Tena – A river runs through it

As I rode towards the town of Tena in Ecuadorian Amazon, I had an incredible ride through tropical rain forests. One incredible track that stands out is a ride of some 20 kms all riding next to a roaring river with vegetation so rich as if it was about to consume the narrow two lane road I was on. I lifted my visor and just let the spray coming off of the rapids and vegetation refresh my face. The road weaved in and out of the mountain, having you almost spill into the rushing water.

As I made my way into Tena, I pulled aside right after a bridge in town to look up the address of the place I’d be staying – Hostal Los Yutzos. It was only a few blocks from where I had stopped. I checked in, changed out of my sopping wet riding gear (sweat and rain) and headed out to find a rafting outfit.

I asked around and all the rafting operators were located right where I had pulled over next to the river. I walked around and they were all closed. I grabbed a bite to eat, figuring they might have been closed for lunch, but this was a sign of things to come in Tena.

Aside from coming into the Amazon to experience the jungle and the rainforest, I wanted to go rafting. Alfonso had told me of the rapids and I was quickly sold on the experience.

After lunch I walked back to find one operator open, but they were all closed. It was now 4:30, so I would figure things out tomorrow and went for a walk around town.

The next morning I found one of the operators open and when I inquired about the next trip for the day they told me unless I had a group of six, that it was unlikely that I could go during the next three days. Grrrr I obviously did not have the other five!!

My timing could not have been worse. It turns out that there was a major Cacao Festival and, as it was explained to me, and this was the reason why there would be no private party rafting trips this particular weekend. What???

Ok, so here goes. The Cacao fair had attracted a large number of politicos and decision-makers to the festival. Among other related events, Ms. Cacao would be crowned this weekend.

Now, as rafting and Eco-tourism is a major economic sector and employer in the region, the tour operators had gotten together and planned a protest rafting run that weekend. Some 300 rafts would be floating down the Rio Tena in protest of chemical plants that sit up river dumping their crap into the river.

My only choice here, I was told, would be to get a hold of one of the operators and see about getting into one of their boats. Sign up would be taking place the next day at a stand at the fair, so I took the rest of the day to catchup on some writing and to take care of maintenance on the bike.

The next morning I had breakfast and headed to the fair – mind you, this was 9:30 and when I showed I was told that there were no more spots open, but to check back in the afternoon around 3pm, so I walked around, tried some chocolate and learned a bit about the process. The fair was actually well organized and the stands and setup was quite professional. I was a little surprised because the event seemed a little out of place in a little town like Tena.

At 3pm I made my way back to the rafting stand and was told that no spots had opened up, but to show up at the riverside the next day and a spot would certainly open up. It was too late to pack-up, so I figured as a last ditch attempt to go rafting I’d show the next morning. All the same, I let the hostel know that I would be leaving the next morning and I left my things packed up.

Next morning I showed at 7:30 and there was a lot going on. I approached one of the organizers, he took my name and number and said to wait, that a spot was bound to open up. I hung out for about an hour and they were just about done loading all the boats to the trailers and decided to approach the same guy again to check if he had any news. When he mentioned that they wouldn’t know for sure until about 2pm when they were going to have everyone go to the loading spot up the river I just turned around without saying a word and walked. What a total and absolute waste of time. I wish someone would have just come out and said, sorry, there are not spots nor will there be.

So, I walked back a few blocks back to the hostel, changed, grabbed my gear and loaded up the bike. I left Tena at 9:15am and was headed for Baños… no plan, no place to stay as of yet… let´s see what this next town holds in store for me… whatever it is, it´s bound to be better than Tena.