LATAS WATERFALLS If you are looking for a radical change of scenery, the best option is to head to the Amazon jungle. That trip can be a unique experience that transports a tourist from the daily humdrum routine to the exotic world of the Amazon. The Latas Waterfalls, about seven miles from the city of Tena on the highway to Puerto Misahuallí, are recommended for all visitors. In fact, it´s great trip for the entire family, including small children, teenagers and seniors. You arrive at the waterfalls on foot, following a path that begins on the left hand side of the highway. Entrance costs $2 dollars. Lucky visitors get to be escorted by one of the local dogs. The hike borders a meandering river that courses between some major rock formations. Over the centuries, the river has created some natural chutes in certain places and small pools in others. The first waterfall we encounter is only about 10 feet high. So, even though it´s not our final destination, it does serve the purpose of getting us ready for the distant waterfall. In the meantime, the landscape along the way is striking. The jungle engulfs us. We advance slowly, watching our step, avoiding trees, low branches and gigantic rocks. The only sounds we hear are the rushing water and the nearby animals which, by the way, can be heard and be felt, but not seen. Insects abound. Some display such vivid colors that we are tempted to worry if they might be poisonous but, nevertheless, we cannot help to admire their beauty. We continue to walk up the path until it´s time to cross the river, hopping from one rock to another, a minor test of our motor skills. Our stride is steady, not too quick. With good weather, this hike takes no more than one hour. The roar of the waterfall rises as we approach. Suddenly, the path ends and we are facing a stunning spectacle. Below is a natural lagoon fed by a thirty-foot waterfall. We stand atop huge rocks, surrounded by tall stone walls that magnify the immensity of this place. The waterfall mesmerizes us with its continual motion. We can feel its energy even before we walk towards it. Diving into the lagoon or standing under one of the vertical streams is a shock. The water is quite cold, yet a welcome cold in the heat of the equatorial jungle, a blast of energy that reminds us why we came all the way to see this hidden spot in the Amazon. SUGGESTIONS It´s best to go early in the morning, not only to avoid the intense midday heat, but also to enjoy a more private experience. Wear comfortable clothes, appropriate for 80 degree weather, and good hiking shoes because several stretches can be slippery. Your backpack ought to include plenty of water and insect repellent, plus swimming trunks and a towel for a dip in the waterfall. Between the hike there and back and some time at the waterfall, estimate a three hour tour. A guide is not needed. Yet, if you want to take advantage of the opportunity to learn about the plants and animals in this area, including medicinal herbs, it´s best to contact a tourist operator that can organize a guide, transportation and a packed lunch.