Tena is a small, quiet town in the Amazon rainforest worth visiting if only for the trip on the bus. The views are stunning. We are only here for two days, a chance for us to break up the trip en route to our volunteering and also to try a bit of white water rafting!
The place is quiet, maybe it’s the time of year, and we had to get someone to find the owner of our hostel to open up for us. We felt a bit guilty as he was in a local restaurant having dinner! Tena is also hot, it’s rainforest after all, but cooler than the jungle we have visited recently. We arrived to watch an incredible storm in the distance, constantly lighting up the sky.
We learned that only two weeks ago, after a three month drought and three days of rain, the local river overflowed into the streets. A few indigenous people who were living in basic huts on the banks outside of town died as a result. In response, the local mayor ordered the river banks to be dug up and a wall constructed, without any planning or investigation into its effect. From our hostel window we could see a digger in the middle of the river carving huge new channels and reducing the width by at least half. Never nice to see primary rainforest torn down but who are we to say what’s best when lives are affected.
We spotted quite a number of international businessmen around town. This is oil and logging territory so we’re guessing they have something to do with that. Deforestation is very real here, we can see it with our own eyes on almost every bus ride. Anyway, back down from my tree-house…
Neither of us has been white water rafting before, and Ecuador has some of the best in the world. We book a full day, about four hours on the river with a company called River People. It’s actually run by a family from England who have settled here with their family. Their daughter is one of our guides as well as a local expert.
We had loads of fun, something new that we loved and will probably do again. The river was quite low so not as fierce as we expected, if you’re in the know – it was a Category 3+ river. Finishing, we immediately decided we’d tackle a bigger river later in our trip, there’s loads of rafting places on our way up to Mexico.
We had a little free time and decided to hunt for a swimming pool. A hop into the next town, we discovered a bizarre hostel that boasted a large pool and tropical gardens. Off we went. At some point in the creation of this hostel somebody had the bright idea to build a penguin pool. It looked great, all white and looking like ice and glaciers and stuff. I’m guessing getting penguins into the rainforest didn’t go so well so they stuck a couple of ladders in and made it a swimming pool for people instead. Very, very, strange experience. While we were there, there was a film crew for the Ecuador tourist board. We were alone so if you ever see a couple of gringos splashing about in a penguin pool in a tourist film, that’ll be us.
So our time lounging around sipping tea and taking pictures is up. Next stop it’s a short hop to Mera to start our volunteering. We’ve prepared by packing most of our decent clothes away in plastic (rumour is everything gets mouldy in the jungle )and charged all our gadgets to the brim.