Sumaco, Tena, and Banos

This is Eddy and his parents in their house near Quito, Ecuador.

His mom made us wonderful breakfast every morning we were there. Eggs, yogurt and fruit, fresh squeezed oj, and cheese bread! We ate very well at their house!

All packed up and ready to head out. 3 days in Sumaco, 3 days in Tena, and 3 days in Banos.

We took several buses to get to Sumaco, a little village in the Amazon. All of the buses were full, one in particular was very full. We stood on the stairs for a hour and a half before we got off to catch another bus. It took us all day; 4 buses and a truck to get to the village. About 10 hours of traveling just over 200 miles. It was a long day.


No matter the size of the village there will always be a covered soccer/ basketball court. We arrived in this tiny little village that had one road through it, the first 100 yards were cobblestone and the rest was dirt. Wood houses lined the sides and little kids with no shirts or shoes were chasing chickens and dogs in their dirt yards. We immediately were taken to the leader of the village who in turn took us to the guy who handles all the money. We had a few things to take care before we took off.

1. Pay the entrance fee into the national park(where we were hiking into)

2. Pay the fee for a guide for 3 days

3. Find somewhere to eat and stay for the night

We didn't come to prepared for all the fees and found ourselves with, literally, barely enough to pay them and get a truck back to the main road and a bus to Tena in 3 days. We Americans are lucky that in every city, no matter the size, they either take credit cards or have ATMs. Not the case here. Cash is the only thing that's worth anything around here.

After we figured out the money they took us to our hut to drop off our packs. It was a 20 min walk into the clouds, away from the main part of town. My first thoughts were, are they taking us out in the middle of nowhere to kill us and take our stuff? Where in the world are we going? after what seemed like forever, we stumbled into a clearing with a little house with a wraparound porch, and a 50 ft. boarded walkway to a bathroom.

The clouds were amazing that day, very mystic, and mysterious.

We headed back to town to get some grub and found this group of guys out playing cards with a candle for their only light. They only have electricity for a couple hours a day, so they use it sparingly.

We ate dinner at someones house. It was a very good dish of rice, eggs, and chicken. The chicken was very tough since all the chickens run somewhat wild naturally their meat doesn't melt in the mouth. They probably had just gone out back and killed the chicken before we got there. Such a different life.
On the way back to the hut it was dark and creepy. We didn't have anyone to show us the way this time and only headlights to see. We ended up going past the turnoff and somewhere very unfamiliar. The area was very alive as well, distant sounds of animals howling, twigs breaking, and leaves rustling. We were a little nervous, but eventually back tracked and found the right trail and after another 10 minutes found our sleeping barracks.

The next morning we packed up and headed to town, anxious to trek deeper into the rain forest. This is the hut the town had built for the tourism here. They have put a lot of time and effort into their project. We were glad to help them out.

The town of Sumaco with the towering Volcan de Sumaco in the background.

The volcano rises just above 12,000 ft., high above anything here in the rain forest. We were hoping to climb the volcano and be back in town in 3 days.

Hector, our local guide. He was awesome and a machine with his machete.

The rain forest is very hot, humid, and green. Of course, very beautiful as well.

I was hoping to see a Tarzan type person swinging from the trees.

Because it rains all the time, the trail is a marsh. Luckily we had our, what I call, cow milking boots to get through the mud. It was also amazing how dense the surrounding vegetation was. You could see the trail and maybe 5-10 ft off it, but the rest was green. We could here things walking around or see movement off the trail but there was no way to see what it was. It took a whole day, 10 hours of trekking to calm the nerves and not worry about every little movement or sound.

There was one time where I stepped in, sunk about 5 inches and went to take another step and my foot came completely out of the boot. I stood there on one leg, the other suspended in mid air, sock dangling. For a moment I contemplated how to get my boot back. Very soon the leg I was standing on started to sink deeper and I started to tip. I was on my way down when out of nowhere my hero came to the rescue and grabbed me before I fell into the concoction of dirt, water, and foliage beneath me. Greg yanked my boot free and placed it back on my foot saving the day and me from a mud bath!

Eddy and Hector leading the way

The roots from the large trees were awesome!

Giant Leaves!

Plants and shrubs grow in the trees far above the canopy floor. It made for poor, dark lighting below.

We finally made it to the hut we were camping at for two nights. It was awesome. It sat on the ridge of a small volcano; over looking the lake in the caldera. If you looked out the front you had a beautiful view of the lake and volcano we were going to hike in the west. If you looked out the back you were looking east across the Amazon Basin. It was quite a view!

Brings me back to the days when my dad would wake up at 4 am to go milk the cows and work on the farm! The boots were pretty comfortable too.

Amazon Basin

Sunrise our first morning. Coming up east across Brazil, Peru, and Columbia.

Sumaco, we were on our way to the top that day.

Rice for breakfast and dinner for 3 days straight. Little rough in the morning on the third day.

Looking back on our hut and lake on the top of a mini volcano.

