Tena and Puerto Misahuali – A weekend trip to the edge of the jungle
One Friday after work, I took the trole bus to the Quitumbe bus station in order to get on the bus to Tena.
I have seen a lot of places in Ecuador so far but the jungle region was still missing. So I really looked forward to this weekend trip.
The bus left at 6:00 pm and the ride would take about five hours as I was told.
It was a pretty comfortable bus with nice seats and good movies. The ride lead via Papallacta further down to Baeza and then down, down, down to Tena. When I held my head close to the window I could start to scent the typical smell of the rain forest. It is this aroma that in Europe we only know from the green houses of botanical gardens. For me, this smell has a very important meaning – it always reminds me of my first real contact with Latin Amerika: when I got off the plane in San José, Costa Rica, in 2010.
However, after passing Baeza, I started to feel pretty bad because of the many serpentine curves. So I asked the drivers’ assistant if it was possible to sit in the front next to the driver. It was and it helped a lot. I soon felt better and could admire the drivers’ capabilities to move the bus along this challenging road.
Around 11:30 pm we finally reached Tena. I moved into a hostel near the bus terminal, had a quick midnight snack at a kiosk and fell asleep after a few minutes. The next day I woke up pretty early and couldn´t wait to get out to explore the town and its surroundings. It was already warm and humid as always in the region. There were only few people on the street and I found a nice little cafeteria where I had breakfast.
Afterwards, I continued walking to get an idea of the town and to get to know the center. Downtown Tena is small but nice and you have to cross a bridge over one of the three rivers that pass through the town.
About four blocks from the main square there exists a large park. It seems pretty new and offers a long race track, diverse sports ground, playgrounds, etc. I was quite impressed by so much sports options that can be found in this small town. I decided to return to the bus station soon because I still had many plans for the rest of the day.
On my way to the park I had seen public busses that had ‘Terminal’ written on a sign in the front window. I hopped on. What I hadn’t considered was that the busses here have the same sign put on along their complete trip and if you don’t know the route, your personal destination might be the starting point of the trip and you would go all the way round. So did I and my ride to the terminal turned out a little longer than I had expected. The bus drove out the town, dropping and collecting people. After about 10 minutes we reached the turning point, which was, to my surprise, the entrance road to Hakuna Matata Lodge, one of the jungle lodges we work with in our rainforest tours. The bus drove back to the town and finally reached the terminal. I obtained information about the times for the busses to Puerto Misahuali.
I had been looking forward to see this village at the riverside mainly because of the tame monkeys that could be spotted there. At the same time I was a bit worried because I had heard that they would steal hats, glasses and even cameras and cellphones from the visitors. But anyways I really wanted to see them.
While waiting for the bus which would come at 10:30 I had a nice conversation with an older man who lives in Puerto Misahuali. He told me stories about the monkeys and also that there where many foreigners living in and around Puerto Misahuali who own hotels and jungle lodges.
The bus came and after about 40 minutes we arrived in Puerto Misahuali. It is a small village directly located at the Napo river. After passing the boat tour sellers I went down to the wide river beach and was amazed by the green tropical surrounding. When I got back to the stairs that lead from a square to the beach I saw the first monkeys balancing on the handrail, jumping in the trees and posing for the visitors’ cameras. They were absolutely not shy and obviously used to being fed. I could have watched them for hours but I wanted to continue my journey.
I had read about a biological reserve between Puerto Misahuali and Ahuano that I wanted to visit. I crossed a bridge over the Napo river and followed a smaller street to a cross road. From the street I could observe and hear the noises of the different jungle birds. The most amazing sound was produced by a bird that is called Oropendola, how I found out later.
After having reached the main road I kept walking along it for a while, waiting for a bus that would leave me at the entrance of the reserve. Finally, I got on one and reached the entrance.
I paid a small fee and the woman in charge told me about the reserve. It is owned by a foundation which is dedicated to environmental conversation and mainly visited by scientists, biologists and ornithologists. The reserve consists of 70 % primary forest. The accessible part is manly 30 year old diverse secondary forest.
I started my hike on a small path through the forest and could observe many butterflies. I didn’t see birds though, but I heard them. Since the path was so narrow I could not avoid to destroy some spider webs although I tried to walk around them whenever it was possible. Some of them really looked like artworks.
I rested at a small picturesque river.
On the way back to the entrance I met a US American couple who were birdwatching. They had ordered a taxi back to Puerto Misahuali and invited me to join them which I gladly did. We reached the village and while waiting for the bus back to Tena I could observe more monkeys playing in the trees of the main square. Again it was so funny watching them jumping around and teasing each other.
Back in Tena I had a small pizza for dinner and reached my hotel very happy about this day full of wildlife and new experiences.
The next day I wanted to visit the so called Parque Amazonico “La Isla”, which is a former zoo and nowadays a recreational area between the river Tena and the river Pano. I got there quite early and was surprised to find it closed with a guardian at the entrance. There were a couple of young students as well waiting to get in because they had to do some experiments for their school course. The reason we could not get in at these early hours on our own was security as the guardian told us: Since it had not rained so much lately, the river level was pretty low and people could cross it easily to reach the “island”, also the bad ones. Hard to believe on such a sunny day in this green paradise. But the students and I preferred to wait until there was a bit more movement.
At the entrance to the park there is an observation tower from which I could overlook the whole beautiful surrounding.
Finally, there were more people around and we could get in. Inside the students still waited for their colleagues and I kept walking on my own along the wooden footbridge. Due to the security issues the back part was not accessible but it was still a nice path though. After a while I left the park, crossed the bridge and walked on a way next to the river. I could enjoy great views over the clear water.
I would have stayed much longer in this green paradise but a 5-hours bus ride was still waiting for me so I better moved on.
All in all, this weekend trip was a great introduction to Ecuador’s jungle region and I definitely will come back to this area.