We’ve just published our pick of the events on Tenerife in September but there are plenty of fiestas and little shindigs that we haven’t included.
There are a number of reasons for this. The fact that there is absolutely loads going on and it would take forever to list them all is one.
The romería in Benijos is another.
Over the last ten years we’ve invested a lot of time in local libraries, town halls and cultural centres to find out the sort of information that simply doesn’t exist online.
But nothing beats getting out there and experiencing the real thing.
We’d read over and over again about the romería in Benijos in September being one of the best on Tenerife. A few years ago, when a friend was visiting, we thought Benijos would be an ideal introduction to Tenerife’s world of harvest fiestas.
All we really knew about Benijos at that time was that it produced excellent cheese. When we headed off the main road to Mount Teide and into quiet, rural farming country we realised we were heading deep into new fiesta territory.
For a start there was no real evidence that a romería was about to take place – no bunting, no locals in traditional dress partying in garages… in fact there were no locals.
It was only by the time we got to the centre of Benijos and saw a hot dog stall that we were convinced we had the correct day.
We bought burgers and beer and sat on a wall and waited… and waited… and waited.
Experienced Tenerife fiesta veterans will know that parades rarely start on time but up in the northern hills the más o menos margins seemed to be much wider.
Whilst we waited a man with very flexible limbs wearing slightly stained traditional dress joined us. A network of red veins in place of the whites of his eyes gave away the fact that his fiesta had started a couple of days previously. All he wanted to talk about was the south of Tenerife; a mythical place he’d never visited but which he spoke about in much the same way a Hobbit would speak about Mordor. If you think the image of Las Américas and the likes painted by the UK press isn’t a flattering one, you should hear what they think about it in the northern hills.
As we chatted (more accurately he slurred and we struggled to understand), a cackling toothless woman tried to drag our friend up for a dance even though there was no music yet. His expression told us that he wasn’t exactly having a fun time.
Eventually the romería started but it certainly wasn’t the big affair painted in some of the descriptions we’d read.
Having seen plenty of extravagant and vibrant huge romerías in Garachico, La Orotava and Tegueste, it soon became clear Benijos was much more of a low key affair.
There were no crowds lining the streets as nearly everyone in area was in the romería. Most of the handful of carts were disguised trucks rather than ox drawn carriages and the dancing lads and lassies in traditional costume lacked some of the sophistication of Tenerife’s classic historic towns. These were farming people having a good time.
Some of the guys on horseback weren’t even wearing traditional dress, staying in their everyday uniform of t-shirt, jeans and cowboy hats – bona fide northern gauchos. We recognised some from our walks in the upper La Orotava valley where horses are still the popular mode of transport.
A couple of them were absolutely sloshed, making Cat Ballou look like a responsible drinker, prompting the question can you be done for drink driving on a horse?
In a bizarre world of vans disguised as bushes, rainbow coloured dancers, timple playing third agers and blootered cowboys, we were the odd ones out; prompting every cart and group to pause as they passed us, shouting ‘photo, photo.’
It also meant that instead of having to battle seasoned romería-goers for the best of the food handed out from the carts, big fillets of meat were thrust in our hands without us having to really do anything. At this point our friend decided that romerías were actually quite good fun.
But, and this is a BUT with capital letters, it wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea. Benijos was a rough ‘n’ ready affair which is great if you want a really raw and authentic Tenerife fiesta experience. However, like a lot of other small ‘local’ events, it isn’t going to be included as one of our pick of things to do in September.
There’s a world of difference between passing on information about things you’ve read about on a website or in a paper and actually experiencing the reality.
Experiencing the reality is what the Real Tenerife is all about.
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+