You’ve got to love the sense of humour exhibited by Garachico’s residents. They live in the unluckiest town in Tenerife; a place that’s been the victim of plagues, pests, floods and most famously the wrath of the volcanic gods who sent rivers of lava through their streets, destroying the harbour.

With this history of natural disaster on their shoulders and the knowledge that they’re in the most vulnerable place on Tenerife should Mount Teide decide to throw a fit, how do you think they celebrate their biggest fiesta?

The answer is they set fire to the beach and launch flaming balls from the cliff top in the direction of the town. It’s a brilliant two-fingered response to nature’s fickle ways.

Garachico’s Fiestas Lustrales take place once every five years and on the night of Sunday 1st August, around 30,000 people packed the streets and the harbour area of the normally sleepy town. They were there to witness one of the most bizarre and spectacular events in Tenerife’s fiesta calendar, the Fuegos del Risco, a re-enactment of the eruption that filled the town’s harbour with lava just over three hundred years ago.

At somewhere between 10 and 11pm Santísimo Cristo de la Misericordia was paraded through the streets, the town was plunged into darkness and the beach set alight. Impressive enough in itself, but the real show was only just beginning.
Heads turned skywards as flames spread down the cliff behind the beach following the same path as the lava in 1706. After a few moments a fireball was launched from a vantage point high up the cliff face. It tumbled down the slope, bouncing its way earthwards urged on by screams of encouragement from the crowd. The excited buzz changed to groans of disappointment when the fireball became lodged in a crevice halfway down. The disappointment didn’t last long, within seconds another fireball appeared and another and soon a whole stream of flaming balls were careening their way towards Garachico, burning a fiery trail down the hillside.

Some didn’t quite make it and some ended their journey in a ravine at the base of the cliffs whilst a couple of stray fireballs bounced into an unfortunately situated lone tree, setting it alight. The most determined fireballs refused to be stopped by something as puny as gravity. Racing down the cliff face, they hit the ground at speed, bounced, clearing walls and natural obstacles and just kept on going toward the beach before finally coming to rest dangerously close to a fire engine in position to prevent the Fuegos del Risco becoming too realistic.

As Garachico’s hillside burned, an explosive firework display in time to a booming operatic soundtrack added to the epic spectacle (sadly the music didn’t include Great Balls of Fire). It felt like being at the centre of a volcanic eruption, but one scored by Wagner.

That’s Tenerife for you. You think you’ve seen the most outrageous fiesta there is, but then the Tinerfeños come up with something that tops it. Fire-balling the town is going to be a hard one to beat.

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