The pictures I took out the window are no exaggeration. The reason you don't see any shoulders or guard rails was because there were none. In fact sometimes you could see the wheel ruts on the road edge that indicated a previous close call to the 2500 foot drop to the side. Rachel was on the other side of the bus admiring the wonderful waterfalls as they cascaded next to the road on her side. I thought it might be best if she stayed over there for the moment.
This went on for hours. It was gorgeous and magnificent. I truly felt like we were flying over a gorge because you could see no land beneath us whatsoever outside the window. We were merely suspended in this magic bus to nowhere.
The road was obviously under construction (sort of) but there was no sign of the old road, so I guess this was it. There was no turning back. In fact if you met someone, you had to back up and on these roads that was a bit touchy because if you got too close to the edge it would end badly.
Peligroso means dangerous. Funny.
But there's no way to describe the unspoiled virginal beauty that we experienced on the way. There was no hint of civilization anywhere. We were on our way to the jungle. I was amazed that five of the seven hours of our trip was high in the Andes at altitudes probably at times in close to 14,000 feet. We had to get over the Andes before we could experience the life in the lowlands of the jungle. Macas would not come to us before the sun set.
When we arrived in Macas we were hungry and tired. Of course we had no reservations and this did not appear to be a real upscale kind of town. The abundance of nice hostels and restaurants in Cuenca kind of spoils you in that way. Macas is the provincial capital of Moronas Santiago and has a population of about 20,000 souls. It is mostly indigenous and you hear the language of the Shuar and the Quichwa spoken nearly as frequently as Spanish. We went hostal shopping and apparently started on the lower end at $15 per night for pretty seedy accomodations and ended up going a bit more 'upscale' for $25 per night at Hostel Casa Blanca where the showers were hot, breakfast of eggs, pan, and hugo were included, and for those who brought their laptops, WIFI was available. I use the word upscale somewhat loosely, but I think for this city, it was pretty good. We had supper at a Chifa (Chinese food) restaurante and we were well satisfied. We slept pretty well on that hard bed until we heard the rumble of the dough machine in the bakery next door about 3:30AM. The smell was to die for however so we put up with the rumble.
After breakfast we began our search for a tour guide who could take us one day into the jungle. We weren't too fussy, but I guess in retrospect, fussy would have been good. We went to a bonafide tour agency where the fee was $50 each round trip and included some river time, hiking time, and return to Macas by 5:30. We decided to take a pass on this and set about looking for other possibilities. We ended up talking to a short young guide who introduced himself in broken English as a Shuar http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shuar (think head hunter). His name was Tsunki and he seemed really authentic. Since there were no shrunken heads dangling from his belt we felt safe and that he would give us the tour of a lifetime. Cost was the same as the tour agency and was all inclusive so we thought this was it. To his credit Tsunki showed up on time at 7 AM, but from there, things went downhill according to his promises. Tsunki couldn't predict that we would have a downpour of rain the first 2 hours. Luckily there were some people he knew that could share a roof while we waited out the storm. Rachel made herself comfortable on some planks. I never said anything about first class accomodations did I?
As the rain became progressively heavier and one hour stretched into two, she became a little more comfortable.
And we sampled some fruits along the way
After a while I knew why Tsunki recruited some help for the river leg of the trip.
We had to clean it up a bit. It took an hour and I shared in the fun. Did I mention this was a discount tour?
Rachel and I thought this beautiful and authentic dug out would make a much better craft, but noooooo......
As in our trip to Macas, the return was at a high elevation, contantly looking down at the gorge below. This time it was of a lovely man made lake that we fantasized about building on some day.