Tag Archives: Tena

Iyarina to Puyo, Ecuador

Jun 26 – So, life continues here in Iyarina. One morning we had no hot water, the next day no WiFi, then last night the electricity went out entirely. Small inconveniences when you consider how well we are living in the middle of the jungle!

Jim taught his last class yesterday, so our official duties are over. We continue to walk every day and find new things to appreciate. The sky has been very blue, with no rain for the past few days. Our clothes dried on the line! As we near the end of June, the rainy season is coming to an close.

Walking down the road, we encountered a maintenance crew cutting brush with machetes to keep the jungle from overtaking the road. Not sure if the dog is part of the crew.

A man told us that if we took a side road, we could climb up El Mirador – a scenic overlook. Of course we had to check it out. As soon as we started walking up, we were joined by Flora, a barefoot nine year old with a lot to say.

She took a liking to Jim, and kept up a stream of chatter as we ascended the hill.

The view from the top.

We walked back to the house of the shaman, and spoke with his wife Maria. She showed us the herbs she grows, and told us which ones are good for back pain, and which help if you have an open wound.

More wildlife.

Don’t hug this tree!

There are many little huts erected at the roadside. Bus shelters? This one is also a shop. There was not much on offer, mainly warm bottles of Big cola.

Some beans set out on the pavement to dry.

Pretty fungi.

Papaya, I think
Pineapples growing on the ground – I always thought they grew on trees
Huge heart shaped leaves – so pretty

More student sculptures – water women (mermaids) are a thing here.

Jun 27 – After one last delicious breakfast, we bade farewell to Iyarina. Janis had hired a cab to take her back to the airport in Quito, and because the bridge is still out due to last week’s floods, she has to take the long detour, which goes past our next stop, Puyo. She graciously offered to let us share her taxi. Luisa also came along, as she actually lives in Puyo.

An hour and a half later, the jungle is gone, and we are in Puyo.Our very nice hotel is right on the main street, which is full of little shops and eateries. We will be here three nights, which should give us more than enough time to see what Puyo has to offer. This is not a tourist town, so we will see. Stay tuned!

A Day in Shiripuno and Misahualli

Jun 22 – Today we accompanied Janis and Luisa on a six mile trip by taxi to the nearby indigenous community of Shiripuno and the town of Misahualli.

Shiripuno serves as a traveler’s hostel with the hope of attracting tourists. It is run by a women’s cooperative. Right on the Rio Napo, some of their crops were damaged by yesterday’s floods.

Plantain
Coconut

The women demonstrated how to crush manioc, a root vegetable that can be cooked as a sort of bread. It is mixed with wayusa tea, wrapped in sweet leaf and roasted in the fire.

In another recipe, the manioc is chewed by all the women, then spit back into a communal bowl where it ferments for several days or weeks, then used as an intoxicant. We were offered some wayusa.

We were shown a huge rock that is said to be spiritually powerful. In the rock you can see a face and a tapir.

See the face?
See the tapir?

The women drummed and danced for us. Janis said the blue outfits, beads and grass skirts are a recent addition to attract tourists, but the dance is authentic, characterized by the swinging of their long hair. Grass skirts may have been used in pre-Colombian times.

There was a three year old just learning the dance, who was having a very good time doing her own thing. So cute!

Then we ventured into Misahualli. Here they imported some monkeys in the hopes of attracting tourists. There’s a monkey statue in the square.

Luisa, Janis, Luisa’s sister Eludia and Jim

The town’s primary attraction is canoe rides down the churning Napo River.

Grilled grubs are a delicacy here. Live grubs are skewered, then grilled, still wriggling.

After a few minutes, they are ready to serve. Jim pronounced them juicy and tasty!

The capuchin monkeys entertained the visitors, very active for mid-afternoon.

Misahualli is a very poor town, with an interesting variety of tourist shops and expats.

Jim and I would have explored more thoroughly, but Luisa at 90 could not walk far, so before too long we took a taxi back to Iyarina. An interesting day.

More from Iyarina

Jun 20 – So, I haven’t really talked about the weather here. It is not hot at all considering our proximity to the equator, perhaps in the low 70s during the day, but very humid. Pleasant walking weather. After sundown it gets chilly enough for a sweatshirt and long pants. The river provides a constant background noise as it roils along, soothing white noise. We are sleeping very well here.

Morning mist on the hills

More pretty flora.

Jim is busy teaching the anthropology students about Asian shamanism, to enable them to compare it to the Quechua shamans here. He also gave a hypnosis demonstration so the students could better understand the trance state. Here is the open-air classroom where most classes are held. I enjoy the contrast of the thatched roof and the flat screen tv.

Tod, who owns Iyarina, is the son of American doctors who brought him to Ecuador as a small child; he was raised here and married into an indigenous family. He maintains an academic career at Arizona State, while concurrently running this center. His extended family works here in all capacities. He explained (and I oversimplify) that in the Quechua culture, a person’s sense of self includes his entire family, and not caring for family members is thought to result in illness or misfortune to the children or elders of the family. A big responsibility.

