El Pailón del Diablo

After nearly three and a half years on the road we have become picky. I used to be satisfied with any old waterfall, any ruins, any lake view. I’d probably pay for it too. Now, after travelling through ten countries and seeing countless beautiful sights, I’m less easily impressed. If you want me to pay for it then it’d better be good. This next waterfall looked like it might just be worth it though.

The town of Rio Verde looks like it only came in existence to charge people to access this place. A tiny town, it seemed to be largely deserted. We camped overnight in big parking lot for free, by the river. It did justice to the name as well, the water had a distinctly green tinge to it, while being pretty clear at the same time. Overnight, the heavens opened and by the time we awoke in the morning Rio Verde was no longer verde, but a raging muddy torrent. While it meant doing the clothes washing was no longer an option, we fancied that it would be a good day to see the waterfall. If it stopped raining that is. In hindsight, we needn’t of worried about the rain.

Despite the fact that we were in a town, neither of us had any signal whatsoever. There was kind of patchy Wi-Fi that required that good old ‘stand-in-the-rain-with-you-arm-in-the-air’ pose. After nothing but terrible internet since we had arrived, coupled with expensive data packages we decided that we wanted to get starlink now. An idea we had been toying with for several months. We had thought we would buy it when it came live in Ecuador, but there was no fixed date. We still had friends in Colombia though and we had an address there we could ship it too. We spent half hour morning drinking a lemonade I didn’t like or want in order to wrestle with the local restaurants Wi-Fi and try to order it. No success. Apparently, we had the wrong kind of ID number, despite the fact that we were using our Colombians friends one. In the end, we gave up and went to the waterfall.

After the crippling walk in Baños the day before, the short descent down into the park was a slow and painful one. We arrived at the first viewpoint, a wooden platform built out into the valley where the rivers collided. From here we could see down the restuarant and where the start of the smaller trail was. we could also

The path continued downwards towards the entrance, where we paid $2 to enter. Here you arrive at a restuarant.

You can either go right up the hill towards the waterfall, or left out on a suspension bridge over the river. First, we went to check out the view from the bridge and I’ve got to say, I was impressed. The Devil’s Whirlpool is indeed an apt name.

It was going to get even better though. We walked back through the restaurant and up the hill closer to the falls. I had cunningly brought a waterproof jacket, Lee had not. As we walked up the path became drenched in spray and we got our first up close views of the falls.

Here, you can continued up into the rockface in a tunnel so small and narrow that you have to crawl on your hands and knees at points. If you go through this, you end up higher, and at the final point you can stand directly behind the waterfall (getting very wet) as it jumps out over the edge of the cliff.

Despite the fact that I had brought a jacket, the shear force of the water meant I was pretty wet too. Lee, was drenched to the skin. Nevertheless, it wasn’t too cold and we went back to walk down the steps, this brings you closest to the bottom of the falls and was possibly even better than being at the top.

It was definitely worth the $4 we paid to get in, a truly incredible sight. We planned to go back and visit the other side at night. Apparently the waterfall is lit up, and while you don’t get quite as close to the water that side, you get an awesome view at night.

Back at the van, we got changed and tried to dry our soggy clothes with the heating on, ready to go back later. We headed out around 8pm to walk down the other entrance. It was closed. So much for that plan, we would have to make do with our day time views. We walked back through the half deserted town and settled down in our car park. The nightly party bus blared past us. Every inch was covered in tassels and LED lights and neon paint. The music blared out to empty rows of benches as it did it’s obligatory 10pm circuit of the town with absolutely no one on board.

Despite the disappointment of he night views (which we could apparently have walked all the way back around the other side to see), I have got to saw this is one of the best waterfalls I’ve ever seen. We decided the next morning we liked it so much, we would go and visit the other side in the day when it was definitely open.

This side is a little different as you enter following the river, until it drops away and you are left on a suspension bridge above it all.

From here you can walk down to the stairs cut into the rock visible on the left, for a slightly different view.

While still very impressive, it was noticeable that a night without rain had made it far less of an angry whirlpool than the day before.

There really is nothing else here though and with that ticked off, we decided to continue on towards the town of Puyo at the edge of the Amazon. The path back to the camper lined with some truly horrifying statues.

Puyo isn’t a pretty town, but being the biggest place we had stopped at so far, it is useful. We got a super quick laundrette to sort out our clothes while we went and stocked up at the nearby shop. None of the driving we had done recently had been very long and so by mid afternoon we were all set. While we could have camped in the town, we decided we would prefer to try a river spot a twenty minute drive out.

We were trying to limit our driving where possible and stick to only good roads. Ruby’s front and rear suspension had an unpleasant rattle and back in Rio Verde I had also noticed an unpleasant noise coming from the gearbox. The garage visit in the new year was much needed and I hoped we made it to then without any problems. Our little river spot was only a few dollars each a night and we tucked ourselves away at the end of the car park. A beautiful clear river, right on our doorstep. Now we were back down at near sea level again and with the humidity of the jungle, a refreshing swim seemed like the perfect idea followed by an evening burning the remains of our firewood from Cotopaxi.

We planned to stay here a night and visit the local native village of Lisan Wasi. Accessible only on foot over a rather suspicious metal bridge, it was in walking distance from our spot. We decided to go and have a look one afternoon, trying to time it to avoid the daily monsoon. It’s a short 1km hike down a small footpath, lined with flowers next to the river. A truly picturesque place to live.

When we arrived, we appeared to be the only ones here. We had a little wandered around the village taking some photos, before walking back. It seemed to be one of those things you need to pay for a tour in advance to do. It would possibly have been interesting to see the local culture, but it seemed to be a little tourist made village (the bar gave it away), rather than the ‘real deal’ and so I was happy to leave it at that.

Back at the river, the weekend was coming and we wondered whether our peaceful little spot would turn into a party.

We were pleasantly surprised however, when by the end of the afternoon on Saturday everyone had cleared out. This was probably a contributing factor in us staying another night. I came down with some kind of flu like bug and spent most of the day lying in bed and not wanting to leave our quiet little spot. Hopefully, I’d shift that in time for Christmas, just over a week away.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s