Spelunking in swimsuits near Tena, Ecuador
During a solo trip to Ecuador last February (2012) I made friends with the owners of a hostel in Quito and they took me on an excursion into La Selva - the jungle - along the Napo River. An unexpected highlight for me was a cave tour at Jumandi near Tena, Ecuador. I was simply expecting to cool off in the pools at the water park, but then my guide said we would need muck boots along with our swim suits. We were going spelunking! In the hills behind the pools are a system of caves where indigenous Ecuadorians escaped the Spanish invasion in the 16th century. A little old man wearing a shrunk white tank top and tennis shorts lead me and ten or so adventurous tourists through the caves. We waded (up to our chests) in cool spring water and shimmied and crawled between narrow passages. Along the way our elderly but spritely guide told us the history of the cave dwellers and how they survived living six months in darkness. I quickly shot this photo while he explained that they used native plants to stave off hunger, stress and sleep. I was also amazed by the impressive stalagmites and stalactites that can take 80 years to grow 3 meters! But, after an hour I was beginning to chill and happy to see the sunshine and lush green hills.