Sunday, February 22, 2009

Carnival & Gualaceo

Across the river & across the street, in between the road construction they've been working on since we moved into the apartment, they've set up 2 tents where we believe they're holding something like a beer garden. Energetic music has been blaring out since noon. We'll have to mosey over there & have a boo at some point this weekend. Wonder how late into the night the music will go?

For our morning walk with Fredi we ventured down Doce De Abril & stopped for a a look-see at a bunch of Peruvian vendors that set up shop for the weekend. Shelley eyed Peruvian dolls with Fredi in mind but managed to restrain herself, however, we did pick up a hat for her (Shelley) & some hand knit gloves for one of the kids back home.

An ExPat friend shared a tale about Carnival with us by email:

  • A couple who are long time residents here told me that many Cuencanos leave on the weekend to avoid it. Many people have been hurt (hit in the face with balloons etc.) and, one year, this particular couple had someone stick a spraying hose in their car!
We advised our friend we'd been here last year during Carnival and had gotten sprinkled a few times (beware of balconies) but had been fortunate just to see the fun loving, good humoured side of the whole thing. Weren't kept up until all hours of the night because of blaring music at a beer garden, however ;-)

As it turned out, the music stopped before nightfall and the tents were gone by the morning so now we think it was probably some kind of party for the workers on the road. The attendees were mostly men but there were a few women milling around, cooking things & serving. There was some dancing and whatever it was, it seemed like a successful bash.

Gringo Tree had recommended the Mediterrane Restaurant at Honorato Vasquez 7-64 y Luis Cordero, so we met a friend of ours there for dinner. Shelley had a designer vegetarian pizza, Brian had penne pasta with seafood & our friend had a meat ravioli. We all had a couple of cerveza & the total bill (with tip included on the bill) was $43. Everything was absolutely wonderful (!) and the young couple who run the place are delightful. We'd spent the morning going for our monthly coffee run downtown (incidentally the price had actually gone down at the place where we buy our ground coffee) & expected to come across all sorts of Carnival happenings both in the morning and evening, but other than a 10 year old girl dropping water balloons from a balcony, we saw nothing. We asked our taxi driver coming home from dinner why it seemed so quiet and he too said most people leave town.

Over the hills & through the dales to Gualaceo we went; off to see their version of Carnival. It cost us $1 each to take the bus and the ride was interminable. It was bumper to bumper traffic for miles before the toll booth area and then bumper to bumper traffic for miles before Gualaceo as the bus took some sort of detour to deposit us on the Carnival side of the river. We were entertained by the usual fabulous scenery & a little girl with her father, both semi-fascinated by Fredi. Upon arrival there were vendors up and down what we think is the Rio Bolo and we weren't there 10 minutes when someone threw a bucket of water on Shelley's behind. Everywhere you looked they were selling various sized buckets, spuma (soap spray in a can), cuy on a stick & candied apples. Brian & the couple we were with both were sprayed quite extensively with spuma. We finally bought a can ourselves (to be used in self-defence) but ended up not needing it.

The river was crowded with people wading & splashing & teenagers carrying semi-protesting friends down to the water for a full body dunk. There was a large flat bottomed boat taking people for rides and we walked through the fair area and across a swinging bridge into town. After Brian asked directions, we found a nice restaurant where we all ate a hearty meal and had a large cerveza each for $29 for the 4 of us. We then wandered through town to the bus station, spuma at the ready, & paid for our return tickets. This time the tickets were $.60 for Shelley & $.30 for Brian (being 3rd stage). We have no idea why there was a discrepancy with the tickets. The bus ride home was a snap, no bumper to bumper traffic, no detour, no delay. Brian spuma'd several people through the window of the bus leaving town.

We got off the bus close to home to take Fredi to her favourite off-the-leash park area by the river. She LOVES to free run & burns off a lot of energy, so we do it as often as we can. However, this day we were followed by what was obviously a well-loved, groomed and overly friendly dog who wanted desperately to play with Fredi. They both had fun even though the big galoot tumbled Fredi over and made her yelp a couple of times. He followed us home & we shooed him away at our door hoping he would find his way home. Ecuadorians generally have a fairly cavalier attitude about their dogs & don't seem to control them in the same manner we do in North America. Normally we wouldn't have anything to do with a free ranging animal, but his overtly friendly demeanor & good grooming won us over.

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