Friday, January 23, 2009

Craziness at el Tope in Palmares

The Lonely Planet travel guide describes Las Fiestas de Palmares as "a 10 day beer-soaked extravaganza with carnival rides, parades, a tope, fireworks, discotheques, bands, exotic dancers, fried food, guaro tents and the highest proportion of drunken Ticos you have ever seen."
I looked up this festival in my travel book after Marco was talking about it one day at lunch. I had to be involved! It sounded fun and crazy...also very bloggable. I invited myself to go along with him and his friends. (sometimes you have to do that) Thursday was the kick-off day of the parties, and it all starts with el tope, which is a horse parade. Im not able to compare this to any parade I have seen before in my life. Imagine, if you will, 3000 horses streaming by you in a 4 hour period. Yes, 3000 horses. What does that look like you ask? Well, funny you should ask...I have plenty of pics, so sit back and relax. Please start by viewing this short video.

The town of Palmares is only about 30 minutes from San Jose (with no traffic) but with the amount of people coming to the festival, this could take anywhere from 2-3 hours. There are "party buses" that bring loads of people from the surrounding areas. Marco's friend Augusto, or Gusto for short, lives in Palmares and he hosted 8 of us at his house. We arrived the night before to avoid any traffic. That also worked out prefectly because Gusto's mom made us a delicious breakfast of eggs and gallo pinto. This has been a tradition for them for many years. To ensure he has a prime viewing spot of the tope (horse parade) Gusto pays a guy to sit in that spot on the sidewalk overnight and relieves him at 9am. Here it is early that morning, before everyone arrived. Across the street was a Pali (store) where I purchased my drink of choice for the day: Corona! The place was jam packed and we had to wait in line. They stocked the store with extra Imperial Beer and cowboys hats (hanging) Of course I came prepared with my own. wink wink
Here Marco me and Gusto smile as the sun finally came out. I cracked beer #1 at noon. Pacing myself was the name of the game. I did a fine job.
I met some great people (thanks again Marco) This is Ana, she and her boyfriend Diego live north in Guanacaste region and work at the Four Seasons.
We made plans for Ernesto and I to go visit them soon. (Get down here mi Neto!) She is Brazilian and I was picking her brain to see how she got a "real job" here (ie: paying) as a matter of fact we had some pretty serious conversations considering the atmosphere.
Now I was told it was tradition for the cowboys to get beers/drinks supplied to them by the crowd. I also saw the cowboys passing bottles from horse to horse. As you can imagine as the parade went by it got crazier and crazier. Horses going in different directions. Notice the cowboy standing on his horse. (far right)Im not even sure how long the parade route was, but I just kept thinking that there can't be this many horses in this small country. 4 hours of non-stop horses. Amazing!Speaking of crazy, I didnt like this at all when it went by. A blue horse? This girl was with Pepsi. Bad Pepsi! I realize dye doesnt hurt the horse and Im sure it comes right out when they bathe him, but I felt embarrassed for the horse. Im sure he felt it. Pobre sito el caballo. Pepsi's counterpart in red, was rubbing off on this pretty white horse. Nope, don't like it. Not cool Pepsi.
The "people watching" was amazingly entertaining. Besides the cowboys on the horses, the crowd was also in western gear. Here is Juan Carlos (juanca) with his hat that breaks out once a year for the tope. My hat is not exactly western, but it did the trick.
Another tradition is for the cowboys to pick up women on their horses. I knew right when I heard this that I had to get on a horse. I was really being too choosy, it had to be a Paint. Brown and white....and I didn't want an old cowboy. For hours I was watching and finally Diego told me I was being too picky. He whistled and pointed me out to the cowboy and he waved me over. I had to climb over the yellow metal fence.
Once over the fence, I mounted that horse like a pro! HA! (I did grow up next to a horse farm)

I liked the fact that he let me take the horse on my own, where as all the others I saw were riding the horses with the "guest rider" I went down the line a bit and turned around. It was so fun!I shook the cowboys hand and thanked him, he really made my day. El tope was complete!!The tope ended at dusk, by the end of the parade, you could really see a difference...there were a lot of drunk people on horses. I saw quite a few people sliding off. The crowd was just as bad. That quote from Lonely Planet was the truth, "the highest proportion of drunken Ticos you have ever seen." The night just got so funny. Here is a good example: This random cowboy wanted a photo with me.
OK... not that funny....but 5 minutes later I see the same random cowboy like this:
...and then like this:
That is where I will wrap up this cowgirl's story. On a scale of one to ten, I would say this is a 10 for a unique experience, nevermind one of my most entertaining days in Costa Rica to date.
Buenas Noches damas y caballeros! Come and see me sometime!

1 comment:

  1. Oh my goodness!!! Cindy that looks like it REALLY was a great time! I can't belive you rode that guys are a brave cowgirl! And the horse was beautiful.
    Miss you!!! And I need to come down very soon!!!


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