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The Cost of Having Fun in North Tenerife
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Contributed by Jack Montgomery   
Tuesday, 06 May 2008

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It had to be a holiday weekend. I was stuck in a queue of traffic going nowhere on a Friday night, but there the similarity to a British holiday weekend parted company. With processions, firework displays and aerial acrobatics and concerts planned as part of the Flypa International Paragliding Festival around Los Realejos and Puerto de la Cruz, there was so much happening that I wasn’t sure I’d manage to fit even the highlights in.

Friday 2nd May saw one of the biggest names in Latino music, Orishas, playing a gig in Los Realejos Bajo. The name may not seem familiar to British music fans, but the band’s impossible-to-stand-still-to fusion of Cuban vibes, melodic rhythms and hip hop have won them international status and Grammy awards. This was the equivalent of Muse playing in a suburb of Stockport. The venue was what amounted to a large basketball court surrounded by apartments where residents were holding impromptu parties on their balconies. It was a balmy night and the place was packed to capacity. A couple of enthusiastic support bands warmed up the crowd with mostly Latin and soul numbers, but it was amusing to note that a lively version of ‘I Will Survive’ had the Canarian girls in the crowd singing their hearts out. It seems it’s a women’s anthem everywhere.

When Orishas took to the stage, the crowd erupted. At the Echo & The Bunnymen concert the previous week the audience had been enthusiastic; here they were manically ecstatic and the band lapped it up. Arms thrust skywards punctuating every chorus and doll-sized girls salsa’d in spaces too small to fit two decent sized feet. Orishas teased the crowd by leaving this year’s Santa Cruz Carnaval anthem, ‘Hip Hop Conga’ until the last number of their encore, ensuring a tsunami wave sized roar when they launched into it. It was electric.

Fireworks light up the above Los Realejos 

Saturday, 3rd May was the Fiestas of the Cross, when crucifixes are elaborately dressed in flowers and cloths. It’s also the date of one of the biggest firework extravaganzas in Europe; the origins of which lie in two streets in Los Realejos trying to outdo each other with spectacularly explosive pyrotechnic shows. I arrived in the town too early, at around 9.00 pm, but it gave me time to wander the old streets marvelling at the painstakingly decorated crosses on display in every other house. Antique wooden window frames acted as borders for smaller crucifixes, whilst grander exhibits filled beautifully tiled hallways. Wandering into people’s houses to have a closer look felt intrusive, but the town’s residents are proud to let strangers into their homes to see these beautiful crosses.

At about 10.30pm, the first firework illuminated the night sky. Los Realejos is home to the fireworks factory which supplies the Canary Islands, so the fiesta is an ideal platform to try out new ideas designed to ´WOW´. Golden fireballs arced across the sky; sparkling stardust of all colours cascaded from the heavens; another firework metamorphosed into scores of magical red lanterns floating delicately in the still night. Unfortunately, because there wasn’t any breeze, the smoke refused to dissipate, smothering some fireworks in a dense cloud. These events always require stamina to see through to the end. As there was a good hour’s delay between the second and the third round of pyrotechnics and the night air in Los Realejos Alto in early May can be on the nippy side, mine deserted me around 1.00am and I retreated homeward even though the last firework didn’t reverberate around La Orotava Valley until nearly 3.00am.

Parachutist at Flypa 08 landing at El Socorro beach 

By Sunday I was flagging and I still hadn’t seen much of the air displays which were the main focus of Flypa 08. It was the final day of the festival and a whole series of events, including a beach concert, giant paella and more fireworks were planned to take place at El Socorro beach. El Socorro is a fantastic setting for an event such as this; the road zig-zags directly above the beach creating an ideal viewing platform for watching paragliders and parachutists glide past almost close enough to touch. A stage had been erected on the black sand and its sound system blasted out ‘It’s Raining Men’ as a multi-coloured army rained down from the sky. Like the rest of the weekend it had been a beautifully sunny day and the setting sun cast a golden glow over the party atmosphere, capping one of those special moments of which there seem to be so many on Tenerife.

And the cost of all this fun? Entry to Oreshas concert - €5, Firework display - €0, Flypa 08 - €0, reserves of personal energy – bankrupt, enjoyment factor – priceless.

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