Monday, November 5, 2007

The Slopes of Peak Heat

If one could not see the beauty of the hours that bracket the equatorial day, they still would be acutely felt and heard, since the air is cool and the birds feed noisily on either side of a midday peak of 95° during which little stirs.

Friday was a day like that and it began with a trip to Tena, I rode with Angel, Jenny…

and Naya, their daughter of 20 months.

It takes an hour to reach Tena, a town of 30,000 people at the headwaters of the Rio Napo which descends into Peru to join the Amazon.

The road from the Cabanas to Tena is paved in anticipation of a big, new airport even though the airline that once flew here has stopped, since most people can only afford the bus. The road is dotted with gardens cleared from the jungle and sensible, wooden houses, built on pilings to catch the breeze.

In Tena the architecture is basic. But there is one extraordinary exception…

The Politecnica Ecologica Amazonica. If quality architecture in the global age is a fusion of periods and cultures, then this may be the best building in the world. Built on Inca-inspired terraces, the fa├žade features a Greek colonnade surmounted by a Chippendale pediment not unlike the ATT building in New York. The undulating glass porches which line the sides are separated by four story columns with palm tree capitals at every floor. Living vines climb to the finale of a fifth floor which sports a quartet of Wright, Prairie House style roofs and Medieval towers. Wow! So as not to ignore Asia, there is also a small adjacent building with a Taj Mahal style dome.

The Politecnica is a hopeful thing, but since no one seems to occupy the building, it is also a futile thing, just like the airport. These grand plans may or may not bear fruit, but the soul of Tena is the street life, which is gritty and sweet.


The commerce of Tena is daily need like selling produce from the home garden…

or Tilapia from a local fish farm…

or pollo asado…

or clothes…

or beauty.

There are several parks in town and like all good, town parks they have statues…

and people hanging out…

and small celebrations.

We got home in time for a lunch of lemonade, beans, rice, and papaya and the temperature and the humidity peaked and all movement stopped.

When the heat passed, I went to the Rio Napo to walk along the banks and look at the final hour of sunlight through the palms and grasses.





Nice day.

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