‘And watch out for water balloons!’
Not only did I promise to pry some bird photos out of Dude Man’s camera and share them with you this week, I forgot to tell you about a pretty important part of our trip.
And that’s the fact that our birding expedition to the wilds of SE Ecuador happened to coincide with Carnival. Now, we do celebrate Mardi Gras, sort of, in some parts of the good ole U S of A. Once, in fact, I almost had a heart attack when The Child traveled to New Orleans with a group of college buds to participate in the revelry there.
But trust me when I tell you that no one celebrates the days leading up to Lent (AKA “Carnival”) like our neighbors to the South.
But first — even before Carnival — there was The Wedding. We arrived on a Thursday and went to our very nice hotel near the airport to rest up for our trip further south the next morning. (This is the place featuring Sylvester, the Hotel Cat. Last week’s story has a photo.) Little did we know that the hotel was hosting a wedding. (We did see the white tents, and had our suspicions.) Soon enough, we were assaulted by the sound of happy wedding guests dancing the night away. And it wasn’t even the wedding yet. This was just pre-party stuff. Thank heaven for ear plugs.
Then, on Friday, we flew to Loja and then bumped along in a van for hours to reach our wilderness destination: Catamayo, a small sugar-growing town, where our hotel — the nicest one in town — fronted the Town Square. Where, you guessed it, Carnival was in full swing. Ear plugs again.
This Carnival Stuff wasn’t just on Mardi Gras (or “Fat Tuesday”), this started on Friday and lasted though Tuesday. Every little town we passed through had Big Doings going on.
“Close your windows!” advised Willy, our locally-grown guide. (Read more about Willy, AKA The Energizer Birder, right here.) Right after Willy said this, our windows were sprayed with foam. Apparently, this is part of the good clean fun associated with Carnival. You get “foamed” or “water ballooned” or doused with a hose. We saw one older man get an entire bucket of ice water dumped on his head from a pickup truck full of pranksters. Not only did he get soaked, but his ice cream cone did too.
Here’s a little video I took from the window of our van as we made our way through the little town of Zamora:
We also got bombed by a couple of kids launching water balloons from an upper story window. Hey, things could be worse. At least the van got some of the road dust washed off.
Well. After ten days of birds and roads and volcanoes and whatnot, we arrived back at our original near-the-airport hotel. And guess what? There was another wedding going on.
New York City. March 2023.