Carnaval at Oruro, or, the Drunken Water Fight

 Feeling Foamy

Greetings all!

Well, I finally got my new bank card, and I was able to do some budgeting. My fears were unfounded, and my financial situation is most reasonable. Reasonable enough, in fact, that I was able to go out and buy me a brand new, non-black-market camera. Compared to my last unit, this camera is a beauty — for one, it has a zoom! It is loaded with cool features which I’ll probably never use, but it still has ’em! Anyways, I now know how to be damn careful with this baby, and damn careful I shall be.

All this means that I have pictures of the carnaval — and two videos too!

So, the carnaval (I’m spelling the word spanish style. Get over it, grammar freaks).

So we (myself, the Quebecker girl and the German fella) decided we only needed one day to truly appreciate the three-day carnaval, but this was one hell of a day. We were picked up at our hostel at 2:45 am, to leave La Paz at 3 (of course, this means that we actually left at about 3:45 — welcome to Latin America). We were home at about 12:30 am the next day — a solid 22 hour day.

We stopped at about 6:30 for a traditional Bolivian breakfast — steak and eggs. At about 9 am we were settled in our bleacher seats for the parade. I’ll just say right now that the parade lasts ALL DAY. Twelve hours of parade, which was truly amazing.

The parade was great. Essentially, it was group after group of people, each with their own costume and dance. Every third or so group there was an enormous brass band belting out the tunes. Some of these bands had over 100 players — 40 trumpets, 20 tubas, 20 sousaphones, 10 snare drums, 10 bass drums, and a smattering of random instruments. The sound was deafening, but they all played excellently. Before one band was out of earshot, the next was already there.

This is where I’ll put the links for the two videos, which give a tiny taste of what it was like. Here is the first video, showing some of the more tamely dressed dancers. And here is the second video, showing most importantly my drunken visage.

We sat way up high in the bleachers, and down along the edges of the parade the venders walked back and forth, selling everything from noisemakers to silly hats to ice cream (or regular) sandwiches to plastic ponchos (very important — you’ll see why in a moment) to (most importantly) beer. To get their attention one screams at the top of their lungs “CERVEZA CERVEZA CERVEZA,” and if the brass band is not right there they will hear you. The beer (or whatever) then gets passed hand to hand up the crowd to you, and you pass the money back down to them. Then up comes the change, hand to hand once again. It was impossible to actually go down to the vendors themselves, as the crowd was so dense, and plus down there you become a prime target for water balloons.

If you needed to go to the bathroom or something, there was fortunately a rickety ladder leading down the back of the bleachers. As the day went on and more and more cervezas were consumed, it became more and more interesting to negotiate. The Bolivians sitting right next to it thought it most amusing (check out the photo in my set entitled, der, Oruro Carnaval).

So there we sat, slamming the beers, sipping the rum from my flask, watching the nutbar parade, and listening to an endless sequence of deafening brass bands. Fun, you say? It only gets better.

Carnaval is actually a huge, drunken waterfight, with a parade to watch when the battle wans a little. Water balloons are thrown by the thousands, and everybody gets soaked, even if you are wearing one of the plastic ponchos (everyone was — doesn’t help much). To add to this, cans of this spray foam are everywhere (we determined after a couple hours that it was actually soap of some sort), and everybody sprays it in each other’s faces. In no time everybody is completely covered in this thick white foam, which burns the eyes and taints the beer (not enough that you can’t drink it, though!). Fortunately, one blast from a water gun or balloon to the face and you can see again. It was hilarious.

The best though, was that there were bleachers across the parade from us (the seating, on both sides, went on for four kilometers, and it was all packed). In gaps between the bands and dancers, water balloons flew many and thickly across the way, hitting unsuspecting spectators. Hilarious. Many people had umbrellas to defend themselves, but more often then not a direct hit from a balloon would break the umbrella, leaving them vulnerable to soakage (in the end, nobody was dry). I myself had many good head shots (given and recieved, of course), and was soaked through to my ginch by the end of the day. Sadly, there are no pictures of the water/foam fights because the camera was safely stowed for these moments. But trust me, at points I’m sure I looked like Frosty the Snowman.

Anyways, I’ll wrap it up quickly. At the end of the day I was soaked, hammered and exhausted. We stumbled onto the bus for the three-hour ride home, which turned out to be four (it took the bus driver an hour to find his way out of Oruro, asking people at every block).

I stumbled back into the hostel, took a hot shower, and passed out for 12 hours. Now today is Sunday and I’m doing NOTHING (except party tonight — it’s Super Bowl Sunday! Woot!). Tomorrow night I head off for Uyuni, where I shall check out the world’s largest salt flats!

Nobody has emailed me yet (except you, Yvonne. Thanks so much!)!!!! DO IT NOW!

‘K Bye.


~ by turvyc on February 3, 2008.

One Response to “Carnaval at Oruro, or, the Drunken Water Fight”

  1. CoCo! You are a traveller extrodinaire! Jump in boy; with both feet! and don’t forget the beer! Thank you for the travelogue; my pride (I know that is classically considered a vice)spreads as I forward and direct friends/acquaintances to your site. To hell with vices – I like them all: pride, cerveza….. hmmmm how’s it going with the Bolivian women?

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