The Quechua derive their power from the mountains that surround them, and, in times past, sacrificed animals or children to keep the mountains happy. In a land of many volcanoes, you can understand how this belief would arise. If a person experiences illness or misfortune, shamans are still consulted to determine the source and remove the misfortune.

We went with the anthropology students to observe a shaman ritual.

The shaman, named Bartolo, drank a cup of the hallucinogen ayahuasca, then chanted to various animal spirits. His wife Maria sat behind him. The round stone in front of him has magical properties and was described as female. He encouraged the students to touch the stone and the section of ayahuasca vine.

There were two smaller dark rocks described as male, that looked like faces. They served as protectors.

The shaman had a hand rolled tobacco cigar that he used to blow smoke over all the objects to cleanse them. The bunch of leaves were shaken throughout the ceremony and used to brush away negative effects. The shaman’s chant was calming and beautiful. Quite an experience!

Jun 21 – It rained so heavily through the night that the sandbar we could previously see in the river was submerged. Charles and his daughters are leaving today to travel home to Utah, and he received word mid-morning that the bridge back to Tena was washed out, and they would have to take a long detour. Safe travels home, Charles!

Jim and Charles

We continued to explore the campus.

The rain muddied the river

Huge fragrant gardenia

Logs used as seed starters

Tomorrow, an adventure!

Iyarina Research Center, near Tena Ecuador

Jun 16 – It rained all night and into the morning, reminding us that we are indeed in a rain forest. Here are some more of the beautiful plants growing all around us.

At mid morning, Jim’s colleague Charles and his wife Janis picked us up and drove us out to Iyarina Lodge, an educational compound about half an hour from Tena. Iyarina is in the Amazon jungle, right on the Rio Napo. Charles and Janice are both professors at Brigham Young University in Utah, and have been coming here every summer since the 1980s to study the Quechua people who live here. Janis is the authority on their language and Charles is a cultural anthropologist.

The center hosts college and post doc students studying linguistics, anthropology, and biology. It seems that some very interesting spiders đŸ•· and frogs 🐾 live here. We have a beautiful big room overlooking the river. Here is our view.

Here is our bathroom!

There are hiking trails and lava formations, and perhaps a trip to a local village nearby. Jim will present some sociology and shamanism to the students. It should be an interesting two weeks.

Tena, Ecuador

Jun 15 – We set the alarm for 5am, but of course we didn’t need it, as we woke up every hour throughout the night to check the time. Are we the only ones who do this? The 15-passenger van arrived at 5:15 to take us to the next chapter of our Ecuadorian adventure – Tena. The van picked up passengers at various spots around the city until all the seats were full.

It was still dark for the first part of our ride, but the popping in our ears let us know we were coming down from Quito’s high elevation. Then we had to remove our jackets as the weather warmed up. We saw some breathtaking views of the Andes covered in morning mist, but the condensation on the windows didn’t allow for any photos. Use your imagination!

By 9:30 we arrived in Tena, and the van stopped right at our hotel. Just like that, we’re back in the jungle!

Tena is a scruffy little town, touted as the cinnamon (canela) and wayusa capital of the world. Wayusa is a leaf that is dried and used as a caffeinated tea, drunk by indigenous people as an aid to having visions. Located on the Pano River, Tena caters to adventure tourists who come here to whitewater raft, kayak and take jungle tours to interact with the indigenous Quechua people and partake in shaman rituals. We are here for just a day, prior to meeting up with Jim’s professor colleague tomorrow.

Tena is also home to Parque Amazonico La Isla del Amor, a nature park right next to our hotel. We dropped off our bags and walked over to check it out.

What’s the first thing we saw? An observation tower! “Up!” said Jim, so up we went.

As we walked along, I was just starting to ask Jim what our chances were of actually seeing any wildlife, when out of the brush strolled a tapir, big as life and unrestrained in any way!

Jim moved in, in pursuit of a Facebook video, causing me to wonder how close was too close to an animal this size, even if they are herbivores. Say cheese!

Five minutes later, we met another one!

This day was already a home run as far as I was concerned. Further down the path, there was a restroom (read tin-roofed outhouse), and I decided to answer a call of nature. As I sat, I heard a loud crash right above my head, and Jim informed me that a monkey had just jumped onto the tin roof! I looked up, and there was a sweet-faced little spider monkey, looking down at me inquisitively through a gap in the tin. I’m sure you’d like to see a picture of this, but I was a little busy at that moment.

I rushed out, got my camera and snapped a few shots of the little guys right above my head. Don’t you just love that sweet little face?

After a while, the wooden boardwalk stopped abruptly and only the cement supports remained. Jim said this was a town once enriched by oil wealth, but when the current administration came into power, this park project was just never finished. The oil wealth is now used to pay back the loans for infrastructure made by China, and there’s no money left over. Jim was happy to walk on the support beam, but my balance isn’t that good, so we turned around.

Here is a ceibo tree, where elves and fairies – the guardians of the forest – were thought to live.

I love seeing what we consider ‘house plants’ growing huge and free in the forest.

In the evening we strolled the town board walk in search of supper. Here’s some wall art:

A good day!