Fatima’s Captain Caveman


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There was a time when the jungle we know today did not exist. Or rather, all of today’s forested lands lay underwater. It was during this transition that fabulous, cavernous rock formations were created all across the Amazonian region. They seem to hail from some creation myth. But the fossils found on their walls are proof of their watery origins.

Fatima is a small town north of Puyo, which maintains its charm along the quiet streets, in the pockets of jungle that surround it, along its riverbanks. Its star attraction are the Puyo River caverns, a journey to the veritable bowels of our planet.

Juan Carlos López is one of the area’s few inhabitants. He’s a guide and his mission here is essential, since the path to the caves is marked only by vegetation. Flashlights, helmets and boots are all necessary for the adventure, and Juan Carlos has them all to hand as part of his tour.

The cave entrances lies about 6 km from Fatima, a walk where the fragrance of cedars, copals and cinnamon trees, native to the area, accompanies your every step. The outing can take up most of the day.

Different paths lead into the caves.

Caves in the jungle

Only a little tired from our walk, but very excited, Juan Carlos signals to us to prepare the torches. The caves’ entrances appear through the vegetation. We’ve arrived.

The formations are majestic and somewhat foreboding. One needs to be sure of foot here, to avoid slipping on the damp rocks around the entrance. Juan Carlos leads us carefully and consciously, as darkness slowly envelops us. The shapes of the rocks are molded into stalactites and stalagmites, common in underground formations like these, an amazing sight.

We are not alone here. There are plenty of spiders and bats. As one advances into this labyrinthine world, paths branch off. Some are mere cracks in the rocks, impossible to enter… our imagination runs wild when considering what creatures could inhabit these rocky sanctuaries.

Tunnels disappear into the deep as they become inaccessible to humans.

We move forward, inwards, guided by Juan Carlos’s directions and explanations. One expects the unexpected. Pools appear where you can snorkel. There’s even an underground waterfall. The water of the river can rapidly flood this underground world, and water can reach up to 5 m: Juan Carlos only visits the caverns during the drier times of year.

Juan Carlos now takes us towards the exit. He hangs on a large rock and helps the rest of us complete the feat of jumping onto it. He tells us how he’s explored these caves ever since he was a child. They don’t scare him, he says. On the contrary, exploring them has always been his passion. Once back out of the caves, this feeling spreads to all of us. We want to return, but it is late and we will have to return another day.

A healing waterfall

A slight detour takes us to the enigmatic Shamans Pools, a small waterfall that flows into a lake, which Juan Carlos says is sacred: “Here shaman can offer cleasning rituals”. The energy of the place is special. We notice that our cellphone signals fade. The waters are refreshing and share their strength with us. We make our back to the starting point where, from a viewpoint, we are rewarded with a fantastic panoramic view of the city of Puyo and the trees that shelter the mysterious caverns, a place to marvel at the higher and lower realms that make up Fatima’s world.

You can visit the caves on short 20-minute tours, but you can extend these to over two hours depending on how much more you want to explore.

Juan Carlos contact number
(+593 99 526 7252)

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