Sarah navigating the boulder gardens of the Upper Tena
Ecuador has many interesting traditions that are much different from our traditions in North America; but some of my favorites occur during New Years.
The Girls cruising down the Upper Misahualli. This was their New Year's Eve paddle. What better way to end 2011 than with an incredible creek run with beautiful jungle scenery?
This New Year's Eve, we had 12 camp counselors from Camp Merrie-Woode in North Carolina come down to help us celebrate. There were 11 women and 1 dude--a pretty awesome, but rare ratio for the rivers of Ecuador. The girls were all kayak instructors at their camp, and had awesome skills - BOMBPROOF rolls! - and were looking to step up their whitewater experience. It was great to have a group with great fundamentals ready to push the envelope. They were also super stoked to get to see some of Ecuador's cultural oddities as we approached New Year's Eve.
These girls were awesome! They were super fun to teach because they were eager to learn and they tried all the new things we suggested. Here Margaret is working it! She's got her boat on edge, and is taking a big left paddle stroke just like we talked about.
The weirdness all started when Larry stopped off at a store to buy what was, for all practical purposes, a doll. The girls thought, "what the hell? Larry seemed so manly and normal before, but now he's out shopping for a doll."
They also surfed when we told them to surf. Audry ripping it up on the Middle Misahualli.
Then then started seeing dolls all over Tena. They were tied to people's cars, sitting on people's front step, and seemingly normal people were carrying them around. So then the girls thought, "what the hell? I thought Ecuador was in Latin America were Machismo rules, and now almost EVERYONE is playing with dolls."
And best of all, they smiled for the camera when we told them to do that! Here's Sallie hamming it up for Don on the Rio Tena.
Then it became clear--these weren't dolls, they were Ano Viejos. An Ano Viejo is, bascially, a doll made out of regular clothes and stuffed with either saw dust or newspaper. They range in size from 2 feet tall, to 10 feet tall, and sport a variety of personalities.
Comer comer-ing (Spanglish for eating) some agua on the Rio Tena
People sell masks on the streets for the Ano Viejos and you can have your doll represent the likeness of a wide range of characters. For some reason, this year the smurfs and Bart Simpson seemed to be the most popular. In past years, George Bush has been a big hit. So, people start displaying their Ano Viejos usually around Jan. 30th. Then, on New Year's Eve at midnight, the tradition is to burn your doll, with the idea that you are burning away the old year and starting fresh with the new year.
Kieko (blurry), Katie and Sallie all smiles on their paddle down the Jatunyacu.
The next crazy tradition the girls (and JP) witnessed was the Viudas (or widows to those of us who speak English). This is a really funny custom and makes for some great laughs around town on New Year's Eve.
Caroline ripping it up on a surf wave on the Jatunyacu--AKA Upper Napo
The Viudas--Widows--are supposed to be the widows of the old year, so the widows of 2011. The idea is that, their husband--2011--has died and has left them penniless. With no pennies, a proper widow can't have a proper New Year's Eve celebration. So these widows block traffic and dance in the streets for the passing cars asking each of them to give money to the cause (yes, to the cause of a nice party on New Year's Eve).
JP, trip organizer and sole male of the group, showing some serious style on the Tena.
The funniest part about the widows is that they ain't no ladies! It's actually men dressing up as women to dance in the streets to beg money for their New Year's Eve party. Don't ask me how this tradition started, I don't even want to know!
Dudes dressed up like chics dancing in the streets
So, besides the fact that Greg somehow absconded with the girls Ano Viejo (that we named Azula) and burned her without the girls it was a great New Year's Celebration.
Greg showing off for the ladies with his "look no legs" surf. Too bad he pissed them off later by kid napping their Ano Viejo!
The best part about the whole thing is that we all paddled the Upper Misahualli River on New Year's Eve. It was a fun and challenging creek for the crew and a perfect way to end 2011.
Ingrid fighting intuition as she learns how to stern squirt on the Jatunyacu
Hopefully it was a New Year's that everyone will remember for a long time.
Keiko enjoying a New Year's day paddle down the Quijos River
Enjoy the rest of the photos, and thanks to the Camp Merrie-Wood crew for giving SWA a fun end of the year!
Katie staying focused in the super technical waters of Ecuador
La Senorita Margarita, stoked to be paddling in Ecuador with SWA!
A little shopping after boating at the market in Tena. It was all going so well until Tarquino started playing with the grubs...But, Comer did hold one in the end!
Hayes surfing it up in the Hero and enjoying paddling in a shorty top
Into the jungle we go girls!
Masks for sale on New Year's Eve.
Larry, so proud with his doll that he named Azula. Luckily he didn't have to stick around to see what Greg did later that night...
JP and Comer scouting and doing Jazz Hands
Mary Beth cooling off on the Upper Misahualli
The whole group in the town of Cosanga. Great week of paddling ladies (oh, and JP too)!