So after a great time in Banos we made our way to Tena. Going to Tena really shows off the great diversity of the country of Ecuador. Up to this point we had been in the Andes mountain region but as we descended (seriously .. an ear popping 2000 m drop in altitude) from Banos to Tena in a rather quick 3 hour bus ride we felt like we were seriously in a different country. Instead of being surrounded in a valley of mountains we were surrounded by jungle. Tena is located at the end of civilization and at the beginning of the Amazon jungle. As we got into town we wanted to talk with some locals and other travelers about how to best explore the Amazon. For this we figured that we would have to find a guide. Well, that was not the case. A little known secret about Tena is that it is quite easy to get to hiking trails that take you through the Amazon and also you can hire guys for cheap to motor you out in the river in a long canoa to see more of the Amazon. So that is what we did. First, we
took a taxi about a half an hour into the jungle and dropped us off on a hiking trail. At first we were thinking that we were in the middle of no where but as we made our way through the Amazon we came across some locals and some tourists that were enjoying the beautiful views. For awhile the trail was near a river and we found a place to jump in ... after we were sure there were no pirannas in the river! We were covered with 40% deet and had 98.1% deet ready to go just in case but there were not many bugs so that was a nice surprise.
During our time in Tena we also went to this small jungle village called "Misahualli." In Misahualli we were able to take a boat ride down Tena river which is a major tributary to the Amazon. That was amazing. Then when we returned there we got back to this beach and there were a ton of monkeys hanging around. At any given time there were 10 nearby. Some people were messing around with them ... having them play with a soccer ball or seeing them run off
with a bag of chips. Probably the coolest thing in Misahualli was getting to walk through this indiginous town. I am not for sure if we were supposed to do that but we got to see some indiginous huts and ... pretty much just people living in the wild Amazon. There really was not electricity or running water from what we could tell but the places looked relatively nice ... it looked like a hut for sleeping and a hut for eating/cooking and a lot of outdoor space and they were right on the river and a lot of them were swimming the day we were there because it was hot.
We were also surprised because I guess we would have thought that Tena would be more like any old Ecuadorian town and that it was not until you got into the jungle that the indiginous jungle people would be present (seperation kind of like in the US). That was not the case at all, pretty much everyone in Tena seemed to be of indiginous roots. Most everyone we spoke with used Spanish with us but "Kichiwa" between eachother. And of course the natives in the jungle are different
than the natives in the Andes ... even though they both do share the "Kichwa" language. One thing is for certain ... to understand Ecuadorian culture you must understand both the Native and Spanish influence!
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