This is a travel blog for desktop travelers and other ramblers who want to know the world just a little bit better.

Right now I am living in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala where I'll be settled for a while. Thanks for reading!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Foamed Fun at Carnival in Mishualli

I should probably not start off a blog post by publicly declaring my ignorance, but I had no idea that Carnaval (Carnival in Spanish) was such a big thing in South America -- and the world for that matter. I knew of course that in Rio de Janiero it is the big thing and there is Mardi Gras in New Orleans, but I thought that's it. However, I was quite mistaken. Carnaval is celebrated all over in different forms.

Carnival here is a week long holiday. Schools are closed and many people are off of work. Events big and small are happening all around the country. This means that moving around Ecuador will be difficult. Buses and hotels will be filled with local travelers. To avoid unnecessary complications Mika and I decide to sit tight where we are in Tena until it all passes. Tena happens to be a thirty minute ride from Mishualli, a small town that is listed as one of the Top 5 places to be in Ecuador for Carnaval. There is a big concert on Sunday and we plan to attend along with about 10,000 other people.
Mishualli riverside during Carnaval
Where as in Rio and New Orleans Carnaval is all about beads and boobs, Ecuador is about the water and the carioca, spray foam in a can that quickly dissolves. Dousing and foaming strangers is not frowned upon, it is expected. I cannot verify this, but I have been told that this custom is unique to Ecuador. By mid-week we see the build up toward the big weekend slowly growing in town. Supermarket shelves are full of canned spray, while neighborhood boys have started engaging each other with home made water cannons. Walk past them at your own peril.
Spray foam for sale
On Carnaval Friday we make a small bus trip out of town. Children are waiting by the side of the road to spray passing vehicles with water before passengers can close their windows. I actually find this quite endearing because many of these kids in rural areas cannot afford to go to the events in Tena or Mishualli. This is their Carnaval.
A roadside ambush
On Sunday we head down to see what is happening in Mishualli. There is a big concert by the river with a three dollar cover charge that includes plenty of bands, beer, food stalls and water and cans of carioca. Foreigners make for obvious targets and quite soon we find ourselves drenched in water and covered in foam. We are entrenched in warfare with people much more heavily armed than our puny water bottles. Nothing is malicious or cruel. It is all in good fun here in Mishualli. 

The concert atmosphere is also enjoyable. The headlining act is Jorge Luis del Hierro who is sort of well known in Ecuador. I can tell this by the ear-shattering screams of the female teens in the audience when he is on stage. Other acts include a Shakira wanna-be, a Colombian crooner and an incredibly awful, not-so-young-nor-sexy-anymore girls group. The first act we catch -- and my favorite -- is an indigenous guy singing party music with two scantily clad girls. His name is Chicha Loca. Chicha is a locally made alcoholic drink making a rough translation of his name...Crazy Moonshine. He walks close to the stage and gets covered in foam, his dancers walk up to the stage and get covered in foam, actually anyone on stage that is near the crowd gets covered in foam. It is a rite of passage for every performer.
Chicha Loca and his chicas
It's a carioca party and everyone's invited
A scrum for a free t-shirt
We leave Mishualli wet, tired and wondering about the health impact of inhaling spray foam residue for the last four hours as our bus is getting sprayed every now and then by groups of kids standing by the side of the road.


  1. Sounds like fun Jeff. Spring's starting to wake up here in N. America!

  2. Change of seasons is nice and lacking around the equator. Days never get longer and weather is always the same --Jungle hot, mountains cooler or cold and always chance of rain.

    Enjoy the warm weather and have a fruitful bike season.