CD Tenerife Draw On New Inspiration

Anything is possible, there´s nine months of football ahead, and of course it´s going to be our year. That´s the idyllic pre season state of all football fans, and CD Tenerife have licked their wounds after just missing out on promotion, said farewell to a few players, and welcomed new arrivals like saviors.

I missed a couple of friendlies due to my Oxford break and was stir crazy by the time the Copa Mahou home leg v Las Palmas arrived. Aerosmith had rocked the Heliodoro to its roots and the grass was still suffering so CD Marino´s Estadio Antonio Dominguez hosted the game. An uplifting 2-2 draw was full of encouraging signs, new right back Luiz Perez looked very comfortable on the ball, and new striker Juan Villar was one of a raft of half time changes, he scored both our goals, the second from the spot. Lack of team listings at these games and new shirt numbers make it challenging to see who´s who, I was guzzling beer on the terracing with the Armada Sur and strained my eyes beyond the running track.

The Saturday night game at UD Ibarra saw me back prowling the touchline, despite a liberal sprinkling of B team players and of course no listing, it was a bit easier to deduce who the suspects were. Carlos Abad started in goal, a stocky left winger turned out to be Tanzania youngster Faridi (no 37) , he worked hard and later swapped wings to show equal speed. Bryan Acosta and Juan Carlos were other notable new signings to get a run out. Acosta was always probing from midfield and Juan Villar always looking to latch onto a half chance of scoring. It was an old favourite, Alberto who opened the scoring with a strong header from a Juan Carlos cross after 32 minutes.

The revolving door brought plenty of half time swaps, Dani took over in goal, Argentinian centre back Lucas Aveldaño got his first action, Victor Csadesus grabbed some time, and B team hopefuls Bolaños and Brian Martin joined the fray. Bryan Acosta was denied a goal by a late offside call but what a life the other Brian was having. An early wide chance hinted at more to come. A break from Carballo ended with a goal for Ibarra after 78 minutes, Dani seemed a little hesitant as the ball went over him and if I´m being an old meanie I could add that Suso was having a mare of a game since his half time emergence.

Ibarra goalie Adrian had already made some impressive stops but saved his best to deny Brian Martin, the youngster looked very sharp and kept getting into good shooting positions. On another day he would have got a hat trick at least but the keeper was inspired. The 1-1 draw was probably fair, the game was more about bedding in new players, letting the young guns get a taste of senior football, and testing the shape and quality of the team play. There were certainly more ticks than crosses for coach Pep Marti. There should be four more new signings before the big kick off and competition for places is already looking keen.

 

Back To My Oxford City Roots

You never forget your first love, even more so in football, so despite missing a CD Tenerife pre season friendly I was pleased that my summer trip home from Tenerife coincided with Oxford City v Brackley Town on City´s newly installed 3G pitch.

The ground at Court Place Farm is in Marston, where I lived for a few years, so the return was even sweeter.A blazing hot late July day would have made it perfect but at least the rain held off, the clubs burgers and hot dogs were as scrummy as I remember, and a cold pint combined with a warm welcome from old friends soon had me settled.Big changes had taken place since my last game nearly two years ago, the clubhouse has had a big facelift, now open plan, adaptable and with large screen tvs for sport etc. The new 3G pitch is the latest FIFA approved version, it was only laid a few weeks ago and even in the warm ups I could see small clouds of black tyre rubber kicking up, this will quickly settle.

Here´s a potted history of City, founded 1822, I started watching them at The Old White House Ground just off the city centre in 1974 from my pram (actually I was in my early teens). City are in the Guiness Book of Records for the longest ever FA Cup Tie, in 1971 it went to six games before they lost, new replay rules mean that record can´t be beaten. In 1980 Bobby Moore was manager with Harry Redknapp hia assistant for about six months. Booted off the ground by the college owners to build houses, the club regrouped and fought their way back and are now in the Bananarama (Vanarama) Conference South.

