So after our never-ending journey to Banos needed to be awesome. Like I said, Christmas was ok but not great. We really wanted New Years to live up to expectations. That said we didn’t really know what to expect. We met up with a friend from Mancora, Nat. It was great to see her again and we were all keyed up for our next round of holidays.
Banos is a tourist town way up in the mountains. It’s called Banos because it has natural hot spring baths. It books out for New Years. The Ecuadorian traditions very different from the States. The biggest one being groups of boys and sometimes men dress up as woman for the day. They then circle around other teenage boys/older men walking on the street. Once in a circle they jump up and down, and hit the person until they pay the group in order to let them pass. I guess the tradition comes from the idea that the boys are dressed as the widows from that year, since their husbands are gone they need to beg for money. Now its just wild boys and really tight dresses with wigs harassing people for money. Hilarious to watch.
Little kids also to dress up – mostly in Halloween type costumes and then hold up cars for money. They have jump ropes tied together and they hold up the rope – blocking traffic until the cars pay them a toll to pass. Its amazing, it completely backs up traffic but everyone seems fine with it! The groups of boys do this too but it usually the 20 something guys and its a bit intimidating because they are super drunk and banging on the cars. Crazy! We got hit up for money just walking down the street by lots of cute little kids and paid lots of little bribes to be allowed to pass. They were mostly really cute would shout – money, money, money in English while giggling.
Another tradition that we were aware of had to do with your underwear. The color of underwear you wear is like a wish for the coming year. Yellow underwear for wealth. Red underwear for love. There probably more options but those were the only two we knew about. We spent a good chunk of the day shopping for underwear and laughing hysterically at the horrible options.
The final big tradition was burning munecas, giant papier-mache dolls. The dolls represented all the bad energy from the year. Some could be made to look like political figures but most were just people or characters. The dolls are stuffed with newspaper, sawdust and often firecrackers! They are then set on fire a little before midnight and then men from the town take turns jumping the fire to bring good luck. Again, crazy!
We were all excited to get into the spirit of things! We bought crazy wigs, fake eyelashes, purple glitter and face paint. We stocked our tiny room with booze and snacks (Ecuador was not proving to be particularly healthy for us), turned up the 90s dance music and like typical girls took several hours and about 100 selfies while getting ready. We decided to go as extreme as possible – drag queen new years here we come! In the end we looked fantastic/hysterical – take you’re pick.
We realized pretty quickly once we started wandering the streets that dressing up in costume was only for men or children. We were the only women dressed up. Plus the town was almost completely full of domestic tourist – there were very few gringos. Needless to say we drew A LOT of attention. People would stop on the street, shove their children at us and take our picture. So funny!
We can’t be letting the boys have all the fun! Forget that. Yay for dress up! People didn’t quite know what to make of us but we had a blast. The pro open container policy for the night really helped too. I taught the Dutchies the phrase “road soda” – a drink you carry with you. Ellen was a bit tipsy and forgot so she called to-go drinks a “party animal”. Don’t forget your party animal! I love it. I’m adopting it. Who doesn’t love a party animal?
The night went on. We somehow missed the countdown but managed to light all 3 boxes of our sparklers. It was great, such a fun night! Some of us did a bit time traveling – makes for rehashing the night all more fun the next day! New Year’s Day was a complete waste. Lot of napping. The Banos adventures certainly didn’t end there.. more to come!