Last week our teacher asked Emily and I if we wanted to ir a la selva para ver los monos and of course we said YES!! So we went to the Megamaxi to wait for him so we could travel to Tena together on New Years afternoon and we waited… and waited… and finally gave up. That night we figured out it was a big miscommunication on timing. He had left at 10 that morning. Woops. So the next morning we set off to Tena on our own with two of our classmates, David from Germany and Mido from Egypt. We left our house at 4:30am, walked a good mile or two to our first bus stop, took that bus to the big bus terminal in Quito, Quitumbe, and hopped on the 8:00 bus to Tena. But not without trouble, of course! Emily and I were supposed to meet Mido outside his house to walk with him but we couldn’t find him so we left without him. Around 6 we got a text saying he’s coming, so we helped him as best we could with directions. The thing is, Mido speaks almost no Spanish. So it was literally a miracle that he got to Quitumbe for the 8:00 bus. He said “all of Quito” helped him, haha!
What’s nice about Ecuador is that buses here cost about $1 per hour. This one was $6 for a 5 hour ride.
And what a ride it was… I was in awe of the landscape and afraid for my life at the same time, the whole 5 hours. We swerved through crazy mountains and passed some small waterfalls. But we also drove on roads that were definitely not done construction. Apparently we came at a good time though, because in the rainy season you can’t even get to Tena because of mudslides.
So we made it to Tena safe and sound and a little bus-sick. We ate at the first restaurant we could find, a little Peruvian place next to the bus station. I’m a super picky eater (I’m trying to change that I promise!!) so I asked for just rice, solo arroz, but they brought me a plate full of rice, refried beans and a salad. But hey, for $3, not bad.
Next we found our hostel, Hostal Limoncocha, which I looooved. We had a private room with 4 beds for 2 nights for $8 a night, and you could get breakfast each morning for $2.50. There were hammocks on the balconies overlooking Tena and the hostel itself wasn’t far from everything, but it was removed enough to be quiet at night.
That afternoon we had no idea what to do so we asked the hostel owner for suggestions. We ended up taking a 30 minute bus (60 cents) to Misahualli, which was a very good decision. It’s a tiny port town on a river and there’s a little carnival for kids right before you enter the beach. And guess what!!! The first thing I saw on the beach was a monkey! I saw a group of people looking at a tree and then they all jumped back because the monkey hopped out of the tree and ran to one close to me. I was so happy.
As we were walking along the small beach area a lady asked us if we wanted to do a little boat ride for una horita for only $3. We said sure and hopped aboard the lancha. It took us down the river a little and back the other way to a village-like area.
I say village-like area because it was supposed to be like an indigenous village but was really obviously commercialized. You could buy souvenirs, visit a shaman, pay to go inside and see an indigenous dance with indigenous music, buy natural medicines, and hold snakes or caimans for a dollar. Of course I saw the snake and paid the dollar right away. BUT…
Once I was holding the snake I knew I shouldn’t have done it. I was supported this snake’s captivity for tourism and that just wasn’t right. The poor thing can’t live its life like it should in the wild. So my mistake… I won’t do it again.
Anyway, we got bored quickly with the village and set off on our own adventure. We found a trail and followed it to other little villages until our hour was up and we had to get back to our boat. It was a nice little stroll…
So then we headed back to the port and looked for something else to do.
We crossed a bridge and kept walking to where there were really no more tourists. There were signs about a lagoon and monkeys so we looked for that… a few hundred meters later we were alone at this lagoon with an empty canoe in front of us. Being the crazy kids we are, we were about to just hop in and explore, but an older gentleman showed up and guided us in the canoe. We did a figure-eight around these two islands in the middle of the lagoon. It was completely silent except for the exotic birds chirping and branches creaking from… MONKEYS!!! There were so many on the one island. To see them jump from tree to tree and just chill out in the wid was so incredibly awesome. Our guide would sometimes call for them “monkey, monkey, monkey, venga, venga!” The ride was so peaceful and I was so happy to be in the Ecuadorian amazon, surrounded by monkeys and tranquility. I was sad when we came ashore an hour later. The gentleman asked for $3 each, which was yet another incredible bargain.
After our canoe ride it was getting dark, so we caught the 7:00 bus back to Tena.
The next morning I woke up a little late. Emily and Mido were eating breakfast downstairs so I went to find them. A guy had asked them if we wanted to go rafting with them. So rafting we went! I was pretty nervous. I’m honestly not that adventurous and one thing I told my group was not to tip over because I did not want to get wet. Well one of the first things our guide, Eduardo, had us do once in the raft was jump out. Greattttt. But the water wasn’t that bad and I got splashed the entire rest of the trip anyway. I had a lot of fun, except when we got caught in a washing machine effect thingy. That was no bueno. And then near the end, of course we tipped. But I really, really did have a blast!
We went out to an Italian restaurant for dinner that night. Yep, I ate Italian in the jungle. I really missed familiar foods.
The next day we all slept in late, exhausted from our rafting adventure. We strolled around town and explored a little until we were ready to head back to Quito.
We went at 2:00 to the bus station to get our tickets back to Quito… they were sold out until 7pm. Apparently everyone goes back home on Sunday. So we were stranded in Tena for the rest of the afternoon with nothing to do. Luckily we made friends rafting with our tour guides Eduardo and Avatar (that’s his nickname… I don’t know what his real name is…) and we went out for drinks with them by the river until it was time to catch the bus.
I didn’t buy anything in Tena but I did come back with some souvenirs. Note to self: always wear sunscreen. Always. I got a massive sunburn on my legs while rafting and it wasn’t even sunny out! But I guess at the equator clouds don’t protect you like they do up north. I also came back with some nice mosquito bites on my legs. Ick. My insect repellent washed off in the water I guess.
Despite this I had a great time though! I stepped outside of my comfort zone and went rafting, saw some monkeys, and really connected with nature. The amazon is such a beautifiul place.
Basically I loved Tena.