Back to the game, Brackley are in the Conference North, a much tougher section, I was keen to see 18 year old goal prospect Horatio Hirst (above), Sheffield United spotted him in City´s youth side on a cup run and snapped him up. Horatio (no 10) has been loaned back this season and looked a class act, great awareness, nimble feet, and an eye for goal, the Conference will bring him on to the next level. There’s not much money at City so they comb the lower leagues and keep picking up little gems that go onto bigger clubs afgter serving City well.

The first half was very even, Brackley were hard to break down but didn’t ask too many questions in attack. Both teams blasted a shot wide of the post and the half ended as a quiet stalemate. Brackley upped their game after the break, Jimmy Armson went on a break down the right and brought the ball into City´s goal mouth, two defenders gave him too much space and he finished well from close range after 58 minutes. On the hour City made a double substitution, Justin Bennett and Ezra Forde both caused problems for Brackley. Bennett let loose a great dipping long shot that hit the underside of the bar before being tipped over.

The hoops didn´t get the breaks, Bennett had to go off with a leg injury and Zac McEachran had a clear goal dissallowed, foul or offside? Only the ref could answer that riddle. Brackley could have widened the gap in injury time but a free kick found home keeper Craig Hill alert and able to deflect the shot aside. It was a good game to watch and the 0-1 defeat will mean nothing when league action starts. The crowd was around 150, the threatening rain and an extended run of home friendlies played their part in keeping away the extra 100 or so that turn out for league clashes. For me it was just a pleasure to see City play again, it tweaked my thirst for an enjoyable evening of ale sampling.

 

Wantage Walk Is Poetry In Motion

King Alfred, the one who burnt the cakes, is the most well known former resident of Wantage, a wonderful old town about 15 miles out of Oxford. However the statue of former Poet Laureate Sir John Betjeman took me by surprise outside the Information Centre, but he too stands proud of his near 30 year residence in Wantage. With the sun smiling and the heavy rain keeping at bay, I set off on the Letcombe Brook trail with a thirst for knowledge.

The church of St Peter and St Paul looked magnificent with its well tended graveyard and sturdy stone tower. Thanks to clear signposting and a helpful leaflet from the information office I was able to follow the face of the church and down Priory Road past the houses of old tannery workers and down to the ford by Willoughby Mill with a slight detour up to a partially overgrown spring called Alfred´s Well. It was a lovely restful area with just the chirp of the birds breaking through the still of the day as strands of sunlight filtered through the leaves.

A strong wooden bridge made an ideal stopping point to drink in the solitude before taking a lane alongside some open grassland where a few horses and goats were busy chewing over their plans for the day. This brought me to an old sluice gate in the brook where water was diverted to the mill stream, this was a busy rural area and nature was tapped into to provide power to turn several mills. Where better to pay tribute to the famous poet, Betjeman Millenium Park had a quirky poem inscribed headstone called The Last Laugh and a stone circle where a group of local younghsters were enjoying a crafty smoke – maybe it was a stoned circle?


It was nice to see some love locks on the iron gate out of the park, it´s a modern link to an old Serbian love story about couples engraving their initials on a padlock and fixing it to a bridge, if you search for photos online you will be staggered at how some of europes bridges are totally covered with locks. Back on the main track, the brook trickled into the remains of the Wilts and Berks canal. Willow bundles speed up the flow for the two old mill houses and brown trout darted through the shallow water. The biggest of the mills had been converted into modern apartments, heralding my emergence onto recently developed housing estates lining the brook just over the road bridge.

The Sack House looked a little weather beaten but dignified, long gone was its 19th century role, supplying sacks for farmers and traders. The whole area had a nice balance between tradition and modern developments, between the brook and the new housing estates, a series of modern sandstone sculptures added character, one even looked a little like King Alfred. The route went very urban through and around the estate to a a partly hidden footpath.I feared I might be reported as a lurker or gnome rustler but they seemed to be used to walkers passing within inches of their back gardens. The brook meandered through fields of wild flowers and the colours and smells of nature were just as attractive as any cultivated display. After a leisrely hour I emerged at Willow Walk nature reserve near the main road back to Oxford, I didn’t see any of the Kingfishers that are known to hang around but was still very happy to have got to know Wantage a bit better.


