I didn’t want to go. I really didn’t want to go.
I’d heard stories.
“You’ll never survive,” they said. “You’re not made of the right stuff. You’ll be torn apart, goddam it!” I tried to take these warnings with a pinch of salt – after all, the Congolese are infamous for their pessimism – but alas, I couldn’t shake my concerns.
I was going on safari. A safari that guaranteed up close and personal encounters with some of the most fearsome wildlife the world has ever known.
But worse than that. Drunk Brits.
But even worse than that. Drunk Brits on holiday.
Frankly, I would have rather shared a bedroom with a paranoid schizophrenic Robocop than an island populated with these primordial brutes.
Before I further offend my native people – who at home, it must be said, are quiet, retiring and eminently agreeable folk – I should probably throw some context into this strange amalgamation of sentences.
I was on my gap year, backpacking through Africa, soon to be returning home, and received word from some of my more boisterous pals a “lads break” was being organised, and would I like to join in the fun and games before my return to the real world? Delighted I hadn’t been forgotten and with the happy knowledge that I had vastly overestimated the cost of travel in Africa, and as such had some funds leftover, I immediately consented. Then I asked where the jolly would be occurring. And this is about where I came in.
Tenerife – aka Tene-Grief, aka Tene-Shriek, aka Tene-forget-about-the-Fig-Leaf – is a rather cantankerous volcano whose big, bald, sunburnt head pokes out the Atlantic Ocean to form part of the Canary Islands, a Spanish archipelago scattered just off the west coast of Africa. The volcano doubles as a second home for the Great British public, who stampede the sandy beaches in their droves the moment a rain cloud blots out the sun in Britain. So all year round in other words. I should know – I was dragged there by my long-suffering parents as a fourteen year-old, and disliked it intensely. But then I disliked most things intensely when I was fourteen, so perhaps it was time for the island to be judged afresh.
We based ourselves in Playa de las Americas – the hornet’s nest, the lion’s lair, the place where you realise evolution isn’t something that’s happened, but an on-going process. Even the holiday brochures don’t beat about the bush with this place: “..the artificial beaches are full and the nights never ending bright lights and noise.” Brilliant!
You may have deduced by now that my stint in Tenerife was a holiday from Hell. You may be quite correct, or completely wrong – I honestly couldn’t tell you, because I remember very little indeed. It’s an enigma. I have a sneaking suspicion that I had an absolute blast – the photos, most of them unpublishable, would appear to support this theory – and my significant weight gain suggests I had a rather good time eating out in Tenerife.
I do know one thing for sure. On my last day, waiting for the airport transfer, lounging on a deckchair surrounded by friends on a golden beach, watching foam-flecked waves curling and retreating under a cobalt sky, one thought was running through my mind.
I don’t want to leave. I really don’t want to leave.
By Jack Jones of Great Britain, the Greatest Country in the World