Macas, Ecuador – Down to the Amazon

The Amazon Basin: huge forest area, our planet’s lung, inaccessible jungle, one of the few areas of the world that are only basically explored. Ecuador has its share in the Amazon as well – with more than 100,000 sq km / 40,000 sq mi after all more than a third of the national territory. In the course of our journey, in Brazil, we’ll get to see at lot more from the Amazon. But we want at least to “scratch” it to cover all three different landscape forms in Ecuador – the coastal area, the Andean belt, and the Amazon Basin. The inside of the jungle is here like in Colombia only to explore by small airplanes and boats.

From Baños the deep canyon of Pastaza river cuts through the eastern cordillera and leisurely leads down into the plain. The road that doesn’t miss scenic drama is called Ruta de las Cascadas. As the name indicates one waterfall follows the other. The most powerful one is the El Pailón del Diablo. A mighty water mass pours forth in a narrow pothole before the torrent finds its way out and turns off into Pastaza River. Best viewpoint is a swinging suspension bridge. But honestly: There are many cascades on our earth that are higher or spit more water. For 1.50 $ the two kilometres / 1.2 mi long hike with high steps is an edifying physical education at least.

The road drops deeper and deeper until it leaves the Andean highland in Puyo. We continue south to Macas. The reputation that rushes on ahead this less touristy and somewhat sleepy city is to be “clean”. Clean means in this case free of oil boring, collecting tanks, pipelines, and their dirty, deeply polluting consequences.

Petroleum is one of the main economic factors of Ecuador: In the meantime it amounts to 60 % of the entire export volume. The major part of the reserves is the Amazon region of all places, the inaccessible jungle that doesn’t really make those researches easier. At present the daily output of 500,000 barrels is pumped through a pipeline from the primeval forest over the mountains to the Pacific harbour Esmeraldas. The first test drilling was executed by Texaco in 1963 – at that time on Shank’s pony through the inhospitable mosquito contaminated area. To guarantee profitability, the oil companies use cheap obsolete technology and reduce maintenance to a minimum. Leaking oil pipes and crude oil basins contaminate ground water. Worse are the cesspools from drilling refuse: drilling residues, salts, acids and lye are flooded with rain and generously spread out in the nature. Consequences don’t fail to appear. Further exploitation of the oil reserves, which are only estimated for duration of 20 years, is at the planning stage.

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