El Carnaval de Ituren…Wow!

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Sweet Wee Pueblo of Ituren…

We have a great, regular Intercambio group (6-8 folks who meet once a week to speak English & Spanish) and our Intercambio mate Agustina lives in a pueblo called Ituren and has done so for almost 30 years. We chatted with Agustina @ one of our weekly Intercambio sessions about paying her a visit to do a hike we had read about in El Diario Vasco, possibly when the weather turned towards Spring. She quickly insisted we mark our calendars for the annual ‘carnaval de Ituren’ that was taking place on the 30th & 31st of January – something not to be missed. So with our trusty mate Edu offering up driving duties, we piled into Edu’s car & pointed it towards Ituren…

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Lunch @ Agustina’s Casa…Estupendo!

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The Joaldunak Begin the Parade…

First off, this is a pagan festival that dates back hundreds & hundreds of years and suits us just fine as you might as well believe in witches, fairies, elves and evil spirits as the other mystical folks out there. The unofficial title for this carnaval is the ‘bellringing carnival’, where the town folk dress up as bad souls and are escorted through the village by the  ‘Joaldunak’, a group of hefty Basque men (and wee ones) clothed in sheepskins & tall pointy hats bedecked in colourful ribbons who stomp through the town swinging horsetails, with giant cowbells strapped to their bums. Yessiree Bob! Fun for all!

The carnaval has its base in the agricultural past were this annual event was supposed to ward of the evil spirits (well played by the younger folks) and provide some level of safety for the sheep stock in the year ahead. Banned during the Franco years, it and the Basque culture in general, have had quite a resurgence.

Here’s your live action footage folks…

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The Joaldunak In Action…Billie No Likey.

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Top Left: Modern Evil Chainsaw Spirits; Evil Bear Type Thingy; Evil Muppet Spirits; Bike Riding Chainsaw Spirit

And leave it to the young’uns to take an ancient, pagan festival & bring it into the 21st century with all the mod cons and a few ruder than rude permutations – so modern pagan. Seems most of the young ones prefer souped up & stripped down motorised vehicles…not too sure they pass roadworthy inspections. One in particular was a tad frightening – pictured below, with a gas cannon draped in a wild pig’s carcass whilst the driver wore a vest of the pig’s entrails (not shown for courtesy’s sake).

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El Carnaval 2016…Who Knew?

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Par for the course here in Basque Country…this poster started to make an appearance all over Hondarribia a few weeks ago. And as usual, no date or time or place or info on what the hell is happening. Just the words ‘INAUTERIAK’ and ‘2016’ and a funny looking man. When we asked our mates at our local cafe, Amona Margarita, they said “It is the carnival, of course…big event with parades, music, floats…this Sunday.’

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The Folks Begin to Gather…Billie None Too Plussed…

It was looking like a particularly ugly day weather-wise with very cool temps and a high probability of some form of precipitation…not parade weather by a long shot. So we bundled up & headed for the guessed at starting point for the parade – Alameda Plaza. It was supposed to kick off at 10:30AM but hey, this is Spain so more like a bit after 11. It finally kicked off at 11 but moved at a snail’s pace with frequent stops & starts. We saw a couple participants with hip flasks – smart folks as they most def needed it!

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Spanish Inquisition (Nice), Batmobile and Western Saloon Boys

Loved the Spanish Inquisition float…the two dudes at either end would crank the winches & the arms & legs would stretch while the head bobbed up & down & let out a series of blood curdling screams. At least they have a sense of humour….

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Lots of Dancing (and Freezing) Folks….

And we had it all here folks – dancing surfers, rocking bikkies and ancient flappers (both men & women)…We ran into the flapper group much later that night in Hotel Obispo’s bar and to say they were a wee bit happy would be an understatement. One of the ‘women’ (big burly Basque hombre) dragged Hound #2 out on the dance floor to a Queen medley & when he returned her to the bar, made eyes at me. Funny mate…

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Curious Bill Wants A Look…

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Fanciest Float Of All…And VERY WELL Choreographed.

Here’s a wee clip of the Army folks tap’n their toes…

And the Bikie Folks are pretty cool too…