Visiting a Quechua Village near Tena. June 16, 2013
After spending a week in Quito, Ecuador we loaded our gear into a truck that would be our home for the next couple of months and headed to Otavalo, a city of 90,000 people that is a few hours north of Quito.
Otavalo has a large market that operates everyday. The region is known for its handicrafts and so it is a good opportunity to buy locally made textiles, leather goods, wood carvings, fake shrunken heads etc. We spent more time looking than buying. Traveling around the world with a back pack limits you to purchasing only items that you really want as it means carrying it in your pack for the next seven months or shipping things home.
From Otavalo we drove south east to Tena, which is a small town on the edge of the Amazon rainforest region. Tena is a popular launching point for jungle kayaking and rafting tours.
Our day in Tena started with a drive to the Rio Napo which is a large tributary of the Amazon River. Once at the river our little group were given car tire inner tubes to float down the river on. As a long time river guide used to being in a proper white water raft I felt a bit vulnerable to the elements as I didn’t really know what was in the water.
We were explicitly warned not to pee while in the river. We were told that if you were to pee while in the river there was a good chance that a small fish called the “penis fish” would swim up your urethra and this would not be a good thing. Ok, point taken; I will not pee in the river. I looked into this matter afterwards and found out that the “Candiru” is a species of parasitic fresh water catfish native to the Amazon Basin with one modern day recorded incident of this happening.
All went well and we stopped at a nondescript pull over on the river. We walked through the forest for half a mile until we came to this little traditional Quechua Village that had one foot in the past and one foot in the present. I felt very fortunate to be a guest of the village and to experience a traditional meal of local fish wrapped in banana leaf and cooked over a fire. We learned about many things that day including how this village makes its own special version of “Chicha” which they make with manioc root and plantains and ferment the mash in a large hollowed out log container.
In the watercolor sketch of the kitchen hut there is a log container filled with plantains that will be made into “Chicha”.