I've never been tear gassed before......
But I was on Saturday! Let me tell you its not at all pleasant.
So here we are in the little town of Cotacatchi which is near Otavalo and one of the sites for the famous Inti Ramy fiesta that goes over 5 days. Me and Eduardo cruised over there with Marco and the little boys to check out the action. Now the other fiestas in the other towns basically seem to involve dressing up in weird outfits and dancing drunkenly in a circle more often than not holding a live and outraged chicken aloft in one hand and waving it about. Strange, yes, but also harmless.
I was expecting the same as we wandered down to the main square in Cotacatchi but just as we got close I look up to see about 60 guys dressed up in big black cardboard witches hats painted with silver stars, swastikas etc and brandishing great big lumpy bits of wood, chains, whips and wearing strange furry chaps on their legs - like cowboys. Not only do they look strange but they are running straight towards us and another similarly dressed group. Then I hear what I think are fireworks until I hear someone say 'bombas' and althought I'm not sure what 'bombas' are I know they cant be good....so like everyone else I start to run like the devil away from the square.
Next thing we are inhaling the most vile gas that burns the eyes, the throat, the nose....the 'bombas' contained tear gas. As I splutter and cough I notice that HEAPS of people are lighting up cigarettes, strange cause not many Ecuadorians smoke. Then Marco runs to the nearest shop, I assume he is buying water but he emerges with a packet of fags and proceeds to light up too. Apparently its the best thing for it. I chose to stick to the water.
As for why the Police were chucking bombas, the weird guys in the black hats are from rival indigenous communities and each year drink their body weight in alcohol and then fight each other in the square. Sometimes it has got so out of hand people even get killed............weird, horrible bloody fiesta. Hand me some booze and a live chicken and I think I will take my chances in the dance scene instead.