January 9, 2001
Today we will journey to the Ecuadorean Amazon, or Oriente. Travelling along by the bus we saw a man ringing a bell. Was he calling people to church? I don't think so. Those little bags in the background are the clue.
On our way out of Quito we suddenly had a great view of Cotopaxi. Continuing along, it was interesting to see the challenges farmers face cultivating the Andean slopes. Yet even as we went higher farmers seem to be able to eke out a living in places many wouldn't consider farmable
Soon the volcano Antisana reared its head over the hill and through the clouds. We were constantly reminded of the large part played by volcanic activity in the area. The road deteriorated as we went along and eventually we had to stop for an hour or so while the road was being rebuilt. Because of the rock and soil structure, landslides seemed common in the area. We soon approached two waterfalls that reinforced the idea.
Until the 1950s the Andean rim of the Amazon basin was as far as colonists and travellers went. Wildlife and Indian groups lived relatively undesturbed further on in the oriente.This changed in the late 1960s with the discovery of oil in the jungle. Suddenly, roads were pushed in and everyone's life changed.
Finally an hour or so late we arrived at Gina's Restaurant for lunch in Baeza. Since before the Spanish conquest lowland forest Indians stopped here on their way to the highlands on trading expeditions. Realizing the area's strategic importance the Spaniards founded a missionary and trading outpost here in 1548, only 14 years after conquoring Ecuador. Perched on the edge of the Amazon basin at 1,400meters (4.600ft) it was Ecuador's last outpost in the Northern Oriente for four centuries.
Now here's something I bet you didn't know. Baeza is the 5,466th most popular surname in the United States.
After checking our map we started heading south towards Tena. We passed through a number of early colonial missionary and trading outposts
Soon we were at Tena, the capital of Napo Province. The largest province in Ecuador it covers almost an eighth of the country. But suddenly we seemed to be driving down the wrong side of a divided highway with grandioes light standards on a centre boulevard. No problem, the right lane hasn't been built and from the looks of things won't be in the near future. There had to be a story here.
A few miles on from Tena we crossed the Napo River and leaving the main road followed a trail that paralleled the river. That road ended at Punta Ahuano, a tiny port town on the bank of the Napo River, where canoes were waiting for our late-afternoon, 15-minute ride downstream to La Casa del Suizo. By the time we arrived night was falling and the moon rising.
Tomorrow we explore the Amazon
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