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Published: March 12th 2020
So our blog spots have gone a bit wonky due to editorial problems (i.e. we've got in a muddle). The last blog should have appeared before the one before it but Pete was so traumatised by nearly having to find a new sourdough maker he was unable to write for a few days.
Let me take you back to us waking up in Riobamba after our Chimborazo excitement and realising we had missed the bus to Alausi. We hot-footed it to the bus station to find it was CARNIVAL. We had failed to realise what a big thing Carnival is throughout Ecuador (as well as everywhere else in South America).
Obtaining bus tickets is always a dark art. If you walk into a ticket office you are accosted by ticket sellers yelling at you through the small holes in the glass front of their booths, like caged animals. Several companies will provide services to the same destination, but one company goes once daily whilst another goes every half hour, not that they’d tell you until the ticket is sold! The ticket booths provide tickets with seat numbers, but many riders get on the bus at its stand and pay
the conductor and we cannot fathom how the ticket seller knows if there are any seats left.
But we had a particularly fraught exchange at the ticket booth today, due to the start of Carnival. The caged lady wouldn't sell us tickets to our destination so we stood aside whilst she carried on selling tickets to the same destination to everyone else. We attempted to fathom what was happening (with our rudimentary spanish) from others in the queue to no avail. People were trying to help but we couldn't understand. Ten minutes later a man in in a white uniform emerged from the door of the booth and got embroiled in our plight; turned out he was a bus driver going to our destination so he told the ticket seller to sell the tickets and off we went to get onto his half empty bus which promptly set off twenty minutes before scheduled. It seems loitering at the ticket booth and gaining support from the queue are good ploys.
You know those didgeridoo players who drone on without stopping?..well, when you get on a bus in Ecuador a man with a rucksack and a loud voice stands at
the front of the bus and once it is full and about to set off, he begins. He talks loudly at a million miles an hour without stopping. There is much gesticulation. He is selling stuff, often medical remedies which cure a multitude of ailments. After this verbal barrage the most amazing thing is that people start buying stuff, even an extra pack for a reduced price! Then the driver lets him off, he crosses the road to hail down another bus and start all over again.
So we finally arrived in Alausi, home of the famous Devil’s Nose (sounds so much better in Spanish….el Nariz de Diabolo) train. The Carnival was in full swing so we headed out to town and found ourselves mixed up in the selection of the Carnival Queen for Alausi. What an amazing business! The town hall was absolutely stuffed with people, all supporting one of the three candidates. We found ourselves in “Vanessa’s” crowd so sensibly decided to support Vanessa. The girls came on in skimpy little skirts and tops and paraded about to music. Everyone had balloons with the name of their candidate on and there were hooters and drums and the
crowd literally went mad. Then a live band came on while the candidates changed into their next costumes. They came on, one by one, dressed in feathers and not much else. Pete perked up no end but thee were so many enormous feathers that you could hardly see the lady underneath at all. There were headresses of feathers that were about 4 feet tall and then a sort of contraption that jutted out from their bottoms like tail feathers. And then they started taking feathers off and the crowd (and Pete) went wild (again) and then they disappeared backstage for another costume change. I didn't think Pete could stand any more and, always being a thoughful wife, suggested we went home for a hot chocolate. Anyway I expect their next costume was going to be a business suit and they were going to explain how they were going to save the world through their scientific research but sadly we were not there to hear it.
The following day was the Carnival parade. It was enormous and took about an hour and a half to pass by. We were standing on a bench at the back of the crowd trying to avoid being squirted with carnival foam or having water, flour or paint thrown all over us. As one other tourist said ”you have to be born in Ecuador to enjoy Carnival”. How wierd to spend all year practising your dancing and preparing your beautiful costumes, only to have them ruined by having paint and water thrown all over them during the parade. We managed to escape with just the occasional drenching and a few squirts of foam. LOVELY!
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