Normally on Good Friday (Viernes Santos) on Tenerife we head to La Laguna to watch the hoodies (hooded religious brotherhoods) parading silently through the old streets.
But we’ve seen the Magna and Silent processions on a number of occasions and, evocative though they are, this year we fancied doing what a lot of Canarios do; head into the hills.
The weather on Tenerife recently has been about as perfect as weather can be. Warm, sunny days with a rare shower during the night just to stop things drying out too much. Spring has wowed us with an exuberant display of wild flowers this year and we’ve been out and about enjoying it whilst the show lasts.
Over the last couple of weeks we’ve walked in the east and the west; this time we decided to stick closer to home and pointed the car up the hill towards the upper La Orotava Valley.
We figured that it would be busy at La Caldera (an aptly named zona recreativa located in a wide cauldron in the pines just beyond Aguamansa) but thought that by arriving at an early-ish 10am we’d get there before the crowds.
There wasn’t a space to be had in the large car parking area and we had to dump the car on the track that circled the saucer-shaped picnic zone.
The giddy mood that met us as we left the car was smile-inducing infectious; the sound of Canarios enjoying Viernes Santos al fresco.
Children laughed, people sang, the air was filled with an aroma of freshly grilled meat and fish that taunted our nostrils and made the sandwiches in the rucksack seem like very poor and inadequate cousins. It was a buzzing hive of activity as families transported Medieval sized feasts from their pick-ups to chunky wooden tables in the forest. Tiny toddlers struggled with cool boxes whilst older male members of the family lugged huge pans filled with stews.
Every face we passed was split by beaming smiles and every single person shouted a jaunty ‘hola’ ‘¿que tal?’ or the one that always makes me think of a Beatles’ song; when I say ‘hola’ they say ‘adios’.
This open friendliness is one of the things we love about the Canarios at play. In the fields of this island of contrasts, there are no suspicious glances or gloomy stares. It’s the same when walking; when we pass Canarios or Spanish on the path, we are always greeted by a smiley hola.
The warm and fuzzy scene in La Caldera was so appealing that it tempted us to forego our jaunt in the forest and simply park ourselves at a bench and absorb the heady mix of sounds, smells and party atmosphere. But the lure of a long walk through the pine forest just shaded it.
These zona recreativas don’t exist on the same scale in southern parts of the island`- probably because they are always in forested areas. The first time a friend who lives in the south of Tenerife saw one during a midweek walk, when they lie dormant, he pondered ‘why so many picnic tables? They’re never going to fill all of these.”
He’d never seen one on a weekend or during a public holiday.
By the time we’d completed our walk above Los Órganos (a cliff face that looks like organ pipes) the scene around the zona recreative was much, much busier. The forest was absolutely rammed with cars and pick-ups, parked wherever there was a flat bit of ground. Picnics had spread from the zona recreativa into the leafy glades around its perimeter. In places, people lay sprawled on the soft pines sleeping off epic lunches washed down with generous amounts of vino del pais.
Cars created an unbroken chain all around the zone’s rural ring road; even the spot especially created for parking horses was filled to capacity with mechanical rather than four-legged beasts.
We like to finish walks with the reward of a beer and whatever choccie treat is available at the nearest drinking establishment. La Caldera has a great little log cabin bar/restaurant which does all sorts of goodies ranging from fresh trout from the nearby farm to bars of Twix.
Despite the number of people around La Caldera, the bar itself was relatively empty – most people having brought their own food and drink – and a shady table was easily procured as were two cervezas and the Twix (€3 the lot). We sipped our beers and nibbled our choccie fingers, observing the mix of walkers of a variety of nationalities, forest rangers and extended Canarian families that came and went. At the table opposite, a toothless old Canario with a long traditional walking stick teased his compadres whilst on the adjacent table a young German girl rested her smiling face on her arms – shattered but happy after a long walk in the forest.
It was hot, it was sunny and everyone was smiling and laughing, enjoying the day and some very special natural surroundings.
It was a proper public holiday and another reminder of why we live here.
Jack is co-owner, writer and photographer for BuzzTrips and the Real Tenerife series of travel websites as well as a contributor to lots of other places. Follow Jack on Google+