Spending New Year’s Eve in Ecuador is an experience everybody should try at least once in their life time. We didn’t really know what to expect and were actually preparing ourselves for a quiet night in Cotacachi, a few drinks and some fireworks perhaps. What we actually ended up doing couldn’t have been more different.
In the afternoon of the 31st we were informed by the owner of our hotel of a Carnival taking place in the neighboring town of Antuntaqui. We decided to check it out and jumped on a bus at 4.30 pm heading to town.
The carnival is very famous in Ecuador and every year people come from all over the country to partake in the festivities: thousands of people fill the streets of this relatively small Andean town, waiting for the carnival to start.
It was very difficult to find a place from where to watch the parade unless you arrived very early and secured a spot: every street was full of people sitting on the pavements, some on chairs brought from homes and even people standing on top of cars.
We finally found a place just outside a house where the owners kindly allowed us to stand behind their chairs. We couldn’t have chosen a better spot: after few seconds I was already drinking a glass of whisky on the rocks and Felicity a cold beer. What a start!
Soon after, the show started: for 3 hours the floats and the participants, entertained the crowds with music, dances, imitation of famous people (including a resurrection of Michael Jackson) and hilarious sketches.
People of all ages were involved, from toddlers to granddads. It was very entertaining. Our hosts seemed to know almost everybody in the parade: they were giving them beers and whisky as refreshment, so they said.
We too hadn’t stop drinking since we arrived. By the end of the carnival we were singing, dancing and hugging our new Ecuadorean friends like we had known them forever. It was hilarious.
We departed from our friends soon after the end of the parade as we needed some food to recover from the 3 hours nonstop drinking. They suggested we try a local dish called Fritada, a dish with pork, oven cooked corn, potatoes and rice: a hearty dish that did a good job of soaking up the alcohol- just what we needed.
It was 8.00pm and we needed to catch the last bus back to Cotacachi: lots of people were already waiting at the bus station. After half an hour of waiting and not being able to get on the full buses, we finally managed to catch one back to town.
It was only 9.00pm, 3 more hours before the big midnight celebration. The streets were full of people already drinking and celebrating: in a few of the town’s plazas, bands were playing salsa music on stages. It is hard to remember what happened from this moment onwards as we were drinking a local mulled wine mixed with an un-identified white spirit: a lethal concoction.
Midnight finally arrived with the usual countdown: people started to burn Elaborate effigies called Años Viejos (Old Years) made of straw, newspaper, and old clothes, with papier-mâché masks. Often they are also stuffedd with fire crackers. They are created to represent people and events of the past year, often they include political characters .
After more mulled wine’, music and dancing it was hard to remember the time we eventually went to bed. The next day people were still recovering from the night before, some not even making it home, just passed out on the pavement. All the shops, bars and restaurants were closed and only few opened late in the afternoon. It was an unusual and very entertaining New Year’s Eve, certainly one we will always remember.
Where is Antuntaqui?