¡Viva Guaranda! ¡Viva Carnaval!
Trip Start Jan 31, 2005
45Trip End Mar 30, 2006
Guaranda is a smallish town (about 20,000 people) but swells to many times that size during Carnaval, due to the province being known for its festivities. First of all, when our bus arrived in Guaranda, we spent about a half hour in a traffic jam, most of that time spent watching people throw water at each other. Ecuadorians mark Carnaval largely by drenching each other. In other cities like Quito, this is limited to water balloons and the occasional kid with a squirt gun, but in Guaranda they dump five gallons at a time from rooftops on unsuspecting (or suspecting) passersby. And for good measure they run around covering people with pink spray foam, flour, cornstarch and/or baby powder.
We walked from the bus station to the hotel we booked, only to be foamed and have water dumped on us from the rooftop of our hotel (later found out that the culprits were a bunch of K College students who happened to be staying there, too). We checked in and went up to our room and discovered we were staying in one of the biggest dives in South America. While Jeff has never stayed in a hostal or hotel that is such a hole, Allison feels that a place she stayed in Machala, Ecuador (with a few of you reading) was slightly worse (but it cost a quarter of the price, so we´ll call it a draw). Something about the combination of strange globs on the wall, paint flung all over, cracked tile, and the non-functioning toilet in the shared bathroom with a ceiling that was about 5 feet tall just didn´t win us over right away (however, it is definitely the type of place Randi would LOVE, or are we wrong?) But we came for Carnaval, not to stay in our hotel room, right?
We headed up to the roof and spent awhile helping the K students throw water on people in the street, which ended up turning into a competition with the Ecuadorian kids across the street for who could get people drenched faster
After we got tired of throwing water and got hungry, we left the hotel to find some dinner. After that we found the community party of the night off of the main square. We came just in time to watch them light a 40-50 foot high structure consisting of a sequence of spinning fireworks. Sparks flying everywhere, crowds cheering and ducking, smoke... Jerry, you would have loved it. After that they lit off some homemade fireworks on bamboo sticks from the park behind us. They were really good!
The main events Sunday and Monday were parades that were supposed to start at 10am, but, not entirely unexpectedly, started around 11:30. First, let´s just set the scene by saying that the Guarandans like to party and started drinking well before the parade began. Even the 8-year-old boy across the street was spotted sharing a beer with his older siblings on his rooftop. So, by the time the parade started, people had lined the streets with their bottles of alcohol (lots of it homemade), cans of spray foam and water guns. Although the spectators were strictly instructed not to get anybody in the parade wet, that didn´t stop them from spraying parade folk and each other with copious amounts of foam. There were so many memorable moments from the parades, so here are a few highlights:
**Nearly every dance troupe (and there were many) danced to the same song - the official anthem of Guaranda´s Carnaval
**Numerous queens kissing flowers and sending them into the crowd, including one dignified one who personally welcomed the two of us to her town.
**Jeff being pulled into the parade by one of the dancing women.
**Crowd participation. Jumping into a dance troupe and following along or getting your photo taken with a queen walking by is perfectly ok.
**The people in the crowd who felt it was their duty to get the parade participants as liquored up as possible by giving them shots as they passed by. And we only saw the people on our block (though it did seem to be about the rowdiest block in the city...)
**Little kids coming up to us and spreading baby powder on our faces.
For those of you from St. Joe, a little different than Blossomtime.
By Monday we were a little tired of Carnaval (mainly the getting wet factor) and the town was starting to stink from the partying the night before, and then our room hadn´t grown on us much, but we decided to stick around anyway since we had already paid for the room