Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Day 12 The Oriente, Finally!

Today we had an amazing pancake breakfast at our hotel! Finally not eggs!

Our first stop for the morning was to the hot springs near the hotel called Las Piscinas de La Virgen. They were only $2/pp. They had a hot pool (118 Deg F), a warm pool, and a cold one. We were the only obvious tourists there which was pretty cool. It almost seemed like a seniors water aerobic class as the vast majority of people there were elderly and using the pool to swim and do other exercises. 

After relaxing for a bit at the hot springs, we changed and then walked around town to do some shopping. We found some very nice leather worked goods and some handmade pulled taffy which is the candy of choice in Banos. Also, there was a lot of amazing graffiti in Banos.

After a healthy lunch of ice cream and taffy, we got a taxi ride to Puyo. Our driver was very jovial and really enjoyed talking about monkeys. He spoke pretty decent English and I think he was very happy that he could communicate with us. He let us stop at two beautiful waterfalls along the way and gave us tidbits of information about each town we passed through. 

Puyo is the capital of the Pastaza province in the Oriente (known to the rest of the world as the Amazon basin). The town itself is uninspiring, but our hotel set across a foot bridge from the city in secondary forest is beautiful. The hotel is El Jardin and has very lovely grounds with 3 ducks, 2 macaws, 2 cats, and a small (compared to the Galapagos) tortoise. I'm not sure if they are pets of the hotel or were just passing through the grounds.

Next stop was to visited Parque Omaere which is right next to our hotel. This is an ethnobotanical park, which is right up my alley of favorite things! We were guided by Chris Canaday, an American biologist, that runs the park with his wife Teresa who is a Shuar (one of the local indigenous groups in this region) plant expert. This tour was most excellent, while I have researched a lot about the Huaorani peoples and medicinal plants, I still learned a ton of information. 

We got to see a couple of examples of indigenous houses and learned a lot about their clothing, weapons, hunting traps, and just the general way of life about both the Huaorani and Shaur tribes. What is most amazing about this park is that it was cattle pasture just twenty years ago and was hand planted back into the lush jungle it is today. Dylan got a plant tea to snort as a way to get rid of his sinus issues. You can see him snorting some below! Ha!

We had dinner at the hotel, which is supposed to be the best food in the Oriente according to Lonely Planet. Dylan ordered nachos and guacamole as an appetizer this evening, which turned out to be Doritos and guacamole. Surprisingly good, but very unexpected.

Then for mains Dylan got the trout in a caper sauce and I had the grilled shrimp. Both meals were very good and the sauce on Dylan's fish was absolutely amazing. The food was also plated in a very interesting manner, quite pretty.