Home > Ecuador > Ecuador: From Andes to Amazon in Few Hours, Part Two

Ecuador: From Andes to Amazon in Few Hours, Part Two

July 2, 2011

Yesterday we descended, within a matter of just a few hours, from the heights of the Ecuadorian Andes to the heart of the Amazon Rainforest Region. Today we will do the inverse voyage, yet always in only a few hours, including visits and en-route stops….

After a relaxed evening in the pretty Amazonian city of Tena, this morning we devour one more delicious breakfast (Ecuador’s gastronomy is unimaginably varied and delightful in every corner of the country…!!!), so we enjoy the slices of sweet baby-papaya from the area, tasty bananas and tangerines; an exotic “naranjilla” juice; fried slices of manioc with crusty bits of bacon, and plantain patties.  Willy prepares the van, the girls don their “Amazon explorer’s look”; Juan checks his camera while I enjoy watching the tall “chonta” palm trees with their dark leafs, counting how many times two pairs of bright yellow and black oropendola birds fly in and out of their conspicuous and unusual hanging nests.

We set off now down the Trans-Amazonian backbone road, newly paved and with little traffic, and it is one more journey through an exuberant ocean of green vegetation, dotted with the occasional bright red and gold-tipped heliconia plants or the darker red ginger plants.  Flocks of noisy parakeets fly overhead and we frequently stop for picture taking as we start seeing, to the east, the headwaters of the great Pastaza River. We are on our way to the picturesque Amazonian town of El Puyo, where we arrive in less than a two-hour scenic drive. It is just pleasantly warm and humid, as everywhere in the rainforest. El Puyo is renowned for its flowers, gardens and as a real orchids’ haven. The formerly quaint village has become a busy provincial capital, one of the main hubs of products’ exchange and commerce in the Amazon Region of Ecuador, with a close bond to the central highlands, less than two hours by road….

We visit one of El Puyo’s Orchid Gardens where we spend a good hour admiring the most fascinating species of the “queen of flowers”: the orchids.  Minuscule ones or larger flowers, with intense yellow and rose to black and lilac combinations of colors, the orchids are a true feast for the eyes, for the camera lenses and for nature lovers. A curious specialty of El Puyo has become the art of “body paintings” and we find at least two ateliers where local artists delight the visitors by painting exotic figures and vibrant colors into the almost totally nude bodies of young girls and a couple of boys; a form of “living art” which actually recollects ancestral practices of the native peoples of the area, who wore (and some still wear) little to no clothing, while a tradition, loaded with symbols, is precisely the facial and body painting and colors….  El Puyo is also a recognized center of top Amazonian cuisine, so this is where we have lunch:  marinated hearts of the “chonta” palm; a delicious “maito” of Amazonian catfish wrapped on plantain leafs and cooked in braises under the ground, accompanied by purple sweet potatoes and wild cherries vinaigrette.  Desert is a lime sherbet with roasted Ecuador’s unparalleled white cocoa beans…

Leaving El Puyo behind we soon begin ascending towards the highly popular and touristic resort city of Baños, nestled at the very slopes of the mythical Tungurahua Volcano, a route of amazing cascades, cloud forest and a mecca for adventure sports… we find frequent caravans of cyclists on their mountain bikes and along the Pastaza River’s shores and deep gorges, dozens of white water rafters; canopy or bungee buffs, pumping in loads of adrenaline. Soon the scenery changes again and we find ourselves back in Andean countryside and scenery, headed for the final few hours ride back to Quito, always marveled by the natural, cultural and even gastronomic diversity of beautiful Ecuador………

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