This has largely been thanks to WooMooN – the eye-opening, open-air party that was launched three years ago in the hills of San Jose at Cova Santa – and the subsequent spate of similar parties that have popped up all over the island ever since. In previous years, I have written all about the sights of WooMooN, and of course, I’ve waxed lyrical about the sounds of WooMooN, but what has really made an impression on me this year (in addition to the former, both of which are once again simply magical) are the smells associated with WooMooN. Talk about a sensory overload. With only one week to go before my favourite party celebrates its closing on Sunday August 26, 2018, I thought it was only fitting that I complete my trifecta of WooMooN reviews with an overview of its many scents.
The first thing that struck me as I parked my car in the hillside car park was the smell of the campo after the rain. It was so fresh, so green (if that can indeed be a smell) and instantly made me feel happy. The power scent has to affect our emotions has long been studied, and on this day, my olfactory receptors were feeling fine. As soon as we walked through the entrance, a waft of fresh herbs floated over the airwaves, thanks to the many mojito and cocktail stands in the market area grinding freshly plucked mint, specially grown Tagetes Minuta (which is Peruvian black mint, despite its green colour) and limes on demand. So much better than pre-mixed drinks or beer in a warm cup!
Of course, to purchase these bespoke drinks one needs to first snap up some drinks tickets from a little stall next to the famous elephant statues in the pond. While waiting our turn in the queue, I couldn’t help but notice a v-e-r-y distinct smell hanging around. Ahh… pond water. Considered a delicacy in some parts of Japan, and a pest in places where it just attracts mosquitos, I knew it was coming from beneath those elly trunks. Note: I should probably take this opportunity to tell you, I have been told in the past I have an extremely heightened sense of smell. And as such, I am highly sensitive to perfumes and odors other people may not blink an eye at. So don’t worry – the pond smell isn’t offensive or anything, it’s just… distinct. And pondy.
With a drink finally in hand, we strolled a little further up the hill and the air became thick with the thick, rich and unmistakeably sweet aroma of waffles and crepes. Mmmm… I do not know how people can bypass a street food cartlike this without indulging. Sugary, chocolately, Nutella-y goodness. I wasn’t even hungry but I followed my nose’s orders and ordered something to fuel my dancing shoes. Waffle consumed, we finally ascended the stairs that take you towards the dance floor, only to be enveloped in a soft and fragrant hint of raspberry. Or was it sherbert? I couldn’t quite be sure – until I looked inside the VIP area and spotted the culprit – a whole shelf full of shiny silver hookahs, ready to be puffed on by the party people who no longer think cigars are slick. So really, what I’d been sniffing was a fruity mix of apple, raspberry, lemon and blueberry among others. Sure beats second-hand cigarette smoke if you ask me!
Speaking of which, it’s nice to note cigarette fumes are few and far between at WooMooN. You’re far more likely to get a nose-full of weed, which doesn’t cling to your clothes and hair like a bad smell, on the dance floor here. And so, onto the dance floor we went. Straight down to the front because quite surprisingly, it’s where the best breeze is, my senses were instantly overwhelmed by something familiar; something slightly medicinal; something that wasn’t necessarily pleasant but wasn’t bad either (you know the kind of scent I mean?). I racked my brains for what it could be. I looked around for where it could be coming from. I sniffed my nose up in the air like a hunting dog until BINGO! I got it – it was the earthy essence of PALO SANTO coming from the DJ booth! Keeping dance floors cleansed of bad energy since the dawn of time…
For the next couple of hours, there were three highly recognisable smells that took turns dominating the dance floor. I’m going to list them in order of preference. First, that oh-so-delectable, mouther-wateringly good hit of barbecued meat. Smoky, crispy grilled goodness, just tempting, teasing and tantalising me to leave the dance floor and book a table in the terrace restaurant (but since I’d already eaten the waffle, I knew I couldn’t fit it in). Next up, a whiff of something fishy (I should also mention here that I don’t eat anything from the sea –maybe a fish-eater would not have scoffed!) that evoked the memories of a fish and chip shops on a hot summer’s day. Then the wind would change and smoky barbecue would return… The third most significant scent on the dance floor is an odour I have detected on many a dance floor in the past – in a club and open-air alike. It’s that moment when the clubber next to you raises their arms for a hands-in-the-air moment of ecstacy… only for you to discover that she/he has not shaved her armpits since, well, ever, and she/he clearly also does not believe in deodorant. Maybe they’re one of those hippy types who believes baking soda, apple cider vinegar and lemon will do the trick; or maybe they’re one of those who finds natural human body odour attractive, because people certainly do – to each their own. But I for one, am a big believer in personal hygiene (perhaps due to the aforementioned heightened sense of smell) and not a fan of my ‘airtime’ being interrupted by someone else’s BO. I mean… sure, we’re not in the incense-infused VIP section, but surely having a wash and applying deodorant is just common courtesy to your fellow humans on the dance floor?
One of the many things I’ve learned this year is that while you cannot controls the actions (ie, lack of personal hygiene) of others, you can control your reactions and with this in mind, I decided I wasn’t going to let a slightly unpleasant pheromone or two mar my evening and simply shimmied over to the other side of the dance floor. Problem solved. When the music was over and we headed back down to the market area, the rising scent of corn-tortillas on a hot grill instantly transported my memory to Mexico and I quickly found myself in line to order some tacos. The association between scent and memory really is am amazing thing – while I’m not sure Eau de la WooMooN is not going to be a fragrance snapped up by one of the major perfume houses any time soon, I know that in my mind, it will always remind me of those wonderful hot summer Sunday nights spent dancing in the San Jose hills.