Sunday, March 8, 2009

Orellana's Route March 7 2009

I am finally at peace, sitting in my cabin on the Napo River, listening to the river rushing by, wondering if I can sleep tonight with the noise. Our journey to Casa del Suizo was long and arduous. We were told that it would take four or five hours for the 220 kilometers, and I guess I did not believe that it would take so long, and I mistakenly believed that the road was paved and easy to drive. When we arrived at the rental agency, I had Eric call Erika, who reassured us that it was not too difficult a drive, and Felipe, who did not dissuade us from our adventure, so I encouraged Eric to rent the car, and off we went. We made errors during our drive out of Quito and took extra time to get out of the city. I was excited because we took the road through Guapalo to get to Cumbaya, which is where Orellana and Gonzalo Pizarro started on their journey, and followed their route to Pappallacta and on to the jungle. I kept imagining how difficult the trip was for the conquistadors in their full body armour and their horses and their supplies. Of course they took hundreds of Indians with them to carry their supplies and every one of the indigenous people perished and never returned home. The conquistadors were remarkable men, were willing to take risks, were dogged and determined and persevered in harsh and perilous conditions. The mountains were stunning. We started ascending through forests to above the tree line, through the paramo and the cloud forests. We passed Pappallacta and then started our descent, where conditions deteriorated. The road was under construction and we were limited to one half of the road for both directions. I was very frightened that we would drive off the side of the road and that would be it for us. When the road construction finally ended, the road became gravel and bumpy with huge holes and boulders to navigate around, and then it began raining heavily and the sky became dark and ominous.

We arrived in a town that we thought was Tena. When we stopped to find a washroom and a meal, we discovered that we had not yet reached Tena. The cook at the restaurant said he could not feed us, but later relented and cooked us a meal that tasted delicious because we had not eaten since breakfast. We contemplated stopping for the night, but were told that Tena was five minutes away and Ahuano only thirty minutes from there. We pressed on in the dark. For the last twenty seven miles or so, the road was paved and well lit and we became more hopeful. At the end of the road, we had to leave our car and take a canoe to the other side of the river where we were to be met by a vehicle, but no one came for longer than expected. Eric found that his cell phone worked, so we called Tara in New York City and my parents in Edmonton, and I felt so glad to hear their voices and know that at least for them, life was perfectly normal. We wondered if we would have to sleep at the side of the river and I felt so tired that I contemplated just lying down on the ground with the suitcase as a pillow and trying to sleep. Finally, a rather reluctant man in a pickup truck arrived to drive us the last ten minutes to Casa del Suizo. I feel lucky to be alive. I asked if there was a nearby airport so I do not have to take that road back to Quito, but then Andrés, who runs Casa del Suizo laughed at me and told me he makes the drive once a month and it takes him only three and a half hours.

When I calculated the time we took, I realized that we left the car rental agency around 3:30-3:45, took too long to leave the city and perhaps we got out of Quito by 4:30 and then drove to Archidona where we ate for an hour and arrived at Casa del Suizo at about 8:45, so it took us about four hours to get here. It was the conditions of the roads and my fear of crashing that made it feel so painful. I was concentrating so hard, even though I was not driving, that I had been expending far too much energy.

I look forward to seeing this place in the daylight, so I can be sure it will work for the yoga group. We sat with Andrés for the evening, talking and drinking and relaxing and settling down. Tomorrow we will check the place out and then get right back on the road back to Quito. Orellana took a boat down the Napo to the Amazon and out to sea… I think I would rather do that than drive back.


  1. Well, that's a real adventure trip you had. You will love Ecuador because Is such a diverse and peaceful country. The weather, the colonial cities and the people are just fantastic. Nothing compares to the landscapes of the Highlands, the lush of the Amazon Jungle Forest, the exotic Beaches of the Coast and the mystery of the Galapagos Islands.

  2. You are absolutely right, Ecuador is awesome!