It’s very simple. Go into any rent-a-car office on Tenerife, hire a car ““ it doesn’t have to be a DeLorean ““ and, instead of bumming it at the beach, head inland and into the mountains. If you’re very lucky you might even stumble across fascinating little agricultural fiestas like the Dia de la Trilla (threshing day) which took place on the site of the planned Eco Museum in El Tanque at the end of July.
Life in Tenerife’s hills is very different from that in its popular tourist resorts. Across much of the island, the land is farmed using agricultural practices that haven’t changed greatly in a hundred years. The Dia de la Trilla celebrates some of the most ingenious of these.
The first thing that anyone attending a fiesta in the hills during the height of summer should know is that temperatures are often hotter than at the coast; a hat is an essential accessory. Almost everyone at Dia de la Trilla sports a straw sombrero to avoid being fried by a vengeful sun. In July’s searing temperatures, the hat didn’t exactly keep a person cool, but it did stave off death; the probable alternative.
With a soundtrack of Latino and traditional music blaring from speakers beside stalls selling handicrafts, breads, jams, cheese and the lifesaving straw hats, the main focus of the fiesta takes place around the era ( a large stone threshing circle).
First, El Tanque’s male elders filled the era with wheat using pitchforks one of which was a wonderful, traditional three pronged wooden affair. Then, when the wheat was waist high, horses were brought into the arena and “˜encouraged’ to race around it, threshing the wheat in the process. The final part of the threshing process was clearly the highlight for the local children. Two pairs of seriously big oxen were hooked up to a wooden threshing board, a sign was given and hordes of children raced to try to secure a prized spot on one of the boards.
It’s an inspired technique. The wheat gets threshed and the local niños get to enjoy the equivalent of an agricultural white knuckle ride ““ the white knuckle part being when the tank-sized beasts of burden, travelling in the opposite direction from the ones pulling your board, stray far too close for comfort and faces with wide smiles change to faces with saucer wide eyes.
By early afternoon, with the wheat well and truly threshed, everyone drifted away from the era towards either the grub tent for a plate piled with hearty rustic fare, or the sanctuary of the shade provided by the cerveza kiosk’s awning.
There’s no flash, bling or pomp and circumstance at these types of agricultural fiestas, just a wonderful sense of community, an infectiously laid back atmosphere and an insight into what rural life is like outside of Tenerife’s resorts.
Some people describe the neighbouring island of La Gomera as being like Tenerife before tourism. The truth is that you don’t have to travel as far as La Gomera to discover what Tenerife was like Tenerife before tourism and you definitely don’t need a time machine.