A shorter stroll from the centre of Oxford on another day of my home visit from Tenerife was equally rewarding. Heading into Christ Church Meadows from the town centre I saw the mighty Thames in its Isis stage, complete with punters slowly polling down the river, and a modern Jubilee bridge that was beautifully designed to fit in well with its surroundings. That walk ended at the Head Of The River pub, another favourite watering hole from my past. Of course Wantage has a vast array of pubs for a small town and my favourite there was the Shoulder Of Mutton with its choice of 10 real ales. It’s thirsty business this walking.

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Seeking Out Casa Del Carnaval In Santa Cruz

Music, colour, madness, and costumes explode into life all over Santa Cruz every February and March but even during the rest of the year it permeates the city as costumes are made, routines rehearsed, and stages constructed. Bottling that excitement into a yea round visitors centre and museum has proved elusive in the past so a month after its opening, I eagerky visited the Casa Del Carnaval or Carnaval House in Barranco del Santos inalnd at Tenerife’s capital city.


It’s not an easy setting for the 3 million euro purpose built centre as it lies below and between two of the largest bridges over the dry ravine that can decome a raging river in winters big downpours. Plenty of signs posted the way from the shopping and port area but I approached from the bus station direction to the Puente Serrador bridge and took the many stone stairs down. Higher up the barranco the drop from the towering Puente Galceran involves more steps, or a long rambling ramp, car access is possible but a bit of a labyrinth through back streets. Maybe a shuttle bus calling around the city would be a good future idea or get the open top tour bus to include the centre on its route.


The frontage looks bright, cheery, and modern, and the staff are very friendly and welcoming but on my late July visit it wasn’t all finished. I soon learned that it wont go full blown until September 2017. Until then it is free, a yet to be agreed low feel from September is expected to be a maximum of two euros. Undaunted I walked through the entrance hall lined with old Carnaval posters and large interactive displays. Pride of place went to the winning costume of the 2017 Carnaval Queen. I was pleased to see a few other visitors on this Saturday afternoon, I later read they had 4,000 visitors in the first month.

Heading into the biggest hall I was impressed by the huge circular, glass, back lit, display case, it gave a great feel of the splendour and sheer scale of Carnaval. There was a central bank of interactive stations with large video displays on various aspects of Carnaval, and earphones for a commentary in Spanish or English. It was very informative but the English option wasn’t working – ready in September. Further along were sets of virtual reality goggles to immerse yourself in the swirl of Carnaval, again only Spanish until September. Cruise ship visitors have been mentioned as one target audience so the English, and maybe German would be a big boost. At ehe nd of the hall was a mock up theatre stage, seating area, and racks of costumes for children to enjoy the dressing up frenzy. That´s another winning idea as school groups are high on the target audience list too, passing on Carnaval tradition to the next generation is a proud tradition.


Another exhibition hall featured costumes and history of the various groups like comparsas and murgas.There were also a lot of old newspaper front pages showing coverage on Carnaval through the years. Back in the entrance hall I popped into the cafe bar but that was just an empty shell with a few seats, it leads out onto a spacious outside terrace and will be a nice area to realx and discuss the exhibitions – hopefully from September. The cafe bar must be the key ingredient to making the museum at least partially self supporting. A second floor houses archives and a study area – again very commendable, I hope it all comes together, Santa Cruz needs and deserves a home for Carnaval history. A few years ago there was a permanent exhibition of Carnaval costum es in the Parque Bulevar shopping centre but it only lasted just over a year.


On my way out I did enjoy gazing upward at the magnificent structure of the Puente Galceran bridge. Tha t has stood the test of time and I hope the Casa Del Carnaval can do the same. I will definately be back to see the complete picture later in the year. In the meantime it is open daily from 9am to 7.30 pm.

