View of Medano Village from Medano Hotel
Neil Armstrong had just set foot on the Moon when I was boarding the plane for my flight to Tenerife. I had been up all night watching this event (hadn’t we all) and to say that I was feeling a little fragile is an understatement. My friend Ian and I were taking advantage of a special rate holiday, courtesy of the Rank Organisation.
Ian was under manager of our local Rank-owned cinema and had literally “worked his ticket” to get two passes to travel to a remote part of the island where they owned a hotel. It was situated in the south east and was to be the setting for a very memorable experience.
How things have changed – particularly in Tenerife. Back in the ‘60s, the southern part was virtually undeveloped apart from the odd tomato and banana plantation. Other than a scattering of small villages that supported them, there was little else – except for one hotel.
This was the Hotel Medano, situated on the edge of el Medano village. Today this place has been swallowed by the sprawling development of the southern airport (Sofia) and no longer has the identity that made it famous for its tomatoes. Although it still remains a village, it is part of the town and general area of Granadilla de Abona.
Most of the hotel staff were local, because to get to this place from the populated northern side meant having to engage the mountain route, which took at least one and a half to two hours to climb by vehicle, two hours to cross and the same time to descend. No wonder this island was engaged in a major planning agenda to create a motorway that would bypass these mountains and an airport that would service southern Tenerife.
Other than being pleasantly served by the local staff, it was hard to make any acquaintance outside of their duties. Apart from the hotel guests, there was no one else, so I felt the need to make new friends. It took me about two days before I discovered the icebreaker.
I need only have mentioned my affiliation to 11 men (plus a few in reserve) who appeared to rule the world – Manchester United. A crown and a few red carpets would not have been out of place, once these guys learned of my nationality and the fact that I supported Man U.
Had this small village been a major visitors’ spot, I’m convinced that I could have made a fortune by opening a tourist centre with the information that these locals supplied. Not only was I given names and places to visit, but was also offered to be guided. Not wanting to look a gift horse in the mouth, we quickly booked a ride to the north so that we could hire a car. And so the adventure began.
“We’ll go and see Uncle Carlos,” said Arry our guide and friend. Don’t ask me what Arry was short for as he couldn’t be more Spanish, and I never asked. Arry could not speak a word of English and we couldn’t speak Spanish. We were inseparable for two weeks and in that time had no problem in communicating. It’s amazing how something in common like a football team can help break down barriers. The rest was up to nature and its laws through the vibration of life.
Uncle Carlos ran a local garage that looked as though it was recovering from an incendiary drop. If he charged by his time, his life would be comfortable, as it would take as long to find the tools as it would to fix the vehicle. I couldn’t pronounce the name of his business, but I’m sure the word “Mañana” was incorporated.
Luckily, Uncle Carlos had a couple of cars for hire and, as we were friends of his favourite nephew, we got the cheap rate. Unfortunately, I think we got the cheap car as well. It was a yellow VW Beetle and it looked like – well, a yellow VW Beetle. This is where the similarity ended, but we wouldn’t find that out until later.
To be fair the vehicle never let us down for the first week or so as we discovered the island and its population. In fact it was mechanically sound. The fact that the door dropped off while jacking it up to repair a puncture in the middle of a busy road, and the engine cover at the rear would never close again, had nothing to do with its reliability to get us from A to B and for that we were grateful.
At the beginning of our second week on this glorious island, we decided that we would take in the lower mountain regions that were negotiable by tracks that Arry was familiar with. We had covered the popular northern side taking in a few memorable days staying with Arry’s hospitable relations.
These base regions are where the family-owned plantations are situated. Passed down from generation to generation, the businesses have been refined to an efficient run outlet for the finest products – bananas and tomatoes in particular. It’s a shame that some of these plantations were being disturbed, or e
An overview of Tenerife from the hill
ven worse – destroyed by the ongoing process to improve the infrastructure of the island.
To our advantage, and as a consequence of this upheaval, we were able to venture on foot to areas that were hitherto impassable. One such place we visited was what I recall as being called Maro’s or Mayo’s yard. This was a beautiful area that had been scarred by the planting of a concrete mound used for surveying and measuring of the local area. The southern end of the island became infested with them. It was also very memorable because of my earlier meditations where "The Meadow" began to take root in my mind. This turned out to be the novel that I have just completed with my co-author Elfreda.
The day, as usual, was hot. Luckily, humidity levels are very low here. I decided to take my flask (hot tea would you believe) and sandwiches to the sheltered part of this mound and enjoy the view. It overlooked a ravine that took in a tomato plantation owned by the Garcia’s at one end and a banana plantation at the other.
After I had finished eating, winding back the flask top, I moved to my right as if to get up. My open shirt caught on what I believed was a thorny bush, but then I realised that this was a concrete mound and there were no plants. As I pulled my shirt tail towards me to release it, I was greeted with four yellow, hairy legs just hanging there. Then there were eight, separated by a body that was as big as a house.
This thing was so big that I could see a face and I swear that it was smiling at me. Mutley’s grin and infectious laugh came to mind. It’s hard to describe what happened after this, because everything seemed to happen in slow motion. All I can remember is that I was gifted with super human strength that enabled me to rip the shirt from my back in one move. Try doing this under normal circumstances. I promise you will not be able to – I tried.
By now I was experiencing panic and horror and was suffering a cold sweat in temperatures exceeding 85%. A few weeks before visiting Tenerife I had been to see “Dr No” where a tarantula was moon walking over 007’s chest. What else could I think?
It was probably only seconds, but after I had composed my thoughts, I remembered that I still had my camera around my neck. The funny thing is that I never once screamed out – or so I was told. My next problem was to remove the camera. Just lift the strap and pull forward I thought. I was so disoriented that I couldn’t do it.
By the time I managed to remove it, the offending creature had vanished. I’m not sure whether I was relieved or not, but I did make the effort to try and find it, but could only see a large silk web. How could anything so large simply vanish? Back at the hotel, I was determined to give my story without a word of exaggeration.
Question: What is a Spanish tripod? Answer: Three Spanish waiters propping each other up through fits of laughter. Had I not gelled with these guys at the beginning of my stay, I’m sure they would have been laughing at me rather than with me.
What I was trying to describe, as a tarantula, was nothing less than a banana spider. The fact that these creatures are as large didn’t matter. “It’s only a banana spider,” said one of them as if it was a gnat or something. They tried to save some of my embarrassment by explaining it was probably the female that I encountered which is much larger than the male.
Some of the locals keep these creatures as pets and claim their “bite” is milder than a bee sting. No way was I going to hang around in the hope that I might find out which family this arachnid belonged. The story hovered for days, but it had such positive repercussions. I was a mini celebrity. I became “Spider Man” before Spider Man.
Once the story got around about “Spider Man” who happened to be English and supported Manchester United, it wasn’t long before I got invited to join the local soccer team to play one of the teams from the north, that consisted mostly of German tourists. Thank goodness my friend Ian was also invited. He was a good regular player at home and helped the team to a 3-2 victory. What more could we ask for?
This pleased the “lord of the village” no end. This was the title I gave Mr Garcia who was the local tomato exporter. Thanks to my encounter with the spider, the events that followed made for a very memorable occasion. I became great friends with the Garcia family and kept in touch for many years. Wonderful experiences such as these are priceless and are responsible for making us what we are as human beings. I may have only had a poor, very cheap camera in those days, but my memories of this are clear and intact and I only hope that by sharing this now with you has made at least one person smile.
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