Reventador Vulcano

Are you looking for an adventurous tour into the wild? Then El Reventador, a volcano with a bad temper in Ecuadors rainforest, may be an interesting option. The name translates to “the Exploded” and for good reason as it regularly spews and fumes, causing much unease with local inhabitants. Its most recent eruption was in 2010 but the largest recorded eruption occurred in 2002, during which the plume from the stratovolcano reached a height of 17Km and pyroclastic flows could be observed at the slopes.

Reventador

Although, it has since mellowed, fumaroles activity can still often be observed in the crater. Despite El Reventador’s relative dormancy, it remains a spectacular beast to be admired, as it’s 3485m symmetrical cone bursts out of the cloud forest with solid determination. The volcano’s main peak lies inside a U-shaped caldera which is open towards the Amazon rainforest to the east. However, due to its location, it is prone to bad weather. Levels of rainfall reaching 5500mm per year have been recorded. Until recently, the combination of unfriendly weather and permanent volcanic activity has kept explorers at bay.

Nowadays, intrepid explorers attempt El Reventador, but not without difficulties: Rest assured that if you are looking for a challenging mountain to climb, this active volcano won’t disappoint you.

That’s as far as the theory goes. Having climbed El Reventador many years ago in one of its more calm phases, we decided to go back and see the volcano in plain activity. Our trip began in Quito, driving about 100 km from Quito on the winding highway to Lago Agrio. We took our time, making several photo stops along the way as it was a nice day with good views, first on the Andean Mountains including Cayambe and Antizana and later the surrounding rain forest. In the afternoon we reached the nice Hosteria El Reventador. As the name suggests the Hosteria not only provides cozy accommodation, hearty meals and cold beer to adventurers before and (especially) after exploring El Reventador, but also offers some excellent views on the volcano from its viewpoints! The friendly staff also organized a local guide to accompany us on our way up, as there are not many people taking up that challenge and the route often disappears in the thick and fast growing tropical vegetation.

Reventador

Reventador

Anyway, the next morning we left the comfort of the Hosteria and started the hike up the slopes. Thanks to a light but steady rain temperatures were not too high, which often is a problem when hiking in the tropical rainforest. As we climbed upward the vegetation remained dense and at times almost impenetrable; our guide had to forge our way with a machete several times. We also crossed several small rivers and climbed some mud walls on our way up. Finally we got out of the trees onto a wide plain at approximately 2200m altitude. While the rocky ground was covered by a thick layer of mosses, the shrubs were full of epiphytes of which surprisingly many turned out to be orchids. A beautiful garden right at the edge of the cold lava flows and lahars. We found two campsites and chose the one with direct sight on the cone and with a small stream nearby – there are several small creeks running through the plain but the water quality (and color!) differs a lot. We set up our camp including even a small campfire and enjoyed the afternoon, as it finally stopped raining and we could even spot the volcanic cone every now and then in the clouds.

The next day we spend exploring the area, especially the plateau and the lahars at the slopes of El Reventador. All the time we heard the volcano´s activity and every now and then caught a glimpse of its eruptions, throwing ash columns up into the sky. But the best was still to come, when the clouds vanished in the late afternoon and opened the view on the volcano. When it got dark we could clearly see the glooming of its pyroclastic activity, a really amazing sight!

The fourth day we started early again and after breakfast we broke camp. Our guide came to meet us at the campsite to guide us back on another route, following first a huge lahar and later hiking along one of the rivers running down the slopes into the valley. We decided to stay another night in the Hosteria El Reventador, relaxing in the pools with some cold beer, before driving back to Quito the next day. On the way back we stopped at Termas de Papallacta ending our adventure with a relaxing bath in the thermal springs before returning to Quito in the afternoon.

Reventador

Vulcano Guagua Pichincha

The Pichinchas are two volcanoes in the west of Quito. The inactive volcano, Rucu Pichincha, is closer to Quito and has an altitude of ca. 4680m. The active volcano, Guagua Pichincha, lies to the west of Rucu Pichincha (11km west of Quito) and has an altitude of ca. 4794m.

Rucu Pichincha

Rucu Pichincha

Because of their accessibility from Quito and their fascinating activity they have attracted many adventurers over the centuries: La Condamine, followed by Humboldt about 60 years later. Humboldt actually climbed it twice as he was so fascinated by the volcanic landscape. Guagua Pichincha is an active stratovolcano, its last big eruption was in October 1999, when it covered the city of Quito with several inches of ash.

Starting off from Quito, you drive in the morning (an early start is highly recommended) to the Andean village of Lloa (3500m) which is situated in the basin southwest of Quito. From here, a path leads you over the foothills of the slopes of Guagua Pichincha to a little plain from where you can start your hike up to the refuge situated below the crater edge. This short hike lakes about 1 hour. Depending upon the climate you may need a four wheel drive vehicle, which can bring you up all the way to the refuge. From the refuge it is a short hike up to the 4.794m high summit. From here you have an amazing view into the horseshoe-shaped crater, which is open on the western side. The smoke that emerges from the inside of the crater, as well as the cones of scree and ash, are a testament to this volcano’s activity.

Guagua Pichincha

Guagua Pichincha

Furthermore, for the more adventurous hikers, there is also the possibility of entering the wide crater and visiting the dome where fumaroles, sulfurous odors, and noise at various locations within the crater can be experienced. This hike is much longer and more demanding than the hike up to the summit, taking approximately 2 hours from the crater edge down to the dome and about 3 – 4 hours back. There is hardly any shade within the crater so bring plenty of water! Still it is a great (long) day hike through the caldera of an active volcano!

