How to get to Tena, Napo, Ecuador (Amazon)

How to get to Tena, which is in the Napo region:

If you fly into Quito it could be worth a visit, but it takes close to an hour to get into town by taxi, depending on traffic and where you want to go, and you are going in the wrong direction, so to speak, away from Tena. However, the Old Town is architecturally pleasing. Mariscal Sucre, Gringolandia, in the New Town, has all the things you expect from a tourist destination – bars, cafes, shops, pickpockets and so on – great place to meet people.

From Quito you take the bus to Tena from Quitumbes bus station: Terminal Terrestre Quitumbe, which is located 10km southwest of the old town. It can be reached by Trole bus (C4) to the last stop. The Trole bus is very cheap. Takes approx. 45 mins. A taxi costs about $12 to $14.

Buses to Tena leave all day long, about once an hour until 10/11pm, and the route is operated by a number of companies.

The bus ride takes approx. 5 hours and cost $6. The last 2-3 hours are very beautiful, as you descend from just over 4000m (almost 13.500 feet) through the cloud forest, into the Amazon and down to Tena at 500m (1640 feet). Steep cliffs, waterfalls and amazing views. So it is a good idea to take the bus early in the day. It will be dark at 6.30pm

If you fly into Quito and want to avoid Quito (it’s a big city in 2850m with little oxygen and much pollution, but some lovely places and sights!) and instead go straight to Tena then you have several options:

  • Prebook a taxi (search online) that will take you straight to Tena from the airport. That costs around $180.
  • Take a taxi from the airport to Pifo (which is a small town on the main road to Tena via Baeza) and ask to be dropped just after the roundabout to get the next bus to Tena. The drivers will know. That’s a 10-15 minutes ride in taxi and costs $10. You can prebook and prepay the taxi inside the airport to avoid bargaining. By the roundabout in Pifo you simply wait until a bus comes past that goes to Tena, there will most likely be others waiting or people standing selling fruits and drinks. From Pifo the bus ride will be about 4 hours only. The buses leave pretty much every hour from Quito until 11pm. For the intrepid traveler this is an easy trip, if you speak Spanish also. If you do not speak Spanish and you are not used to independent travel, this is not a recommended option.
  • Ask us to arrange for pick up. We can get a taxi from Tena to come and pick you up in the airport. That will be about $150 and can fit 3 people comfortably, 4 people with a squeeze.

Traditional Knowledge in the Ecuadorian Amazon

“Antes los gringos decían que somos estúpidos,
ahora quieren llevarse nuestro conocimiento…”
(Kichwa grandmother)

[“The gringos used to say we are stupid,
now they want to take our knowledge away…”]

Joining the gathering you will be entering into a foreign culture and even if you have been in the Amazon before, even if you have been here many times, you might not have spent much time finding out about the history, political economy and the ways in which Amazonian science, logic and medicine differs conceptually from its counterparts in Euro-American philosophical systems of understanding and making sense of the world.

Want to say a few things in Kichwa? Download Gayle and Elias’s wonderful little phrasebook.

Paradigmatically different things have to be understood, if you want to grasp them properly, in their own terms, not merely translated into your own language and system of thought – or, as it were, cosmovision. While we can never truly see the world through the eyes of someone else, we can try to listen carefully and slowly generate in our own minds a picture of another reality. This thesis is about that sort of thing: The Protection of Traditional Knowledge in the Ecuadorian Amazon: A Critical Ethnography of Capital Expansion. Chapter 3, Living in Napo: a brief political economy of extraction and colonisation in the Ecuadorian Amazon, is probably a good place to start.

For an easy, but very informative and exciting reading check out On the Origins of Ayahuasca, by Steve Beyer.

Very much worth a read is The Life and Times of Grandfather Alonso: Culture and History in the Upper Amazon, by Blanca Muratorio, which is briefly reviewed here and introduced here: Continue reading