Brits Are Canon Fodder In Santa Cruz

Blood coursed red, white, and blue through my veins as some jolly jack tars sang Rule Britannia, I even managed to avoid singing the rude version. A bit of decorum was definately called for as Admiral Nelsons British forces tried to storm Santa Cruz, 220 years on from the original failed assault. It´s such an important event in the history of the Tenerife capital, La Gesta is commemorated every year as near as possible to 25 July.

The great man Horatio Nelson wasn´t part of the recreation near the Castilla Negra (black castle) by the ultra modern Auditorium with it´s distinctive wave shaped roof. On the fateful day he came ashore from his ship in a rowing boat with some of his men but was shot in the right arm as he stepped onto dry land by the black castle. Nelson was always against the assault but had orders from on high to take the strategic port, he lost his arm, the locals stood firm and repelled the invaders with 250 Brits killed wounded or drowned. Despite that it was a very polite surrender due to the mutual respect between the forces and the help and hospitality offered afterwards by the Spanish governor, Juan Antonio Gutierrez.

Local enthusiasts keep the memory of the defeated invasion alive and perform as the red coated Brits and their white coated rivals. A good crowd was gathered for one of several events throughout the city over a three day spell. It wasn´t a full scale battle this year, just some well coordinated posturing and symbolic surrender. Two canons shattered roared and smoke billowed as a flock of startled seagulls took flight pretty quick and a couple of small children got a little tearful but it was all very enjoyable and safe to watch.The canons were called El Miserable, and El Gato (the cat) but the big canon that did so much to save Santa Cruz is called El Tigre (the tiger) and lives in a special museum under the Plaza de España. The commemoration is a big deal to Tenerife so it was fitting that the President of the Canary Islands Fernando Clavijo was on hand to inspect both sets of soldiers.

There was a lot of extra detail added to the show, an outbreak of sea shanty´s and some rifle polishing showed the plucky spirit of the British forces, I did spot one making sneaky use of his mobile phone, maybe to pre order the beers, they do like a hearty celebration after their hot, thirsty work. It was the third defeated attack on Santa Cruz from sea based forces and they are rightfully proud of their stubborn resistance. It was a great way to educate and entertain at the same time, hopefully it will encourage visitors to look out for the commemorative plaques at key points around the city where smaller skirmishes took place. Down by the port, near the old, small, lighthouse, there is an impact mark on a wall from a canon among the British fleet.

So the bad run continues, Nelson´s boys will carry on trying in future years to rewrite history but they aren´t going to get any joy. Hopefully when all the upgrade work is finished on the port, the large sculpture that used to stand in a glass case will be restored. It shows the agreement signed by Nelson and Gutierrez, the deal was also sealed with several barrels of Canarian wine that were loaded aboard Nelson´s flagship. No wonder they were signing that song about the drunken sailor.

Support Your Local Mountain

Like a benevolant neighbour looking down on me, Guaza Mountain ridge rises up from the coast of Los Cristianos and reaches it´s peak just above Kirby Towers in Oasis del Sur. Not just a decorative wrap at the far side of the old Las Tarajales beach, it´s also a weather barrier between Los Cristianos and Las Galletas, so often the micro climates are vastly different on either side.

None of those thoughts were on my mind as I huffed and puffed my way up the steep, twisting pathway from beach level on a scorching hot Saturday morning. The breeze was very welcome as I rose higher and each breather stop rewarded me with panoramic views over Los Cristianos. It´s a popular walk, a group of six young people were making good progress ahead of me and I enven had to squeeze tight against the rock as two sweaty runners jogged downwards. It had been two years since I previously passed this way and I spotted some new helpful daubs of blue and purple paint at unclear twists in direction.

Turning away from the sea, the clear sky offered views of some of the other volcanic peaks, some familiar to my feet, like Roque del Conde, and on to Mount Teide in the distance. That first steep rise is the most challenging part of the mountain, once up on the plateau it was much easier and I was able to admire the bizarre rock formations and listen to the birdsong. A criss cross pattern of tracks date back to the days when cereal crops were farmed high above the sea, there are also more modern signs of car tyres as vehicles make regular trips from lower access points to service the radio antennas on the highest peak.

