Tenerife, fantasy and reality
Which one is the weirder?
Anyone who has been to Tenerife at all will know that, historically, the people lived on the North side of the island, and that the South side is essentially a desert. The only people who lived there, in the past, were fishermen. This is because there is a prevailing wind, from the North, to the South. The wind blows off the vast ocean carrying it's load of watery air, hits the volcanic mountain around which Tenerife has formed, and drops it as rain. Hence there is always cloud perched over the mountains above Puerto de La Cruz, and the land is green and rich. But by the time the wind has reached the South it has off-loaded all it's burden of moisture, has become as dry as the dust it stirs in the Barrancos, the dry river valleys that are gouged out of the Southern landscape, a sign of the occasional torrents that break the otherwise fearsome conditions.
All this has changed, of course, with tourism. The North is hot and wet, but the South is just relentlessly hot.
So this is where the tourist trade has grown up, in the desert regions in the South, particularly around the once-small fishing village of Los Cristianos, where the sun can be guaranteed all year round.
Well Los Cristianos is not small any more. It stretches out along the coast through Las Americas to the Costa Adeje in the West in a vast conurbation of shops and hotels and bars and restaurants, crawling along the seafront and up the hillsides and growing ever taller and more grand in its hunger to satisfy the tourist's requirements for more views and more entertainments.
It is a landscape of fantasy and delusion. You see all sorts of strange things there. Mayan Temples and ornate, gated communities, with elaborate architectures of marble and glass. There are chip-shops and English pubs and cafes serving full English breakfasts. Bars and clubs that are open all night. People go to Tenerife to see the sun and then never do. They are up all night in the bars instead. Yachts and speedboats jostle together in the Marina, bobbing up and down on the diesel-stained waters. Air-conditioned shopping malls with piped music. Seafood restaurants in this land surrounded by sea, serving fish flown in from Spain and the EU. White sandy beaches made with sand imported from the Sahara desert. And the golf course at Adeje with its undulating fairways and greens of the finest English grasses.
This is the strangest of sights: a whole suburban golf-course meandering around a hillside: green and sparkling with the sprinklers all day, fed by brand new roads and surrounded by marble palaces and lush green lawns; and then, suddenly, abruptly, where the golf course ends, a desert.
But this is the oddest desert you ever saw. A desert fed by water from the golf course. So all of these plants and cacti and succulents that spend the majority of the year on the rest of the island in stasis, as it were, in hibernation awaiting the rains, are in full, constant, psychedelic bloom.
I mean that literally. "Psychedelic". It means "mind-expanding". And that's what the plants appear to be. Weirdly extravagant expressions of a deranged God-head. An acid paradise of bloated strangeness. Great fat strange shapes bursting from the desert landscape like a madman's babble in the brain. I could almost hear the telepathic buzz of these Triffid-like monstrosities, communicating inter-dimensional thoughts at each other.
And then you'd shift your gaze a metre or two the other way to see an English lawn and some guy in checked shorts and socks lugging an electric trolley about.
Which one is the weirder I wonder?