A good day for the roses in La Caleta

Two things you should know about horses and donkeys, at one end they look cute, attentive, and loving, but at the other end – well, don’t even go there. So trying to make sure I was always at the smiling end of the cattle, I choose my steps wisely at the Fiesta San Sebastian in La Caleta.

San Sebastian is a patron saint of Adeje, the area where fishing village La Caleta can be found, San Antonio de Abad is the saint of the animal kingdom, and as his day was last Sunday, the two celebrations merged and the waste land near the church became a makeshift farmyard for the day. As a religious service was held in the church, thousands of people thronged outside and through the fair of food and drink stalls. It was a scorching day and large Canarian farming gentlemen slaked their thirst with cold beers as they awaited the procession of the animals to the beach.

You could hear the ooos and aaahs for miles as families gathered around the animal pens and admired, stroked, and patted horses, foals, donkeys, bullocks, goats, sheep and rams. Most of the animals were quite content in the shade, I tried feeding a noisy child to a large goat, but it refused the offer. Some budding  jockeys were riding the small horses up and down in front of proud parents, and their keepers lent on their wooden staffs swapping tales with their friends.

Just after noon the horses took up position in the road and began their short but packed journey to the beach. Some of the most up market hotels in Costa Adeje are in this area but even their clientel were scrambling up posts, balconies, and anywhere else they could secure a good view. Most of the horses trotted along the road but a few of the leading ones performed some balletic side stepping as they brushed past expensive cars. As they reached the beach a few fireworks were let off with loud bangs, this did little to disturb the horses, although anyone with a handy shovel could have ensured a good return on their garden for a few months to come.

As the procession fanned out onto the Playa de la Enramada, the horses were almost skipping through the sand as they headed for the shore. A little hesitant hoofing at the water soon convinced them that it was good to go in, many went in pretty deep as their riders were soaked up to the waist. The donkeys weren’t going to be left out, and they gleefully took to the water as the full banks of the Los Toscas mound peered down. It really was a perfect scene, a clear blue sky featued several hang gliders riding the thermal currents, and the eager crowd crunched over the pebbles to get a better view as the tide lapped at their feet.

Gradually the horses began to leave the water, and the statue of San Sebastian was carried shoulder high to the shore to be splashed with sea water and blessed. As the huge crowd slowly dispersed, there was no mistaking the awe and murmours of approval at another of the set piece events that Tenerife does so well. The celebrations for San Antonio de Abad will carry on all week and more animal dipping will take place up north at the weekend, find out more about the Saint and the ceremonies at www.tenerifemagazine.com