The trail was pretty crazy. A lot of up the ridge and down. Up the next and down. Plus you were slippin' and slidin' up and down the whole thing. It was fun, but very hard work and very different than anything we had ever done. Plus you add in the humidity and thick air. I don't know how those early explorers handled it, they must have been way tough and definitely crazy!

We got our first rain! And man did it rain cats and dogs!!!! You know those summer storms we get when it dumps for about 10-15 min then blue skies. Well, this one lasted about 5 hours. Everything turned into a river, the trail, the canyons to the side of us, etc.

Here's a little footage of the event!

A raging river that wasn't there a couple hours before.

We tried to wait out the storm for about an hour under a tree. It didn't let up so we headed back to a hut we had passed an hour earlier. Soaked to the bone we built a stinky fire and tried to dry off a little. We hung out for a few hours, had lunch and gave up on trying to get to the top of the volcano. After the rain slowed to a drizzle we headed back to our hut a few hours back. The forest was so vibrant and alive. I was glad we got to experience a good storm, it completed the experience for us!

Sunrise the last morning. Absolutely amazing!

Our hut was well stocked. You could have a fire to the right of me and to the left of me was a propane stove Hector used to cook his rice. He was awesome, we would share our meals with him and he would share his rice. We didn't have much. All we took were granola bars, trail mix, cookies and crackers we bought at a little store, and some bread rolls we also bought right before. Still it was more than Hector brought. All he had was rice for breakfast and dinner. No lunch, so we shared our lunch and treats and he shared his rice. Great guy.

The front of the hut

On the way back we found some puma tracks

Cool plants

Hector was amazing, he was still way faster than us and he was carrying an empty propane tank on his back with his head! Props to him and the village for what they live through.

Monster leaves growing out of this tree. A butterfly hanging out on the trees.

When we were closer to the village the trail turned into this log trail. The village had worked really hard to make things nicer around here. The trail was really nice compared to what it could have been and the logs were great.

Back to the village! We were so gross, dirty, and stinky that Hector offered to let us shower and clean up at his house. We graciously accepted.
His bathroom was a shed a little distance from the house. It had a toilet and a shower head. It was an experience I will never forget. Freezing cold water, a wood door that kind of shut, and insects in every corner. I felt like we were truly getting to know this little town.
After we were all cleaned up we went to find a truck to take us down to the main road. What we found was a government doctor who said he'd take us down for free if we waited for a hour. So with an extra ten bucks we were able to buy some lunch! We went into some lady's house and she cooked us up some rice and chicken! While we were eating a couple half starved stray dogs came in and circled our table looking for scraps on the ground.
We went back out to the truck to wait when Greg told me that I have now had just about every experience a missionary will have going to a undeveloped country: eating whatever they give you, showering in a shed, walking through a rainstorm, and eating with stray dogs circling your legs. Oh, and eating rice for just about every meal! Love it!!!

This little village is a farming town. They grow a lot of crops, these here are tree tomatoes they are getting ready to send to the city to sell.

This little boy saw me take out my camera to take a picture and hopped up on the truck to be in it. After I got the picture he ran over to me and wanted to see the picture, then ran off. It was really cute!

The craziest truck ride I'd ever had. The clouds were black and ready to rain so they drove like crazy men down this dirt road which wasn't in the best of condition; 0 to 60 then slam on the brakes because there would be some big pot holes or washboards; then accelerate to 60 before slamming on the brakes again. I'm happy I made it through that in one piece! We did make it before the rain though. Just enough time to hop out and get under the cover before it poured again.

Of course our bus pulls up right after I turn off the camera and we had to run about 50 yards to the safety of the bus. No worries, we were completely drenched ;-)


Volleyball was the biggest sport we saw down there. Everywhere we went they were always playing volleyball. This was a big tournament they were having in Tena, right by the bus station.

We found the cutest little hotel for the first night. The best thing was that it had a fan! So we emptied out our bags and tried to dry everything out.

The Tena river runs right through town.

This was a restaurant we ate at a couple of times. These two dogs belonged to the owner and were always hanging out by the door barking at people as they passed. Then they would run through the tables back to the kitchen. Such a different world down there, love it!

Tena is known worldwide for its whitewater. So one of our days we went on a rafting trip. The river was running a little low, but still had some class 3 rapids. We had a really great time out on the river. It was about a 20 mile ride. Started up in the hills and ended on flat terrain. The geology was neato to!

The river had these huge shelves that the water would just trickle over, but during high water they are suppose to be some big drops and waves!

We stopped and they painted us up with some colored clay the natives used to use for their coloring.

A lone kayaker: Greg and I were way jealous and wishing we had our kayaks to join him.

The next day in Tena we took a canoe ride up and down the river. We stopped a few places to learn more about the area.

The first stop was at a museum that showed how the natives lived in the area. We were able to try out the blow darts. Greg was awesome and got the bird, I on the other hand didn't have strong enough lungs to get it there.

Greg hanging in the hammock and him using the public restroom! Yes, that blue bucket is full of the water you put in the toilet to flush.

Our next stop was at an animal refuge. Had a monkey hanging out on the shore to greet the tourist!
This animal refuge is for animals that had either been injured or had illegally grown up in captivity and would not survive in the wild.

