New Year’s Eve 2015 – Salinas
After greeting the New Year for the past three years (2013, 2014, 2015) in Cuenca, we decided to see what Salinas had to offer, on the coast of Ecuador. As always, in our trips around Ecuador and the rest of South America, the results were both what we expected, and full of surprises. The monigotes (effigies) were one of the surprises, and we ended up making a second blog post just relating to those. Check out tomorrow's post for info on those.
In Salinas, fireworks were sold everywhere. They can be bought in Cuenca, but Salinas has them beat by an order of magnitude. There was a single block where I counted more than 20 vendors, and we saw three separate similar areas. Even as midnight approached, and fireworks filled the sky, these vendors were walking among the falling debris, selling whatever was left of their stock. The big boxes with 25 large, elaborate fireworks had an asking price of $25. I never stopped to dicker and see how low they could go, but it was interesting to see people setting off several of those in quick succession at midnight.
At any event like this, people watching is half the enjoyment. Those watching the show ranged from infants in strollers, to great-grandparents in wheelchairs, helped by their adult children. A firetruck sat in the middle of it all, prepared to handle any fire that got out of control, and to wash out any live fires remaining at 3:00AM on the beach.
Have you yet tasted the true Carolina style bacon, or English muffins, or ham, (or continuously growing list of items) from Carolina Smokehouse (or on Facebook here)? If not, get yourself over to their tienda on Honorato Vasquez y Hermano Miguel in Cuenca Centro and try some. Sure puts to shame anything you can buy at the mercados or SuperMaxi!
If you have bought from them, you will recognize David and Sandy in the montage above. They joined us for the weekend in Salinas, where they bought a menagerie of monigotes (aka effigies), some of which never made it past midnight, going up in flames. Others now decorate their tienda.
Fireworks started even before dark on New Year's Eve, but once it became fully dark, they were continuous. We saw six separate major bonfire locations on the beach to the north of our hotel and another 7-8 on the south side, and there were scattered ones throughout the city that we could also see from our rented condo. There were two major launching points for the fireworks, which were going off non-stop all night, as well as individuals were firing off their own sets that they had purchased from the numerous vendors in the streets earlier that day. You can see the carcasses of some of them in the lower right above. Fireworks were still being fired every few minutes at 3AM, when I went to bed.
Cuenca used to allow gobos, also known as "sky candles" or "wish lanterns," until some landed on church roofs in El Centro in 2013. They resulted in major fire damage to both churches, so they are no longer allowed here. They are still allowed in Salinas though, and we saw a dozen or so families gathering to send theirs off into the night. The wind pattern is such that the lanterns fly out over the ocean, so Salinas does not have as much fire risk from this tradition.
Of course cameras were everywhere. Obviously we had our own, which captured these scenes... ☺ After overdosing on photographing the fireworks and bonfires, I turned my camera to the other people with their cameras, for a specialized version of people watching.
A tradition in Ecuador is to write anything you want to leave behind in the old year, on a monigote, or effigy. You then burn it at midnight, symbolically leaving the problems of the old year behind. I was not planning on buying one, as 2015 was an excellent year and I had nothing I could think of to write (and we were told that to burn the monigote without such text is bad luck for the new year). However, Sandy and David found this monigote shaped in the form of an airplane. Remembering some of our flying stories from the 1980's when we roamed North America in our own plane, they showed it to me. I couldn't resist. The seller tied it to the roof of our rented car, where it flew with us back to our condo, where it almost lost its propeller after hitting the garage roof. One surprise was how quickly the large bonfires came to be at midnight. It seemed that nothing was going on, then with a can of gasoline, the entire beach caught on fire with dozens of large "hot" fires. Evelyn even caught on fire, but that's another story. That night, our airplane and its menagerie of monigotes, were loaded onto the bonfire, where they held on valiantly, but finally was totally engulfed and lost in a burst of glory.
Oh yeah, what did I write on the plane? I finally remembered that &^%$ elevator that was such a headache for months. All thoughts of that failing elevator have now been burned away, so this year it will work perfectly. Right? Right? Please tell me I'm right...
Since we had rented a car from CuencaCarShare, we had the mobility to check out the local coast, and drove around both Friday and Saturday. On New Year's Day, we discovered "the other Salinas", the one that tourists do not frequent, and it was delightful with lots of families playing on the beach. On Saturday, we drove north toward Puerto Lopez. First stop was Ayangue, a small fishing village which is also considered a well-kept secret well off the main road, where we stopped for breakfast. It had a sheltered bay with great seafood restaurants dotting the beach. We ate fresh langostino and shrimp. The vendor had to run next door to fetch the beer, and the service was impeccable. Mantanita, a hippie haven was the next stop and was massively crowded and noisy. As with much of Ecuador, everyone turns their music to full volume, regardless if the speakers can handle it. This was even worse than elsewhere though, as we drove slowly (no choice, due to traffic...), there was a cacophony of competing speakers. No thanks, so we left without ever stopping...
We next drove up to Olon, which was a far more pleasant town to visit. It was definitely a calmer environment, with a surfing school. We decided to return for dinner, however the beach restaurants were packed, and the service was absolutely terrible. After waiting for more than an hour and never even seeing our waiter again in that time, we just walked away and left town.☹
Our real destination was Puerto Lopez. We had enjoyed that town when we stayed there for a few days in 2012. We had heard that the malecon was being rebuilt and almost done, the main street repaved, etc. Unfortunately, what we saw looked more like an abandoned construction site than any active work. There were piles of construction rubble everywhere, and the street paving had gone no more than about one block, then also abandoned. The charm of the 2012 town was lost, as the old beach tiendas were bulldozed by the city.