Saturday, February 19, 2011

Ecuador--Not just for Kayakers!

 Achote plant found in the jungles along the Napo River.  This is used for coloring cloth, pottery, the hair of an Indigenous group called the "Colorados," to paint the faces of tourists:), and it's used in a common food coloring oil here in Ecuador. 

Ecuador is not just for kayakers!  My mom came down here a couple of weeks ago and brought along an entourage of adventuresome lady friends.  None of them were kayakers, but Small World Adventures still found a week packed with action and awesome activities...read more below on what you can do in Ecuador if kayaking ain't your thing (more on the oil history next blog when I post the Rios Escondidos write up).

Nancy shooting a Toucan (don't worry, not a real one, a "target toucan" with a blow gun at a Quichua village along the Rio Napo.  She also just had her face painted with some achote.

So, we started off the week with a nice lunch in Quito and then a tour of a hummingbird sanctuary in the cloud forests along the Papallacta River.  It was great sitting in the peaceful gardens alongside the river watching literally hundreds of hummingbirds feed and buzz around.   After watching the birds we continued on to Small World's riverside lodge for a relaxing evening of walking around the gardens there and enjoying the first of Lili's home cooked meals.

 Deanna learning that her rafting helmet is much different than her riding helmet--yo! that helmet is on backwards!

Day 2 brought us to the Salado River for some rafting.  We started easy to make sure everyone liked it, so just did a short 1-hour stretch and then headed down to San Rafael Falls.  It's a 40 minute hike into the over look, but oh so worth it to see the Quijos River fall 485 feet!

Nancy got sponsored by Stihl (you know the chain saw company) for her trip to Ecuador.

Since everyone was stoked on the rafting, the next day we heading southeast to the town of Tena and did some more rafting on the Jatunyacu River (or Upper Napo).  Then we had a delicious meal at the fanciest restaurant in Tena and watched sloths roam around the place as we ate our steaks, penne pasta, and Spinach salads.

Tarquino showed the ladies big action on the Upper Napo.  It was an exciting whitewater day!

Along the Upper Napo, our local guide Tarquino talked to us all about the rainforest, how the ecosystems work, and about the Indigenous people who live there.  Did you know, for example, that of all the sunlight that hits the forest canopy (the tops of the trees) that only 1% actually makes it to the ground?


 

Some beautiful scenery along the Jatunyacu

3/4 of the way through the river trip some local kids in inner tubes jumped aboard.  The ladies were all happy to share their ride with the kids (who said they wanted to be river guides when they grew up) so they paddled to the take out with us.  We taught them important English words like "all forward," "back paddle," and "STOP!"

After a day of rafting, we drove down to the jungle port town of Puerto Misahualli.  This town lays at the confluence of Misahualli and Upper Napo Rivers.  This is where the Napo proper begins and is essentially the end of car travel in this part of Ecuador.  From here it's motorized canoe only!


 So, the next day we hoped on a motorized canoe and headed downriver!

It was interesting navigating the the Class I and II rapids of the Napo in a big, long, unwieldy canoe.  But our driver got us through unscathed, and we only had to get out once to push the canoe up a rapid!  Then we had a great lunch at a jungle lodge, enjoyed their gardens for a while and headed back to the civilization that is Tena.
Funny sights on our motorized canoe trip.  That's probably a 2 year old girl sitting in a wooden canoe while her brother (probably 6-8 years old) swims along with a rope tied around his waist to transport canoe and sister.  That's way different than how I got around when I was 2.

Nice jungle colors on the banks of the Napo.

Sherrie learning what a Chonta Curro is...

When we got back to Tena we toured the local market and saw tons of amazing looking fruits and vegetables for sale.  We also got the treat of checking out a local delicacy--Chonta Curro--AKA grubs!  We didn't eat any though, just played with them for a while:)

 Mom and Darcy enjoying a beautiful sunny day on the Rio Quijos.  Mom loves to come visit me in Ecuador to escape the winter cold, get out in the sun, and enjoy the good life at Cabanas Tres Rios.

We spent the last 2 days enjoying the Quijos Valley and Small World's lodge.  Everyone got massages from Lili, we hiked to a local waterfall, went bird-watching and did more rafting to check out the amazing Basalt river canyons of the Quijos River.

 The great architecture of Old Town Quito is lit up at night to highlight the beauty and to attract families to come out and enjoy the city at night.

Our last night in Quito we had a great dinner up in New Town and then headed to Old Town to walk around the plazas and see all the Colonial churches lit up.  The city has made a massive effort to beautify Old Town and make it a pleasant place to hang out at night.  It was a really great experience.  A nice send off for everyone before waking up early to catch flights back to the United States.

video

A little Monkey action from Puerto Misahualli

Don, Larry, Tarquino, the ladies and I all had a great week of rafting and touring around Ecuador.  Thanks for coming everyone--we hope it was the trip of a lifetime!

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