This little monkey followed us around for a while. Saw some beautiful birds. It was a really interesting place. Our guide, who was from Oregon, told us a lot of interesting stories about how the animals got there and why we hadn't seen very much wildlife while we were there.

There is a big black market for exotic animals as pets. When they get older and once the animal/preditor senses turn on the owners have to get rid of them; therefore they end up here.

The reason we hadn't seen very many animals in the wild was because most of the animals near people have been killed and eaten. The birds, monkeys, turtles, snakes,... everything. So that was disappointing to hear, but somewhat expected.

This was a lively little monkey running around!

This is one of the main tributary rivers into the Amazon river.

Our last stop was to see how they make their pottery. It's quite the process and they can make really cool designs and things. We ended up getting a couple bowls, determined that we could somehow make it home without breaking them. Alas, they broke on the way to the next town! haha, at least we tried!

We did find some treats though! We finally broke down and bought a lot of fruit to eat. It was so good too. We washed it all with bottled water ;-) to clean it. Also, found some doritos, a little taste of home. We found some amazing ice cream! It was so good, not as thick and creamy as ours, but very tasty! Greg especially liked the passion fruit flavor!

Our buses were stopped a few times for drug checks. 8-10 military guys with big guns checking everybody and everything out. The guys were nicer than they looked though.


Our last stop was Banos, the Park City of Ecuador. It was a beautiful bus ride up to it. We passed about 20 wonderful waterfalls, went through a steep, narrow canyon that dropped into a raging river below. Banos is known for their natural hot springs and many waterfalls. With that comes a lot of tourism from both foreigners and locals. It was the most American/ European influenced town yet. It wasn't a bad thing though, it made the city a lot cleaner for one, there wasn't very much trash scattered around the city. It made it nice to find a hostel, they had about a hundred. They had options for dinner!!! Italian, Chinese, Mexican, etc. That was one of the most exciting things considering that Greg and I were struggling with the rice at that point. It was a fun city though and Greg and I stayed very busy. The day we got there we went on a hike up to a Virgin Mary statue high on the hillside and then hit the hot springs. The next day we got mountain bikes and then rode horses. The third day we hit the hot springs in the morning and the cathedrals after breakfast then found our bus for the 4 hour ride back to Quito.

The farming on hills reminded me of Europe. They used every bit of space they could to farm and raise crops.

We rode our bikes up to this little village on top a a hill. We found some shelter when it started to rain; this old man found us and started to talk. He was great, a little old man with a couple teeth and a little dog that followed him everywhere. We offered him some of the snacks we took up there and he in return offered us some chiclets! I hadn't seen those for years here in Utah. We then took off down the cobblestone road. Talk about a bumpy ride!

This is the river right below town. It is funneled through this crack in the rock about 10-15 ft wide. It was really cool to see erosion at work as this stream has completely cut through and down this rock.

Greg and I on our valiant steeds!
Greg humored me by getting us on a horse ride one late afternoon. I was so excited and couldn't wait to hop on and go. It had been way to long since I had ridden.

The guy we went with saw me always trying to get my horse to run. On the way back he gave me his horse and told me that it was fast. The only problem was that I couldn't get it the run for the life of me! We had a great time and did something completely different than the usual.

Me on a sketchy zip line to cross a river. I was really hoping it wouldn't break on me.

We had Italian a couple times and Mexican another... I know it's still rice and beans, but the salsa and spice was what I was looking for! It was so nice to have a little variety. That was probably one of the things I missed the most about here in the states was the number of different foods we eat! That and trash cans!

Looking off the balcony of our hotel at a waterfall behind.

What an experience we had! We both felt like we could have stayed longer, but were excited to make it home to enjoy the summer here. Ecuador is an amazing place to see and visit. I highly recommend it to all going south. The best thing we did there was to make it more of an authentic visit. We really tired to jump into the culture and see a lot of the surrounding area. Climbing Cotopaxi and trekking in Sumaco were my two favorite parts of the trip. The river rafting was a great experience too. Well, the whole thing really. Would we go there again? Probably not, but only because there are still so many places to go in this world, too many to see in a lifetime.


Stacy Holmes said...

You guys are nuts..however, I am looking forward to a copy of that panoramic picture for my Christmas present...hint hint!

Karin said...

I love all the details especially the muddy boots and the scary trip to your hut. You make me nervous!
Thanks for sharing.

Rachel said...

What an awesome experience! The jungle is a crazy place. So many things you talked about did remind me of my mission in the Peruvian jungle. We got stranded out in the middle of the jungle one P-day and we just started walking back along this dirt road and then a little truck came by and we flagged it down and all piled into the back of the truck... all 18 of us missionaries! Another time our running water wasn't working for like 5 days, and we had to gather rain water and bathe in that. It was pretty crazy.

shannon said...

You take amazing pictures. Kudos for hitting the mud trail and sticking it out as long as you did. The rafting and horseback riding looked like a lot of fun--I wish the horse had run for you, though!