Visiting Pastaza is all about getting closer to nature. The tropical heat and humidity, the exotic animals dominating murals and landscapes, the different cultures that share their daily lives with those who visit, the orange sunsets reflected upon waterfalls and gigantic trees… and of course, its roads made of dirt, mud, and adventure.
One of these adventures lies just 45 minutes from Puyo. Leaving the city to the north, you soon reach Tarqui. Here, look (or ask) for the little-traveled, but rich in identity, road to Iwia.
On the way you’ll find craft and tourism centers, such as Putuimi, Rayu-Utku, La Encañada, Amazanga and Campo Alegre. All offer “ancestral” activities, such as cleansing with shamans, traditional dances and blowgun shooting lessons. In others you can learn about medicinal plants or discover the beautiful native crafts: mullo necklaces, mocawas with geometric designs, bracelets with huairuros, key chains.
At the end of the road, you reach the Iwia Community Tourism Center (located approximately at km 20, you’ll see the sign on your right). From here, continue ten minutes on muddy roads.
We recommend taking your time to explore these off-the-asphalt roads. Don’t be in a rush. Admire the flowers that grow in abundance here, including white, yellow, large and tiny orchids among the vegetation that grows all around. Park your car at the end of the road (it is safe and easy to access) and complete the journey by air — board the rickety cable car on a pulley system across the local river!
We walk along a signposted path for three or four minutes and arrive: three cabins made of chonta wood and straw for lodging, a fourth smaller one, which is the bathroom and a fifth larger one, where you’ll find the shared kitchen and common area and dinner table.
Here we meet Bosco Warusha, one of Carlos’s 18 children. Carlos founded Iwia. Today this Quichua-Shuar community is made up of six families who dedicate 45 of the total 260 hectares of their land to livestock and planting local crops such as ‘Chinese’ potatoes (papa china), green plantain and cassava.
In Iwia, old traditions are shared using modern technology. We meet Sofia and Oliver, French journalists, who found the center through their website. They smile as they tell us how they bathe in the Putuimi River every day.
In the kitchen, Nina and Sacha, Bosco’s daughter and granddaughter, prepare lunch: vegetables with heart of palm and carachama, an Amazonian species you fish using barbusco roots. “We use this to intoxicate the fish and then catch it,” explains Bosco.
Iwia is also a great place to explore the surrounding primary forests: the center offers excursions that can last up to six days. Santiago, Bosco’s son-in-law, tells us that they make beds from leaves on the forest floor: they’re surprisingly comfortable and warm, he says.
The place is perfect to rest for a morning or for several days, learning about ways of life a million miles from our own. Iwia is not folklore and montage, it is a realm to explore and leave all preconceived notions behind.