There is one thing about living somewhere where time is a somewhat redundant concept – it makes you resourceful, you never leave home without plan B, and you learn to be adaptable, if you weren’t already – my headmistress put that on my assessment when I left school, that I was “adaptable”, and I was never quite sure if it was a good thing or not. However, it sounds better than “stubborn”, so I’ll go with it. I don’t much like routine and predictability, so it’s fine with me
Tenerife truly is mañana land, and never more so than in this hot month of August. Plans shift without warning, times and dates change mysteriously, and this is why I missed an island tradition I’d been looking forward to catching up with, and ended up playing tourist in Icod de los Vinos the weekend before last. All good because I can adapt readily to Plan B you see!
The event I set out, with a couple of friends, to see was El Día de la Trilla, or Threshing Day, a recreation of how how threshing of wheat was done historically, using the huge threshing boards I’d often seen used as decor in country bars, pulled by horses and oxen. This, particular event was revived in 1996 in the north of the island, close to the village of El Tanque, and what I’d read about it sounded like a lot of fun as well as an interesting experience.
Getting around Tenerife efficiently isn’t always a pleasant drive (you see, I admit there are things about the island which grieve me!), where motorways have cut through terrain they’ve left it looking barren and yet busy with pipe, cables, pylons and antennae. The drive from the south to the Icod de los Vinos area is, however, one of the prettiest, and we left early enough for traffic to be no problem at all (but not so early as to spoil a relaxing day!). Once the TF1 is left behind, mile by mile the landscape grows more beautiful and intriguing, from the stark mal pais around Las Manchas, (now unrelieved by the gorgeous almond blossoms) to the picture-book village of Santiago del Teide, with spectacular Atlantic ocean views falling away to your left; then winding over the hillsides, looking back on neat, green fields of vegetables and savoring the custodial presence of El Teide, as he looms ever larger, until you begin to drop over the other side of the hills and into the greenery around El Tanque, reminiscent of parts of the Scottish Border Country.
A delightful journey in an air conditioned car that day. We knew that there was a yellow alert, that high temperatures and winds were predicted, but it still came as a bit of a shock to step out into what felt like a a huge hair dryer wafting around me. It was about 11 am, just the time the trilla was scheduled to begin.
As we wandered down to the area, which will soon be the site of an Ecomuseum, which has been under construction for some three years now, we were entreated to buy raffle tickets for somewhat, well, unusual prizes – a live pig and a rather startling religious painting. I left the repartee to Pilar and Cristina and put on my “I’m just a dumb foreigner” look.
I was having a kind of déjà vu moment – there was something slightly familiar about the craft stalls lined up, the wheat being distributed over the era (a stone circle where the threshing would take plac), and the presence of horses and oxen; familiar and yet at the same time a bit exotic, then I realized that it reminded me of country fairs and game fairs back in England and Scotland. Whilst the details were different, there was an overall atmosphere which was just the same. I’m guessing too that it was something like a mini-mini-mini US State Fair.
We checked out the crafts (end of month, not a good time to shop, guys!) and the display provided by a local conservation group who do excellent work in maintaining the area’s natural resources. They were giving away plants, which Pilar and Crisitina accepted. I thought I had enough to carry as it was. We sampled some delicious variations on sponge cake, and generally hung around chatting and watching a guy toss around the wheat around the era, a huge stone circle bounded by a low wall. This is where the threshing should have been happening right then.
The local folklore group took to the “stage,” and we felt the excitement mount; some rather oddly dressed riders walked their horses around, their surf shorts, flip flops and fashionable hats looking slightly out of place in the rural setting.
The folklore musicians left and still nothing happened. We had, however, heard an announcement that an Arrastre (which basically means a drag race – but nothing like the one you’ve just envisaged!) was happening on the other side of the new museum building, so we shuffled around there and found it almost over. In our eagerness to see the threshing we’d missed it. We only saw one team of oxen performing, dragging a sled laden with heavy sacks around an arena. It looked as if they increased the weight until there was a winner. I developed a kind of fondness for these wonderful beasts after seeing them in La Laguna a few weeks back, and my admiration grew watching how seemingly effortlessly they strode their stage, with just a minimum of guidance from their trainer.
The wind fairly whipped the dust they kicked up around, and I found myself hiding my camera when it wasn’t actually in use. The sun was also quite merciless, and so we decided to cut our visit short, and head down to Icod de los Vinos for lunch – hence the dragon tree picture in the last post. It was interesting to note that just seven days later I passed the very spot of La Trilla, and one of those creeping mists we see so often here was slithering its way up the hillside. The unpredictability of this island is a marvel.
In Icod de los Vinos (about which more another time) we sat in cool comfort in a picture-book plaza, and ate black sausage topped with roasted peppers, the lightest and creamiest spinach croquettes ever and a simple but absolutely delicious salad outstanding for its freshness….and drank quantities of non-alcoholic stuff to restore our hydration!
And afterwards pottered tranquilly around in best-behaved tourist tradition to see the famous tree, its not-so-famous relative and the church square. Out of the shade of the bar it really wasn’t the sort of weather for much activity, and anyway I was hoping to get back to the Fiesta del Vino in El Médano——-another plan which didn’t work out.
On a day on which almost nothing turned out as planned I still have nice memories even if they weren’t quite the ones I expected to have….and I did have the hat to prove it!