Aleja is from Tena and we wanted to meet her family, so we all packed up and left Quito for a long weekend in the country. Tena is the provincial capital of Napo, east of Quito in the lowlands, the entrance to the Amazon basin. The town is divided by a couple of rivers, but very walkable. We saw the church where John and Aleja married, explored the town square, and went to the market where indigenous plant medicines are available.
Irene and Simón, Aleja’s parents, live just outside town in a house surrounded by a magnificent garden of native plants, fruit trees, and flowers. As Aleja kept reminding us, everything grows in Ecuador, and the evidence was at the doorstep. And on the table -- as the Palomino family hospitality extended to scrumptious meals and fresh-squeezed juices. Our last day in Tena, Sarah and Aleja took to the pool to escape the heat, John searched for satellite comms, and the rest of us relaxed!
We took a motorized canoe down the Misahuallí river to the Amazon museum. Here, native animals are rescued and cared for until they are returned to the wild, if they can be. We saw toucans, parrots, macaws, caimans, turtles, agoutis, capybaras, a jaguarundi and monkeys.
The river trip was a little wild -- the currents strong. People still paddle log canoes on these rivers and as our engine sometimes had trouble with the currents, we couldn’t believe that people power was able to counter these strong forces. Fisherman, gold miners, and people who just live on the banks make use of this river.