My journey through the astonishing Ecuadorian Amazon Basin was one of lovely juxtaposition.
On board the ultra-modern, 40 passenger capacity, luxury MV Anakonda vessel, guests sipped Canelazo cocktails – a mixture of boiled water, sugarcane alcohol, lemon, sugar, and cinnamon typical of the Andean region – and listened carefully to lectures about the river’s history.
My fellow passengers were mostly fellow Europeans and wealthy Ecuadorians, exploring this small South American nation’s section of the Amazon Basin.
Despite the fact that indigenous people had been living in the Amazon for at least 10,000 years, the Amazon River itself was ‘discovered’ by a Spanish explorer and conquistador – step forward Don Francisco de Orellana.
The expedition left Quito – capital of Ecuador – in 1541, in search of gold, cinnamon and the elusive El Dorado (the lost city of gold).
Fast forward 12 months and Don Francisco de Orellana et al found neither cinnamon, nor gold. Rather they found the greatest river on earth, arriving at the junction of the Napo and the Amazon on 12th February 1542.