There are clowns driving cars to my side and my rear. Okay, there are often clowns driving cars around me but this time they are actually dressed as clowns.
What is the attraction of carnival on Tenerife? To some people it might be the parades or the carnival queens with their glitz and glamour. To me it’s an electric atmosphere that is both manic and irresistible.
Hitting a gridlocked Santa Cruz twenty minutes before we’re supposed to meet up with people on the other side of the city would normally have me cursing machine gun style but for the opening parade of carnival I accept that mice and men are a complete non-starter when it comes to making arrangements.
People are dumping their cars everywhere, there’s an unofficial parking amnesty on nights like these. We negotiate blocked roads, dead ends and tailbacks till we find ourselves back where we started at the wrong end of the city. The car gets dumped and we walk through a buzzing city full of colourful creatures and intoxicating smells from an army of street stalls.
We pass bars filled with the oddest of clientèle – they remind me of the bar in the first Star Wars movie.
We find the press stand just as the opening parade begins… and immediately abandon it in favour of getting in amongst the action. There’s a very casual approach to lining the streets, but despite seeming like a recipe for chaos it works. The Canarios are used to this set up and there’s a sort of orderly chaos that might escape the casual visitor. There are unwritten rules but you need to experience these events a few times to know what they are.
I’m so close to the action that scantily clad dancers, murgas with painted faces and the carnival queens and dames pass inches in front of my face whilst hordes of ‘yoofs’ wearing the traditional carnival costumes of gangsters and ballerinas in pink tutus and black leotards insist on tripping over me (I’m kneeling which takes me out of the eye-line of the yoofs rushing to get nowhere in particular).
The female TV Canarias presenter opposite is as false as the make-up on her face; her smile and ‘look at kooky me’ act turns on at the same time as the cameras.
A witch walking backwards nearly falls over me as do the old dears who have been standing beside me for an hour (obviously suffering badly from short term memory loss). A man in drag fires a sweet out of the backside of a hedgehog that nearly takes my eye out whilst behind me three tiny Canarian women scream and howl with laughter at everyone who passes. I keep looking to see what they’re laughing so uproariously at but can never see anything particularly funny. Three Nazis approach – the women howl with laughter. They’re clearly on drugs.
It’s mental, it’s mad and some of it doesn’t make any sense – it’s CARNAVAL on Tenerife and I love it.