There are several routes to explore, I hugged the coastal path to enjoy the changing views of the sea below. It was pretty busy with every sort of craft imaginable, the inter island ferries, whale watching boats, kayaks, and nippy little jet skis. The coastal path dips down sharply at a couple of points into the old slate and stone quarries, the Malpais de Rasca lighthouse visible from Los Cristianos was built from stone extracted on the mountain. Rain has been very scarce this year and the paths were very parched and dusty making them tricky underfoot, especially when coming back up from a quarry dip.

Reaching a cliff point on the far side I could see the seagulls swooping and wheeling below as they circled their homes in the cliff face. The tell tale circular cages of the fish farm had gained a couple of newer smaller additions since my last trip. Ahead there was a clear view down to Palm Mar, there is a pathway down so you can cut through to the Malpais de Rasca beyond. It seems strange that Palm Mar was built between two large protected natural spaces, it looks like it has just been dropped in overnight. If you don´t want to walk on to the lighthouse from Palm Mar you can head up the main road out to a point between Guaza and El Fraile, a good half hours slog. Turning inward I pressed on across the plateau, to get up to the peak it´s a case of tunnel vision and go as straight as possible until the tracks become clearer and more used. Some of the old low stone walls survive and are handy for a snack stop, and an old abandoned house is also a good aiming point.


It may seem quite bare and exposed but there is still plenty of rugged beauty in the cactus clusters and the rocks tinged with oxide colouring. The approach to the peak is steep but rewarding, I stopped short of the work area around the antenna but despite all the hi tech equipment, the workmen are almost oblivious to the constant stream of walkers finding a perch to nibble their sarnies. Coming back down is faster and the view gives a cleaer view of the direction to the start point of the chunky pathway to bech level. It was a good four hours, very hot but very satisfying, I was very glad I had plenty of water. That´s lit my fuse again, I can feel a few more walks coming on over the next few months.

Wheels On Fire In European Wheelchair Basketball Championships

Speed, power, and skill are ingredients that always draw me to sport so I didn´t need much persuading to add wheelchair basketball to take my first look at live wheelchair basketball. Adeje pulled off a bit of a coup in attracting the European Wheelchair Basketball Championships and despite a lack of fanfare and publicity, it made a big impression with crunching charges, brave interventions, and action that flowed from end to end of the court.

A near empty Las Torres sports hall greeted me on my visit to the third days action. Cleaners were working their way through the bleacher seats with few obstructions to their brooms. Down at courtside the mens sides of Great Britain and Israel were warming up, and blimey it was warm in the hall as sun beat down through the glass roof panels. A bit of breeze wafted in through the open side doors but not a lot, full marks for the 12 man squads to set a frantic pace as I tried to pick up the finer points of the sport.GB were holders and favourites for the tournament but Israel frustrated them and after the second of the four quarters the red reigning champions were just 34-28 ahead.GB improved steadily for a 86-43 win full of spills, these guys just flip back up in their chairs with no moaning, and lethal finishing.


Holland ladies took on Turkey in the next game and by now the hall was like a green house but it was Turkey who wilted as it became an orange house. There´s a lot for the coaching team and support staff to do from changing the odd wheel, to keeping the water and ice flowing, and serving up liberal supplies of energy drinks. The Dutch were the better organised by far, their coaching was slick and brought quick responses as they pulled away for a 81-17 win. Towards the end, other teams arrived via the lower open entrances, from the other group games at the other hall. The camaraderie between all the countries players was impressive, at least if the hall was lacking people, there were several tv stations relaying coverage across Europe, particulary to Germany and Holland.

Fast forward to the Saturday of the grand finals and the hall was transformed, flags, banners, and painted faces filled the crowd. The colours of Holland and Germany dominated the womens final, and one both teams had looked up to the official flags as theie anthems were played, they were off at a cracking pace. They were well matched and at the half way mark it was 23-23, but Holland grew in confidence and built an 11 point lead going into the final quarter. It was too much for Germany, they edged the quarter 14-15 but lost the match, the tears of the winners and the dignity of the losers drew a standing ovation from the crowd for a great contest.
A change of flags in the bleacher seats gave me time to adjourn to fresh air for a beer and a snack at a pizza outlet up the road. Several of the tournament match officials and judges from a range of European countries were also taking a breather and speaking glowingly of the quality of the event and the venues.

