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Rodeo Montubio


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The first things that come to mind about Ecuador for most people are the Galápagos Islands, the rainforest, Quito and the Andes. Something people don't tend to associate with Ecuador is the rodeo, yet this is the reason why I went to Salitre today, a backwater town in Guayas Province. I went with an Ecuadorian friend/colleague, 'E'.

The bus journey from Guayaquil to Salitre was interesting, firstly because we passed several rice fields (some just planted, some flooded and green) and secondly because after all the seats on the bus were filled and we'd left Guayaquil, about sixty more people got on and crammed into the aisle. 'E' told me it's common for intercity bus drivers to let loads of people on the bus who don't have seats, even though it's illegal due to the safety hazard, because since the standing passengers haven't bought tickets but just given the conductor or driver cash, the bus company doesn't know of their existence, and so the driver and conductor keep their fares for themselves.

Salitre didn't seem a particularly good place to go if you're vegetarian or have a weak stomach, on a market day at any rate. There were several street stalls and small shop counters with rows of hacked-up carcasses hanging up - plucked chickens and unidentifiable red meat. One man was plucking chickens on the pavement at a street corner, and elsewhere I saw several live chickens in individual wooden cages on the ground. There were lots of fruit stalls and shops as well though, and hat stalls.


'E' and I bought our rodeo tickets first and then had some street food. The first thing we had was 'cazuela'; an extremely thick soup made from plantain, shrimps, fish, a kind of sauce I didn't recognise, herbs and a ring or two of raw onion, green pepper and tomato.


It was nice but I was still hungry after that so I had a delicious 'muchin' - a ball of mashed up yuca with cheese and a bit of onion inside, elongated and then fried. It was only 50c. Apparently you can get them in Guayaquil, but I've never seen them there.


The rodeo was supposed to begin at 12.00, but they waited for the stands to fill up more before starting, so it didn't actually begin until nearly 13.30!


Several sellers made rounds of the audience both before and during the performance.


From one of them I bought an icecream lolly for 50c which came in a tub. You pulled it out of the tub using the embedded lolly stick and then ate like normal. A beggar went round who had no arms; people handed down money from rows above for people nearer to the chap to tuck into a pouch he had round his waist.

The presentation of the 'Queen' competition was the first stage of the rodeo. All the rodeo performers work for or have some connection with different haciendas in the Ecuadorian countryside, old historic houses where people can stay but are also working farms/ ranches. Each hacienda enters a team into the rodeo that includes a girl who enters the ring, gallops around it with their mostly male team and then stays to one side with the rest of their team.


Once every team has entered the ring and presented themselves to the crowd an 'overall best appearance' team winner is announced, and the Queen contenders stay in the ring while their teams leave. Then in turn each girl puts on a performance for the judges - galloping round again, standing on the saddle once the horse is stationary, making the horse lie down and lying down herself while she put one of its legs over her neck briefly, even crawling underneath the horse lengthways. I'm almost as far from an expert as one can be, but I couldn't help but think that surely the last thing was a bit dangerous... if the horse kicked out then she could find herself missing part of her face! Eventually the Queen is chosen, though I think there are one or two other categories of winner as well.

The next stage consisted of men trying to stay seated on saddled mules that were trying to throw them off. The longer a man stayed on, the louder the crowd cheered.


Then they brought out a very skinny white bull. Two clowns appeared with whistles and staged a bit of a 'bullfight', waving red cloaks around, before both bull and clowns exited and there was another long round of men trying to stay on mules (though this time these weren't saddled, and actually they may have been ponies, not mules).


This time, after the rider had dismounted (whether voluntarily or involuntarily), the men in the middle of the ring used lassos to catch the ponies, instead of riding up and using their mount to calm the other down.

Even though we knew there was still half an hour or so to go, E and I left while the latter activity was still continuing. We'd been sitting in the same spot without moving for over five hours, hemmed in sitting on wooden boards without any cushions, so simply had to get up and move around properly. As soon as we got outside we had some more food - I had a fried maize pancake type thing that turned out to be a lot like a plantain fritter. The maize batter was delicious, and although I wasn't desperately keen on the plantain (it tastes and feels too much like banana for my liking) I still ate it all because I was really hungry.


E had a 'bollo de pescado' that was grilled in a banana or plantain leaf.

Once we'd eaten we needed to get some cash out, but there turned out to be only one ATM in Salitre and that didn't work properly when we tried it. I was concerned because it meant I didn't have enough cash to get the hats I wanted, and E didn't have enough to lend me. So we decided to check out the hotel that had been pointed out to us near to the rodeo entrance, so at least we had somewhere to stay the night. It was after dark by now. This hotel was the dodgiest I have ever entered - no sign to indicate it was a hotel, the stairs were in complete darkness, and although there was a light in the corridor between rooms, in the 'reception' area the guy was just sitting there in the gloom. He never asked for any ID, just got someone to show us the only room available. The room could be locked from the inside, but not from the outside because he said he had no key to give us. The condom clearly visible on the floor when we walked in was one indication that it was a hotel where people can hire rooms by the hour as well as by night.The whole place seemed very run down in general.

It was only $5 a night but since we hadn't paid yet we wisely decided to give it a miss and caught an Ecuadorian version of a motor rickshaw (which were everywhere in Salitre; I think they're used within the town instead of buses) along the road into the centre to find another hotel. This we managed to do, and we were glad we had, because it was still only $5 a night but wasn't dodgy and was much cleaner and brighter, if still basic. The only strange thing was that the mattress on the bed was leather, which isn't something I'd come across before.

After checking in, paying and dumping our stuff we went out again, just for a wander round. This part of town looked more salubrious than down the road; cleaner, with some nice colourful buildings and some beautiful trees.


We bought a drink and snack each from a supermarket and sat down on a park bench. We spent quite a while chatting, when suddenly some funny music became louder and louder and we heard some shrieks and then saw a lot of neon lights flashing as a strange vehicle went past! 'E' told me what it was - something called 'The Worm' - apparently there are one or two in Guayaquil, though I've never seen one. It's like a fairground ride almost, lots of 'cars' joined together like compartments, and the driver in the front car swerves to and fro across the road to make the 'tail' of the worm also swerve.


We worked out that we had just enough for a ride and the bus fare to Daule the next day, so we went for it. We walked a while before we found where we could board 'The Worm', passing though a night market of stalls piled high with household goods on the way. The ride was exhilarating! When we got off it we walked through a little carnival with various children's activities such as a big trampoline contained in a cage with big bouncy balls inside - I almost wished I was 7 years old again so I could have a go on it! I bought a delicious Ecuadorian version of coconut ice instead - very long strands of coconut, and a lot of condensed milk was clearly in the recipe.


To be continued...

Posted by 3Traveller 05:36 Archived in Ecuador Tagged hotel buses ecuador rodeo_montubio ecuadorian_cuisine traditional_customs salitre Comments (0)

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