up in flames

ecuador2006 travel

“Throw some more wood on the baby; that’ll make it burn better.”
“Too bad we don’t have any gasoline…”

And such was the climax of several idyllic days whiled away in Quito.

It was a natural reaction after a hectic frantic whirly-bird couple of days in Las Vegas for a family reunion, the highlight of which (other than seeing the extended family again, of course) was spending the best $45 of my life shooting an M1A1 Thompson machine gun on full auto at a Vegas shooting range, while my brother blazed away with an Uzi in the next stall over.

But after binging on buffets and overcoming hedonistic saturation, the tranquility of South America was a welcome respite. For the first three days, the agenda was simple: visit one touristy thing in the city in the mid-morning, eat a simple lunch, and then arrive back at the hostel for an afternoon shower and nap in one of the numerous hammocks on the rooftop terrace.

My compadre the Deej arrived on the 30th just in time to help me celebrate my annual revolution around Sol, and part of my recovery plan the next day involved us searching for the perfect baby to burn.

Apparently, it’s an Ecuadorian tradition to create a flammable doll for New Year’s, put a funny mask on it, and then burn it to ashes right around midnight. It’s a way of burning the bad luck from last year, I think, but to our simple minds, anything involving fire gets an immediate four thumbs up.

After locating the perfect doll (we opted for baby size, although they do have life-size mannequins), disturbingly packaged in a blue onesie (note to parents — the plush nylon stuff that many baby clothes are made from is highly flammable), we relaxed at the hostel for an hour or four, to await the appropriate burning hour.

Half past eleven, a large international group from our digs wandered down to Avenida Amazonas where mayhem was ensuing. Fires were burning everywhere — on the side walk, in the middle of the street, what have you — and we simultaneously discovered that the locals have a penchant for fireworks too. Roman candles were the order of the night, although sadly, the Deej purchased a dud that refused to shoot wonderful flaming balls of firey enjoyment into the air. Worst dollar spent ever.

When we found an appropriate spot, we borrowed some fire from the next fire over, and lit our baby on fire. It started off slow, but some of the more enterprising members of our group found some wood and other assorted street trash which proved to be quite incindiary, and soon our baby was burning merrily. What a nice way to ring in the New Year.

Now though, it’s time to start the second part of the trip. More of our compatriots arrive tonight, and tomorrow we’ll bag one of the first peaks — Rucu Pincacha, 15,252 ft. I would hate to be one of the guys arriving from Chicago (aka sea level) tomorrow.

Thanks to the internets, which is on computers these days, I’ve managed to post some pictures for your enjoyment (although keep in mind that I haven’t had time to caption them):

Walking around images of Quito

Quito Botannical Garden

New Year’s images