I got back just in time for Great Britain and Turkey´s mens teams to line up for their introductions. Thse two were old rivals from many tournaments, especially GB´s win over Turkey two years ago in Worcester at the Euros. GB didn´t quite show the edge of their Israel victory and found themselves chasing the game at 24-36 behind at the half way stage. Turkey were physically stronger and punished GB for their mistakes,thanks to a late scramble GB were able to claw the deficit back to just a nine point gap. Both sides supporters belted out encouragement as the final quarter brought plenty more twists and turns with both sides missing vital shots. The best it got for the Brits was a three point deficit as they entered the last 60 seconds, Turkey pushed forward and with a mix of good defending and quick breaks made it across the line with a 69-76 victory.


The teams will continue their rivalry in Hamburg 2018 for the World Championships, on this night in Adeje, Turkey were just the better side but the spirit and commitment of the game and the tournament made a big impression on all the crowds that increased as the games progressed. Everyone that took part can be proud of their contribution to another wonderful Tenerife based event.

La Orotava In Full Bloom For Corpus Christi

Fancy throwing open your balcony windows to be greeted by a sea of flower carpets and tapestries. Shuffling slowly and respectfully onto the small, tight balconies of the municipal palace, home to to the local council, there was a collective gasp as the full scale of the beauty below sunk in.


It had been a few years since my last visit but hitching a lift from friends Dave and Annie, I was now feeling just a little unsteady. Well I´m not great with heights and was a bit delicate from another CD Tenerife promotion play off game celebration the very late night before. Working through the crowded streets we had so far just seen a small selection of the flower petals, and volcanic sand that was still being transformed into a glorious painting by numbers operation for Corpus Christi week. It´s been packing them in since small beginings in 1847.

Tenerife tv crews were competing for the best vantage points to broadcast from and many local radios were broadcasting interviews with the organisers and foot soldiers. It´s a great tradition and is lovingly passed down through the generations, small children were being encouraged to get their hands on the soil and petals that were arriving by the sackful. Wooden templates and chalk outlines are used to make the frameworks but the eye for detail and a slowly emerging masterpiece comes slowly with many years of dedication.
La Orotava is an old, tranquil, and almost sleepy town most of the time but when Corpus Christi arrives it draws in thousands of people from across the world, the range of tongues and accents were again as diverse as the colour of the petals that made up the mosaics. It´s a slow process working around the tight streets, roped off from the creations being coaxed into existance, the one way flow on each side of the streets ensures everyone gets to wind their way up the steep paths before plunging down past the open plaza in front of the two towered Iglesia de la Concepcion, a beautiful and imposing church.


Beside the murmurs of wowed visitors, a constant peel of bells from the church tower adds a delightful theme tune to the day. There are other tunes competing for attention, a pipe and drum trio added a quicker tempo as petal artists worked painstakingly behind them.I always like those ancient meets modern moments, turning a corner I found teenagers bopping to more modern music from a radio station stand in the shadow of the church. There´s plenty of respect for traditions but healthy elbow room for some modern commercialism, inflatable Disney characters bobbed from their strings a short walk away from religious landmarks. The bars, restaurants, and snack vans were all doing a brisk trade, and tourist coaches were parking up at any handy spots they could find on the modern outskirts of the town.


Mundane needs like,, food, drink, and commerce play their part but the big stars are the carpets. Assembled by an army of enthusiasts after months of planning, they will stay in the memories and camera images of those who gaze on them for years to come. It´s just not going to be quite the same when I pop up for the CD Tenerife Teide Trophy pre season game v Deportivo in a few weeks.

