So where were we……?
After bidding farewell to Franco and Nina in Banos we set off East passing through the town of Puyo before entering the lowland jungle and after a 4 hour drive reaching the outskirts of Tena, Ecuador's jungle town. We decided to drive 20kms East beside the river to Puerto Mishuali where there are a large number of very expensive riverside lodges and cabanas.
We finally arrived at Inhuali Jungle lodge which is positioned on a bend in the river, high on a bluff overlooking jungle and mountains, superb positioning with beautiful stilted lodges encompassing breathtaking views. Only problem- way out of our budget. Anyway they had a nice enough car park so James headed off to have a chat with the manager to pull our usual stunt of asking to camp in the car park!! So after a long negotiation process we had brought the price down from USD50 each for the cabanas to USD10 each to camp but use all the lodge facilities. We spent 2 nights at the lodge and also went on a guided tour into a primary forest reserve learning about all the local jungle plants and insects. We were also accompanied by the local Labrador who was very amusing and loved water. He would collect rocks from the streams by totalling submerging his head underwater!!!
Next destination was Tena where we had heard there was awesome rafting and kayaking. Arriving in this pleasant town totally surrounded by jungle and hills we located an English owned family agency that do rafting and kayaking. After a brief chat with Gary we could only really afford a full day rafting on class 3 and 4 rapids. This was booked for 3 days time when we would accompany two other Dutch passengers. He recommended a small estancia a little out of town but beside a creek right on the edge of the jungle.
Once again we bargained a superb spot to camp over looking the small creek at Estancia di Tomas. A bonus to our stay here was they had 2 resident Macaws, a blue and gold and a chestnut flanked as well as a tame Amazon parrot flying around free. They also had an inquisitive toucan that would pick up anything left lying around and finally some resident squirrel monkeys. We were right at home. On our second day here we ventured 30kms north of Tena to Orchids Paradise, a small lodge boasting 7 species of monkey living in the trees around the lodge including Kerry's favourite - Spider Monkeys.
Arriving just before lunch and paying entrance we were giving a quick tour of the premises. The lodge's other attraction is a landscaped swimming pool just below the restaurant where we planned on spending the afternoon. Walking out the front of the restaurant we were accosted by a young spider monkey who took a liking to James and first tried to lead him off somewhere by his hand and then decided his best vantage point was just to sit on the ruck sack with his arms and legs draped over James' shoulders. He was soooo cute with his little quiff above big brown eyes. He hung around us all afternoon and was so friendly and charismatic that we spent most of the afternoon in fits of laughter.
The following day we were up at 6.30am - a shock to our system - to have breakfast before our day rafting. An hour in the car was followed by a 30min walk down a very muddy path to the river to start our rafting. But first included in the trip was a short walk up a canyon to an idyllic waterfall with a 7m jump into a pool below - no photos came out though!!. After the rafting brief we departed the sanctuary of the bank. The river was relatively shallow and very clear and as we did not flip once, Kerry thoroughly enjoyed herself. Once again the scenery was breathtaking - rafting through pristine rainforest with waterfalls cascading over the cliffs into the river and the rapids being big enough to excite us but small enough for Kerry to actually keep her eyes open during the whole experience - a first for her we think! Our biggest bonus was we had perfect weather the whole day.
Continuing our journey we now headed north west and starting our climb into the mountains again. The bonus here is the mountains are still relatively warm unlike Peru and Bolivia. Once we reached the rafting town of Baeza we turned east again out to the jungle in search of Ecuador's largest waterfall - Cascade de San Raphael at the base of Ecuador's most recently erupted volcano Volcan Reventador.
Relatively well sign posted we ended up camping in the car park of lodge at the access point to the waterfall. By the look of things they do not get many people staying there any more as most of the buildings were derelict. Cold showers and a bog were accessible so no complaints. The first day we took a walk to the mirador through the rainforest where the path opens out on a hill overlooking the front of the waterfall.
The next day James did a very steep decent down to the river upstream and then an hour trek through muddy rainforest to get access to the throat of the waterfall. No safety in the area but the views from right above the falls was spectacular. On the way back he had been advised by a local there was a "Cock of the Rock Lek" a tree where a group of male cock of the rock birds all meet every evening near dusk and make a loud noise and perform trying to attract a mate. He was fortunate enough to see about 8 of these bright orange birds performing for about half an hour.
Heading back west to the small town of Baeza, just below the cloud forest we were one week ahead of the world rafting and kayaking championships so there were many countries practising on the river all day. As it was a nice day we were driving along the road and stopping at all the river access points to watch all the guys and gals do their stuff.
This is where we ………HAD OUR FIRST ACCIDENT.
................. Next page.