Updated: Apr 2, 2020
"You only need what you have here" - Samuel said to me pointing to his bag - "And I still have enough!" - He continued. That phrase stuck with me in the moment. I had only been traveling for 10 days and to be accompanied for four days by someone who has been traveling around South America for more than 6 months can only bring me positive things.
We met in Baños and coincidentally we were both going to the Cuyabeno Wildlife Production Reserve in the northeast of Ecuador to get to know and enjoy the Ecuadorian jungle.
He knew places to visit along the way that I didn't, and vice versa. When you travel alone there are times when you need to share the road with someone and this was the time.
To get to Cuyabeno we had to go up quite a bit to the north of Ecuador and then follow the road that goes to the east. Almost 500 kilometers separated us. The challenge was simple: to get there in four days (I had a tour scheduled there) but to enjoy the road as much as possible.
From Baños de Agua Santa we went to Tena, making a connection in Puyo and taking two different buses of more than two hours each. Tena is the closest city to the Puerto Misahuallí, as several buses leave every day to there. Some people had already told me very well about Puerto Misahuallí, one of the entrances to the jungle. It is a fishing village on the banks of the Napo River with capuchin monkeys on its beaches and plenty of canoes available to navigate the river. Besides, I had heard that there were some waterfalls very close to the Port, the well-known Cascadas de Latas, surrounded by tropical vegetation in a hot and humid environment that makes you want to swim. From Tena we took one of the first buses in the morning and got off on the trail that leads to these waterfalls. It was my first walk in the Amazon rainforest and the feeling was unsettling. I knew that there were hundreds of animals hidden around me, either sounding or silent, but the rocky trail was so wet that if I looked away from the ground to try to locate any "bugs", my stump would be huge. After about 40 minutes walking through the jungle, we reached the waterfalls to enjoy an amazon swim.
We had to keep going. In the afternoon we packed our backpacks and took a night bus that left us in Baeza, a municipality that borders three natural areas: Antisana Ecological Reserve, Sumaco-Galeras National Park and Cayambe-Coca National Park, with their respective volcanoes. We were in an incredible place and for a moment I had the feeling that what awaited us the next day would be surprising.
And it was. Hitchhiking along the road that goes from Baeza to Nueva Loja and borders the Quijos and Coca rivers, we got into a car that left us at the entrance of one of the most spectacular and yet little known wonders that Ecuador has: the Magic Waterfall of the Malo River.
Looking at the pictures it seems like a very lost and remote place, but really it is only a 10 minute walk along the path that starts on the road. Of course, a swimsuit is a must to wear in this giant natural shower.
After the inevitable soaking and with our clothes wet, we continue along the road until we reach the next pearl of the road: the San Rafael waterfall. This is the highest waterfall in Ecuador at 160 meters high, and also little known and little invaded by tourism. About 30 minutes walk from the road is the viewpoint of the waterfall, and halfway down the road you can already hear the roar of nature. Simply frightening.
Luck was with us that day. The clouds let the sun shine and therefore the spectacular rainbow of the waterfall shone.
Excited and with the challenge achieved, it was time to catch the last bus that would leave us at our final destination: Nueva Loja (Lago Agrio), the largest city in eastern Ecuador. This is where all the tours of Cuyabeno start and where Samuel and I said goodbye, since we had tours with different agencies.
There are few people like Samuel and when you meet someone like him magic is born. He had the courage to give up his job forever, leave everything behind and start LIVING. He knows that traveling cleanses your mind, gives you new ideas and reminds you of what is really important in life. He knows that traveling makes you feel freedom. Free from a society that since we were raised in it, it takes us over. He knows that we need nothing more than our own happiness, and that to create it we need neither luxury nor money. He knows that great experiences never come from your comfort zone and that the unknown is what will really bring you positive things. He knows that time is the most valuable thing we have and he knows that traveling is the best way to make the most of it.
As I said in the first post, traveling is freedom. And Samuel knows very well what I'm talking about.