Like most festive days, we begun New Year’s Eve with a severe bout of chuchaqui. Unable to contain our festive emotions, the night before New Year’s Eve was a night of epic proportions. A group of us made the short journey south to Manglaralto, home of many of the teachers at the school, where one of the oddest festivals I have ever seen was taking place.
Basically, the dudes of the town all dressed in drag, paraded through the streets, females and the less secure lining the sides, fireworks flying in all directions. Eventually the congression reached a courtyard where the crowd divided into a circle large enough for the thirty or so señoritos to dance around for 20 minutes, occasionally receiving treats from the crowd in monetary, confectionary, or alcoholic form. Sound odd? It certainly was.
I asked a number of people the reason for the festival but I never got a clear answer. It has something to do with saying good bye to the previous year, in the same manner that everybody builds mascots to represent the past year and then burns them at midnight on New Year’s. I’m not sure how cross-dressing fits in, but hey, who needs an excuse really? Michael and I got involved, thinking our last-minute costumes were adequate, but no way. Have a look at Luis. That guy never ceases to amaze me.
Now to New Year’s Eve itself. Four hours surfing in Olon helped to remove the alcohol that had taken refuge in our souls, readying them for a new batch that evening. Some solid waves were coming through, and after building a Gaudi-esque sandcastle, we all felt ready for the night ahead.
The amazing William’s family organized a BBQ that evening at Las Cabañas. Such a great idea, though it definitely took the organizational skills of two experienced parents. In a group of close to thirty, from all over the world, we filled ourselves to bursting point, just before the drinks began to flow. An international game of “Circle of Death/Four Kings/Whatever” ensued as we all got into the festive mood.
Around 11pm we all started to make our way to the beach. Though for Michael and I, we put on our boardies, grabbed our “tablas”, and headed to the bar “Local Point” to meet the Montañita surf crew as they prepared for the famous midnight paddle out.
Like the previous night, Michael and I had no clue what we were in for. Upon arrival, thirty surfers were dancing around a pile of their surfboards, taking turns at drinking a tequila/mescal concoction from a massive wooden chalice. We just looked at each other, shrugged, threw our boards down and jumped right in.
As the clock neared midnight, we picked up our boards and made our way to the beach. Boards held high above our heads we danced our way down cocktail alley, hundreds of people lining the sides, cheering us on. The beach was unrecognizable. I’ve seen it packed before, but this was something else. A sea of people, tightly packed in, stretched up and down the beach as far as the eye could see; fires, fireworks and people dancing everywhere.
We ran through the crowd with the surfers, occasionally choosing one of the paper-machaie figures sticking out of the crowd to run around manically for a few minutes, before moving on to another. Luckily the waves were super small that evening so the paddle-out was pretty manageable. But that wasn’t the only danger. It felt like we were at war as we looked back at the beach to see fire rockets flying out and exploding above our heads, some even landing in the water close to us.
Once we made it out behind the waves we all gathered into a surfboard shaped circle, and splashed, hooted and hollered the New Year in. Straight after that we were off to catch the first wave of the New Year.
During this time the rest of the Cabañas crew were hanging on the beach getting amongst the crowd. As soon as the clock struck midnight they all ran into the water and joined the surfers. The entire beach was a mish-mash of crazies, but good crazies.
Once we made it back to the beach the surfers started running once again, so we followed. We ran all through the town, jumping over the dozens of small fires filling the streets, before making it to Hola Ola, where we all jumped in the pool, drank a few Pilseners and got silly with it.
From there the night continued on in typical Montañita fashion: a few cocktails from Eugeñio, a few drinks on the beach, all before, you guessed it, Caña Grill. We partied until daybreak, accompanied by many of the teachers from the school and friends from the town. For most of us, New Year’s Day consisted of a long, deep sleep, with intermittent swims in Las Cabañas pool.
¡Muchas gracias a Montañita para una noche para recordar!