I adore goats. If ever I adopted a lifestyle that kept me in the same location for most of the year I would have goats. I would learn how to make goat’s cheese and spend my days listening to the tinkling of goat bells and eating cheese. Goats seem to me to have intelligent, personality-rich facial expressions and their offspring are right up there with Labrador puppies and fluffy kittens on the off-the-chart-cute scale.
Jack suddenly slammed on the brakes and turned the nose of the car into a space at the bottom of the hill leading into La Matanza, leaving her rear end sticking out into the traffic while we waited for a gap in which to manoeuvre into the space. Remembering our own golden rule of ‘park as soon as you see others doing so’ when attending any fiesta in Tenerife, it seems that this year’s sunshine had brought out the farmers’ families and friends in their droves. Following the trail of goat droppings, we made our way into the hill town of La Matanza where, hot on our heels and their hooves, a band of caballeros (horsemen) cantered and pranced into the midst of the crowd, their steeds sweating from the climb.
Attending the ganadera (a cross between an agricultural show and an animal pilgrimage) at La Matanza in the hills above Puerto de la Cruz on Tenerife’s northern coast has been an annual outing for the past five years. But last year was a complete wash-out in weather terms which meant that the crowd was relatively small and we spent most of the fiesta huddled under the awning of a guachinche in the company of several plates of carne fiesta (spicy, marinated pork) and lashings of vino del país (country wine) while parades of wet goats, cattle, bulls and horses filed past. Let’s be honest, there are worse ways to spend a Sunday at the end of January.
This year, it looked as if some 10,000 spectators and pet owners were in attendance as hooves of every description kicked up the dust of the winter drought into swirling clouds.
Taking care not to venture too close to the hind quarters of the horses tethered on railings overlooking the sun kissed valley of La Orotava while a halo-clad Mount Teide kept watch over the horizon, we made our way through the ranks of mules, donkeys, horses, cattle, bulls and hundreds of head of goats that make up the bulk of the menagerie. Groomed, wearing red ribbons and the occasional jaunty straw hat (Shetland ponies), the animals waited to be judged and blessed – the former by the panel, the latter by the Saint whose image had been carried out into the sunshine, the better for him to see his disciples.
A tiny fly made its way into the ointment of our day when we discovered that our beloved guachinche was not in evidence this year, which along with the bigger crowd, was causing much queuing at the remaining guachinches and we had to bide our time with short forays for wine while we waited for crowds to thin. Finally getting our elbows onto a counter we found that all the carne fiesta had been sold and we were left with the choice of either carne de cabra (goat) or conejo frito (fried rabbit) for our Sunday lunch. I’m not that keen on rabbit.
I could no longer look those goats in the eye as we made our way back to the car.
Andrea (Andy) Montgomery is a freelance travel writer and co-owner of Buzz Trips and The Real Tenerife series of travel websites. Published in The Telegraph, The Independent, Wexas Traveller, Thomas Cook Travel Magazine, EasyJet Traveller Magazine, you can read her latest content on Google+