae take it anymore’. I’m not talking about tobacco, or alcohol. I’m talking about something far more seductive; a mind-blowing trip into a psychedelic fantasy land. I’m referring to ‘Carnaval’ – Tenerife style.

 

In Santa Cruz and Puerto de la Cruz, Carnaval is the excuse for a week long rollercoaster of fun and spectacle with parades, surreal funeral processions, high heeled drag marathons and nightly open air street parties. It’s an exotic, exciting extravaganza which once experienced will never be forgotten.

Carnaval QueenI use the word ‘experienced’ carefully because there’s a chasm as wide as the Grand Canyon between ‘seeing’ Carnaval and experiencing it. Seeing it involves taking in the parades with their troupes of dancers in flamboyant costumes and Carnaval queens in incredible outfits which are more ornate chariot than clothing, or watching the wailing widows with their five o’clock shadows and torn fishnets following a gigantic, mutant sardine. Experiencing it is to get into fancy dress and dive straight into one of the all night (I’m not exaggerating) street parties held nightly at Plaza Principe in Santa Cruz and Plaza del Charco in Puerto de la Cruz.

It’s essential to wear fancy dress to really get the feel of Carnaval. At my first Carnaval, with typical British reserve I opted out of dressing up. Until midnight I enjoyed myself watching the plaza gradually fill up with the most bizarre and happiest looking revellers you’re likely to see anywhere. And then the balance changed; everyone to a man, woman and unidentifiable creature seemed to be in fancy dress. Wearing jeans and a jacket amidst the vampires, pirates and something dressed only in a pair of swimming trunks, his body painted silver and with a giant fish on his head (nothing is too bizarre for Carnaval) I felt out of place, like a dull voyeur on the periphery of the world’s best party and I vowed there and then to cast off my inhibitions and give in to the Zeitgeist in future.

Last year I was at various times a hippy, a brassy blonde widow and a grotesque monster. It was the best Carnaval I’d ever experienced; I watched three parades and danced badly through four street parties. It was exhilarating, but I was exhausted by the end of it and decided that my Carnaval days were over.

But I know exactly what’s going to happen. The Murga (clown bands who sing satirical songs and play toy trumpets) competitions will start to appear on TV (okay, I can live without them), then it’ll be the election of the queens and I’ll find my interest being well and truly pricked and around 10.00pm on the 2nd February, pulsating Latino sounds will weave their way from the town to our house and I’ll look across the table at Andy, my wife. After a few moments one of us will crack and say, “What do you think?” and the other will reply. “How can we not? It’s part of living here.” Then there’ll be a mad scramble through old clothes and previous Carnaval odds and sods and by midnight we’ll be in the middle of a mass of all manner of creatures swaying along to Shakira and Wycliffe and loving every minute of it.

There are some vices that are just too much fun to give up.

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