I f you’re heading into the Ecuadorian Oriente, better known to layman as the Amazon Jungle, you may want to launch your trip from the oil towns of either Coca or Tena. Both of these cities are attractive in their relative ease of accessibility and their position on the doorstep of all that lush rainforest to the east. These towns are unattractive in that, well…they’re ugly and offer food that at times can challenge a billy goat’s stomach.
But there’s good news. First, remember you’re not there for fine dining but adventure: both of these towns supply that. Second, by the time you’ve reached either of these towns your stomach has likely already been put through the proving grounds of bus stop eateries and you’ve already been introduced to some of the new bacteria that make local food threatening to gringos with unproven digestive systems. Now, that’s not to say that toilets you visit aren’t going to look like a Jackson Pollock painting when you’re finished; but again, if you’ve penetrated into either of these largely off the map cities you have a lust for adventure.
Hit up the food markets, take your pick from any of a myriad of cheap food stalls and keep your fingers crossed. You’ll be dining with the Quechua people, who despite centuries of oppression by the Spanish still maintain a strong sense of culture. Once you’re in the Amazon you’ll be dining with these same good folk, but then it’ll likely be piranha you’re eating, piranha you yourself have caught earlier that day. And the rumors are true, they have lots of small bones for you to choke to death on…the eating adventure continues!