We barely made it out of town this morning before the marching band, ice cream vendors, buckets of cokes vendors, as well as hordes of parade participants effused with the Christmas spirit took to the highway to parade from the town of Borja to El Chaco. In our van stacked with kayaks and full of gringos, we could have become accidental-and certainly unlikely participant in the Annual Borja Christmas Parade in the Quijos Valley!
Our little paradise in the Quijos Valley is a hodge podge collection of contrasts as it is any time of year-not just at Christmas! The valley is a pastoral setting: high elevation cloud forest enveloping the slopes of unusually-shaped ridges; ridges separated over geological time to open up a beautiful valley that trails the banks of the Quijos River.
Originally populated by a hardy group of settlers who were willing to call home a long, two-day hike by foot over a 14,000 foot pass from Quito, this pastoral setting lasted until the late 60´s/early 70´s. About this time came the discovery of oil in the northeasten region of Ecuador. To reach this area with all the production needed to extract the ¨black gold¨ a road was needed. And the road came right through the Quijos Valley.
What you have today is an odd contrast of subsistence farmers who still hand milk their herds of cows in a dairy co-op broken up by a random van full of kayak tourism; people who consider their one-horse power vehicle as valuable as their neighbor´s pickup truck. Here is a valley with beautiful clouds that settle down around the verdant ridge tops and a state-of-the-art oil processing plant that belches; where most people have only their feet to get them anywhere, but consider the pipeline that runs alongside the road a good sidewalk. Here few hang anything more than a few sorry strands of tinsel for Christmas because there is not money for ornate decorations or gifts. But during the Christmas Weekend, there will be no lack of family or festivity (Ecuadorians love a good party and will take any holiday as a good excuse). With the kids on Christmas break, families will join together to eat freshly slaughtered pig (really fresh, we´ve been watching it all week), drink aquadiente in unlimited supplies, and break into a chorus of song punctuated by the random explosions of a disturbingly available collection of fireworks that could take out a whole handful of fingers!!
And it is the song part of the festivities that motivated us to flee to Quito, for at each chorus every dog, cat, cow and rooster (no pigs, they will all be eaten) in town will join in. This will go on for most of the night, for most of the weekend.
And for us poor gringos who cannot seem to find a sleep cycle that is in cadence with the dogs and roosters (an impossibility!) we are better off in a high rise hotel in Quito with our own version of Merry Christmas!