Returning home in early December from our fall season in Bhutan, we did some quick visiting with friends and family before departing for Quito, Ecuador on Christmas day. Not long after our arrival, we traveled over the mountains to the east and the Quijos drainage, the starting point for our whitewater kayaking trips.
The first order of business was to paddle as many runs as possible before our first group arrived (poor us) checking for any changes that may have occurred since we were here last, ten months ago. With 14th seasons of running trips in Ecuador, we know how much the rivers can change over time so we always make a point of getting on the runs before our groups show up. And besides, it’s a hoot!
The Quijos valley is home to great whitewater, both in quality and variety. Stretches of the Quijos, Cosanga and Oyacachi rivers are all within a short drive of our base in the little town of Borja. With the recon of the Quijos valley completed, we headed south over the Guacamayo range to the town of Tena -kayak central in Ecuador. There we were able to paddle with our friends Dan Dixon and Matt Terry. Some of the runs we got on were on the Jondachi, Misahualli, Piatua, Hollin, Tena, and Jatunyacu rivers. We bussed it back to Borja in time to spend New Year’s with our good friends, the Roman family.
New years is a blast in Ecuador. They share some of the same traditions as we do (if you call drinking a tradition), as well as some fun ones of their own. Most notable is the burning of El Viejo (the old one), also known as a mun~eco. This lifesize effigy can represent anything from an enemy, a relative, a bad trait, a politician, to an injury or illness. You can even poke fun at someone; your doctor, mechanic, or family member. The mun~eco is displayed on the front porch, at a bus stop, the grill of a truck, or just about anywhere. Right before midnight it is burned, erasing all the ills of the passing year. You can increase your luck in the New Year by jumping over the smoldering heap three times.
Another fun tradition is the panhandling by the viuda, or widow. A man dresses as a woman (the thicker the five o’clock shadow the better) and carries a baby doll representing the New Year. She is sobbing and looking for hand-outs because her husband, the Old Year, is dying, leaving her with a newborn to care for. Some of these guys that play the part of the widow get a little too into it. Ill fitting hose, heals and dresses, these guys are downright ugly! Road blocks are often set up along the main roads and a toll is extracted in order to pass. The toll is often used to buy the local aguardiente (moonshine) to enhance the new year party!
With the New Year behind us, we returned to Quito to meet our first group on January 3rd.
Photos and content ©DeRiemer Adventure Kayaking, all rights reserved.