Aug 03, 2010
Feb 01, 2012
Where I stayed
After Banos, we drove east along Ruta de las Cascadas towards the Amazon basin. Ecuador doesn't reach the Amazon River itself, but all rivers in Ecuador east of the Andes flow into the Amazon basin (most of northern South America is Amazon basin).
It just so happened that we showed up in the town of Tena on the first day of their week-long celebration of the 469th anniversary of the discovery of the Amazon, also the 51st anniversary of Napo becoming a province. The sidewalks started filling up with people, and police were clearing the streets of cars… we realized that a parade was coming. We had an excellent spot for watching from the balcony of our hotel. The costumes and dancing were fun to watch, especially the younger ones with their disorganization and lack of interest. There was a lot of energy, a lot of dancing and lots of people. When it started, the umbrella vender was doing good business with people on the sunny side of the street, by the end of the parade, both sides were giving him business because of a sudden downpour. It rained on their parade, but the it didn’t stop the dancing in the streets. Later in the evening, after the rain stopped, there was live music on the main plaza and an impressive display of fireworks.
In the morning we thought we’d walk to Parque Amazonica Isle, a peninsula between the Rio Tena and the Rio Pano. Our map showed a footbridge going over the river, but it had a catastrophic collapse, not much was left of it. We asked someone how to get across and they said canoe or walk. Since we didn't have a canoe, we walked, the water wasn’t much over our knees, on the other side were trails through the jungle. We climbed a 5 story tower with an eye to eye view of a bunch of squirrel monkeys jumping around in the trees. We watched for about an hour until they meandered off. This is about the time our camera battery died and we kicked ourselves for not bringing a back-up.
It seemed the place was abandoned, we saw no people, but we came across a little zoo, so we knew there was someone around, somewhere. There were peccary (little jungle pigs), porcupine, and guanta, a jungle rodent (sold by some street venders, but we couldn’t find it). Also in a cage was a very friendly white-fronted spider monkey (the sign said it was endangered) it reached through the bars and grabbed us with it’s tail and chattered, looking quite pleased to have the contact. It’s tail was furry on one side with calloused skin on the other. Then it reached out with it’s hand and made the same happy monkey sounds when I pet it. Meanwhile a brown wooly monkey slowly got closer to us, it came down from the trees (not in a cage). Eventually it sat down so close that it was touching my foot. I was afraid to scare it off if I touched it, so I refrained. It curled into a ball and laid down next to me. Be still my heart. It was hard to leave the monkeys, but we had reservations in Quito up in the Andes (on the other side of the continental divide).