Exploring the old roads on Tenerife will throw up stunning scenery, historic towns and all manner of quirks. There is usually something missing from the scene though. Animals.
Apart from the odd herd of goats, there’s a distinct lack of animal life in Tenerife’s landscapes – no sheep grazing lazily in the sunshine and no cows’ moos to break the silence.
All that changes during January.
We’ve walked and driven all over this island many times over the last ten years and it still mystifies me where the hundreds, if not thousands, of animals that appear in January hide away during the rest of the year.
The appearance of a troop of Canarios on horseback and goats galore at La Caleta in Costa Adeje on the 20th must freak out visiting sunbathers on the resort’s beaches. The scene gets even more surreal when said horsemen ride their steeds into the sea and indignant goats get dragged into the briny for their own good.
The Fiesta of San Sebastian at Playa Enramada is a sort of winter rehash of the Midsummer Fiestas de San Juan in Puerto de la Cruz that has grown over the last few years from a modest affair to a spectacle that attracts tens of thousands of visitors, some of whom don’t know whether to be amazed or horrified.
There aren’t many bona fide traditional shindigs around Costa Adeje so it’s a great opportunity for visitors to witness an event that harks back to a time before tourism was king.
In the north of Tenerife, even more animals come out of the woodwork. In Buenavista del Norte and La Matanza the fiesta that involves every animal you can drag, ride or fit into a handbag being blessed is in honour of a different saint; this time it’s San Antonio Abad.
The fiesta is supposed to take place on the third Sunday of January but it isn’t as simple as that as there are a few connected events on various Sundays throughout the month. This year the main event in La Matanza, the Octava Ganadera, is on 26 January.
In both places the emphasis is on livestock and in addition to goats, sheep, horses, mules and donkeys there are hundreds of lumbering great oxen. A sheep might be easily hidden by the undergrowth but the oxen are the size of tanks. How on earth can we miss seeing them when driving around Tenerife?
The fiestas in honour of San Antonio Abad are like agricultural fairs with prizes awarded for the best livestock. As well as the animals there are musicians, dancers and loads of impromptu food stalls selling the sort of food that casts a hook through your nostrils and reels you in. Fried goat and rabbit are common, but most lip-smacking are spicy pork pinchos washed down with plenty of local wine.
One of the fun things about both these affairs is trying to spot the more unusual animals – maybe a boa constrictor wrapped around a wrist, a ferret on a shoulder or a tortoise in a handbag. Dogs and cats in traditional Canarian costume are commonplace.
La Matanza’s is the best, but Buenavista’s animal party is probably a better introduction for anyone who isn’t familiar with Tenerife’s fiestas.
Category : about tenerife
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