Feeling On Colour In Las Galletas

Sport, music, fashion, and a few beers, sounds right up my street, or in this case right up all the streets of Las Galletas. The annual Arona En Colores is always a good excuse for me to make the short 20 minute Titsa bus ride to the lovely fishing village just the other side of Guaza Mountain from my Los Cristianos home.

The sea on the Marina del Sur side was packed with swimmers and people trying out a few water sports like stand up paddle. On the other less sandy beach the waves wee much calmer than normal and more attuned to bathing than the usual surfing. Strolling along the promenade is always rewarding but the back streets and plazas also had plenty to offer on this Saturday.

Reggae Notes Band were warming up the crowd at the big stage, my tootsies were twitching, especially to a good cover of Buffalo Soldier. After a wander and a beer, I popped back later and Montserrat Siverio hooked me with a ska cover of Monkey Man. In the main La Rambla street I watched a bit of the magic show from Borras and Yasmine, their backing music caught my imagination, they had a disco version of the Star Trek theme – well why not?

With so much going on at little stages set up on street corners, I found a good vantage point outisde the Rincon del Pescador with a couple of crunchy arepas and a cold beer. Saturday night tv may be trying to kill variety but in Las Galletas it was diverse and uplifting. Full marks for the acrobats and the novelty act where passing members of the public were enticed to do a bit of Full Monty, and a dress up as a baby in a pram.

There was plenty for the children, face paininting, inflatable football games, and musical games. As the afternoon eased seductively into evening, the drink was flowing and more people were getting down. I departed after a good few tours of the streets, some sampling of tasty food, and some Dorada lubrication. Arona council try to spread their events around the municipality, it helps to introduce more people to different towns and villages and gives their economy a nifty boost. Here here to that.

It´s Only Natural To Enjoy Imoque Fiesta

Wild horses have dragged me to La Caleta before but this time it was the promise of cow racing that lured me to the Plaza San Sebastian. Each February it´s the start point for another fiesta that includes horses riding into the waves at the beach. This time was different, there were some mighty fine horses in attendance but also enough assorted creatures to do a long playing version of Old Macdonald Had A Farm.

The plaza and the grazing areas around it make a wonderful venue, the modern church stood proud on a higher level with a decorated stage below looking out onto a sea of seats surrounded by food and craft stalls. There was even a wedding taking place, the sound of the church organ wafted out of the open doors and mingled with the barks of Canarian hunting dogs in a series of cages down the side. Chickens were clucking, goats crying, and two black Canarian pigs were snuffling at their food basket, I christened them Messi and Ronaldo.


There was a display of birds of prey, falcons sat tethered and blinkered but my favourite was a large, wise looking owl. Later in the afternoon one of the falcons was put through its paces in the showground area, it had a cheeky sense of humour and split its flight from sender to receiver by perching up in trees and even on a balcony of a nearby hotel. Some racing pigeons were cooped up in some tight cages on the other side, they didn´t seem to bothered by their temporary homes, they all had their chests puffed out with immense pride.

A bit of a jamming session broke out on the stage, I was impressed that one of the musicians wore a t shirt with a union jack and the slogan punk classics. After a plate of meatballs and a few samples of local cheese I ventured round to the paddock where the horses were tethered at one end and the cows at the other. In between a horse was having its shoe changed with old traditional hand tools. I checked the cows and could see no hidden motors, they looked strong but very docile, I was looking forward to seeing them burst into action.


Eventually a pair of cows were led into the show ground, linked with a wooden yolk and then a flat wooden pallet was chained behind them and large bags of grain loaded on as ballast. It was to be a time trial to see how quick they could pull their loads around the circuit guided by a farmer with a wooden staff. The ground was dry and dusty and the cows showed a fleet turn of speed and power, they really pounded their way around and on a couple of circuits they nearly burst through the barriers keeping the spectators back. I was very impressed, it was quite a spectacle. There was more live music and dancing to come later in the evening but I had other calls to make so I bid farewell to my new found animal friends and caught my Titsa bus back to Los Cristianos. As it chugged up the hill above Playa del Duque I couldn´t help thinking that those mighty cows could make a useful addition to the fleet.