Priyanka Rao - Ecuador

December 9, 2011

Trevor at Jumandy

Today we are going to the Jumandy Caverns- the beloved tourist site of the inhabitants of the Napo province.  I have expectations of a little cave, trash, people.

We enter with lanterns on our foreheads and the clean but slippy weight of water-filled boots.  We reach the rock (i) black and solid, as formed by hard mineral deposits and age, and then (ii) the slick walls of mud, underneath which was hard brown rock is yet to crumble and turn to mud.  The bats call and hang upside down along the upper crevices of the pitch dark caves.  A giant spider dwells in her crevice.  The local guide is interesting; a small town guy, so serious about his job. I don’t pick up much of the detailed tour, but I am informed that we have taken a family photo in front of the giant ‘Penis of Jumandy’; a stone formation devoted to the bravery of Jumandy as he defended his indigenous tribe from the Spanish invaders. We also pass mineral formations known as Cauliflowers, and a mini stalactite-stalagmite forest.  Deep into the caves we turn off our lanterns, and listene.  It was soft, with the conversations of shrill bats, the rushing cascades, and trickling of water.  It is utterly dark and the eyes could not adjust.  There were only voices and the ability to move your hands in empty space, bits of wet salty stone.  Time is gone.

The force of the lower cascades forms man-hole tunnels underwater as it rushes through. When I jumped in, I could feel the water soft and flowing around my body, gently, as I sunk down along the twisted and shaped walls of stone, my boots slowly weighing me down.  Dark, fresh.  My family gazes on with the dim and dusty lanterns.  We continue in, until a soft light shines down and opened up into the green misty sky where we climbed out atop a muddy hill, back down to the Swimming Pools, Water Slides, the Live Concert, Handicrafts, Snacks.  I like caves, cool and closed and wet within the earth.

Trevor (apprenticed at the caves) at the foot of Jumandy
Jumandy and his family are prized subjects of local artwork; here as statues in Tena's Central Park.
At the Penis of Jumandy
Charlotte of the Caves
Climbing Out

Priyanka Rao