New Years Eve is too much pressure. I don’t know why but every year I become convinced that things need to be perfect; that somehow the rest of the year hinges on me having a good time on this one night. As a result I usually don’t. The pressure gets to be too much and things blow up in some hideous way.
This year was different though, this year New Year’s was actually fun. Drunken, fire-y fun.
We’ve been celebrating the holidays in Montanita, a kind of sleepy surfing town on the coast of Ecuador. At least it started out sleep when we arrived on December 15th. Attendance crept slowly up over time, by New Year’s Eve the town was absolutely packed to the brim with backpackers, Ecuadorian tourists and Argentinean hippies.
In Ecuador they celebrate New Years by burning effigies of popular figures. This can be everything from politicians to policemen, but most popular of all was the cartoon characters. Every store front, house and street had picked out a papier mache Bart Simpson, Road Runner or Buzz Lightyear. For some reason this year smurfs were especially popular.
Joined by the awesome Erica and Shawn of Over Yonderlust, we settled on an $8 effigy of Barney, some roman candles and a paper bag full of little packets which we could only guess were gunpowder. I could only laugh nervously as everyone else’s eyes glazed over with fire lust.
After an evening of $2 cocktails at our favorite beach side stand, it was time. Around 5000 people crowded on the beach. Fireworks were already lighting up the sky and the atmosphere was crackling with anticipation.
Once 12 o’clock hit all hell broke loose. Fireworks popped all around us as alcohol and explosives combined. We set off our roman candles over the ocean, then it was time to execute Barney. We couldn’t get him to spark so after a few fumbling moments he was tossed into a bonfire where he crackled and popped loudly. Surfers with their boards chanted and danced around the fire like some sort of ancient tribe.
The fireworks went on long into the night as people danced and partied on the beach. We didn’t all come from the same place or speak the same language but we were united by one thing: FIRE.
Special thanks to Shawn and Erica of OverYonderlust for the photos!