Posted by: Michael | December 3, 2012

Baeza and San Rafael Falls

We continued with our adventures in Ecuador the first weekend in November.  Since it was a long weekend in Ecuador (Día de Difuntos – Day of the Dead), we took off to the sleepy town of Baeza, which is about 100km east of Quito (2.5 hour bus ride) at the beginning of the Oriente.

Passing through the eastern Andes, past Volcán Antisana (it was actually out from hiding behind the clouds!) and Papallacta town, the steep road takes you to just over 1800m in around 45 kilometers past Papallacta pass (4100m).  In Baeza, the road splits in two to take you into the jungle – northward goes to the oil city of Lago Agrio; go south and you end up in Tena.

The hills near Baeza.

The hills near Baeza.

A pasture.

A pasture.

Baeza.

Baeza and the Quijos valley beyond.

Baeza was founded in 1548 as a Spanish missionary outpost and has pretty much remained an outpost ever since.  There really isn’t a whole lot to do in Baeza – which was the point of us going there in the first place.  For those who get stir crazy like me, there are some nice hikes to do into the hills, and of course, there are plenty of birds and waterfalls to see.  About the only thing Baeza might be known for is that it hosted the world rafting championships in 2005.  It’s a pretty quiet little place.

The church in town.

The church in town.

That's one tall tree!

That’s one tall tree!

Waterfalls!

Waterfalls!

Ahh, lush cloud forest.

Ahh, lush cloud forest.

To explore the area a little more, one morning I took a bus about 2.5 hours past Baeza to see San Rafael falls, which at 145m, are Ecuador’s largest.  Following the road towards Lago Agrio, the bus slowly winds its way through the cloudforest of the Río Quijos valley, following the unsightly Trans-Ecuadorian oil pipeline.  Signs of this business are everywhere, from the trucks that fly down the road to the towers in the tiny town of Borja that heat the oil so that it is less viscous to make it over the Andes and get to Esmeraldas on the coast.

Along the road you also get the chance to see yet another highly controversial hydroelectric project that is in the works – the multi-billion dollar, 1500 megawatt Coca Codo Sinclair project, which is being financed by China.  Many people are opposed to the damming of the Coca river, which may have negative consequences not only for the falls themselves, but also the richly biodiverse Sumaco Biosphere Reserve nearby, an area protected by UNESCO.

San Rafael Falls.

San Rafael Falls.

Anyhow, a nice short trail through the jungle takes you downhill towards the falls.  The falls themselves are thunderous.  You can’t get too close to them, but a few viewing platforms give you a good perspective of the falls and the rainforest beyond.  The falls are actually at the base of Volcán El Reventador, a 3652m high volcano that towers over the jungle and is appropriately named “the exploder” because of its activity – but apparently it rarely shows itself.

The falls thundering away.

The falls thundering away.

San Rafael Falls.

Another view of San Rafael Falls.

Jungle

Jungle.

Like Baeza, there really isn`t a whole lot more to write about.  But it was another nice, quiet weekend out of Quito.

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Responses

  1. Really interesting!

  2. […] is a town nestled in a valley near Volcán Antisana. Papallacta is located on the road towards Baeza,  high up on the eastern slopes of the Andes (3300 m above sea level) in Napo province at the […]


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