Guagua Pichincha

The Lost City of Loyola

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In 2011 we explored the old Inca – and probably even pre-Inca – route from Amaluza to Palanda, crossing the Cordillera de Sabanilla. After the tour we talked to some of the locals in Palanda about our adventure and, as we were obviously crazy enough to do it, people told us about an expedition to the lost city of Loyola, which lies seemingly hidden in the rainforest on the lower end of the eastern Andean ridges, roughly south east of Podocarpus National Park. Although we were too tired to start another adventure right away, our interest was stirred. Soon after our return to Quito we started gathering information on the Lost City, trying to figure out if it really exists and if so, where to look for it.

 

 

During our research we found out that, most importantly, the city indeed does exist aIMG_2829nd has been registered by the INPC (Instituto Nacional de Patrimonio Cultural). Nevertheless, hardly any information about the city itself exists or at least hardly any information was available. The little information we found was not recognized and could not be verified. Nevertheless, it seems that a pre-Hispanic city called Cumbinama existed in this location before it was taken by the Spanish Conquistadores in the 16th century who founded the City of Loyola in its place. Around the year 1700 the last inhabitants left the city and moved towards the west, higher up the Andean slopes. Since then, the city had basically been regarded as lost. This was not the whole truth, as the people of the Shuar tribes living in this area always knew about it. When colonists, bit by bit, started settling in the valleys of the south-eastern cordillera they came in contact with the Shuar, and, by exchanging goods, they also exchanged information about the area and thus people became aware once again of the existence of the City of Loyola….as did we!

Offroad with Pablo and Ruth

It took us until March 2013 to organize our tour to the Lost City of Loyola. First we flew from Quito to Catamayo where Loja airport is located. Here we were picked up by a 4×4 and drove south to Loja, passing through Malacatus, Vilcabamba, Yangana and Valladolid to Palanda. After a short stop we left the main road and continued on a dusty road to the east, driving down the cordillera into the cloud forest. Passing San Francisco de Vergel we finally reached the small village of La Canela in the late afternoon. It took us the rest of the day to organize a local guide for the next day, a pick-up truck to drop us off at the end of the road (we left our car in the village) and a nice dinner with a cold beer (the last for a number of days). Fortunately, we were invited to stay at a local home as there are no hotels in the village. The next morning we left the village at 6:00am and drove for about an hour further east, mainly following Rio Vergel until the road ended. Here we shouldered our back-packs and started a very long day of hiking on small (or non-existant) paths down the cloud forest which changed into tropical forest along the way. It was raining most of the time and the path was extremely muddy and slippery, making it very difficult hiking with the heavy backpacks. Finally, at sundown, we reached the last finca (local farm) at the end of the farming area. On the other side of River Vergel the Shuar Territory starts, and in there the lost city was waiting for us. Well, it had to wait for quite some time as it kept raining for several days and the river was swelled, making it impossible for us to cross. We waited for three days with nothing more to do but watch the river grow even more instead of its waters going down. So, on the morning of the fourth day, we decided, with heavy hearts, to return to La Canela and give it another try in the dry season.

 

Naranjilla FruitsIMG_2869

It was one and a half years later, in November 2014, when we finally managed to coordinate our second attempt at reaching the lost city. Again we flew in from Quito and drove down to La Canela, which we reached again in the afternoon. This time we didn´t want to run the risk of not having enough time to reach our goal, so we continued right away. We were dropped off at the end of the road and started our hike with our local guide who had been informed of our arrival, reaching the farm area just around sunset. We stayed at one of the local farms for the night – people here are amazingly friendly, welcoming visitors with a big smile and an even bigger meal. The next morning we continued, reaching the last finca in the early afternoon. To our great relief the waters of the river were low enough to be crossed. Still, it was too late to continue to the lost city the same day and we didn´t want to risk having to find our way through the jungle in the middle of the night. This time we were lucky, and even though it rained a bit during the night, we crossed the river the next morning without any problems. Our local guide did not only know the route through the dense jungle (it would have taken much longer to figure out the route without him) but, as he knew the local Shuar community well, he had their permission to enter their territory – he strongly emphasized the importance of not entering their territory without their permission or at least someone who does have it. It took us nearly 4 hours of cutting our way through the thicket to finally reach the Shuar Center Nayump.ruinas

From here it was a short 15 minute walk until we found the walls of the Lost City of Loyola – we had finally made it! Excited, we started to explore the city and its walls in the pouring rain (this is what they call dry season in the rainforest!). There seemed to be different types of walls; some ramparts forming mainly the outer walls while others looked more like wall barriers used either for buildings or for forming terraces. The vegetation was extremely dense, making it very hard to get a clear picture of the structures, their form and use. Nevertheless, we formed a rough drawing of the city, as far as we could identify it (with great help from our guide!):

 

 

In the afternoon, we decided not to stay in the community house but to return to the finca, as it soon became obvious that we would not be able to do better investigate the ruins the next day. To do more intense research of the site, and get a better view of the ruins and their structure, it would need to be cleared of the vegetation covering basically everything, something we had neither the permission nor the means to do. So we headed back, still excited about having reached the lost city and about its huge size: it covers about 2 – 3 hectares, with most of the walls still clearly visible, being between 1 – 1.5 meters high. No wonder we enthusiastically talked the whole way back about the city, reaching the finca after only 2 hours – we had been practically running back without even noticing!

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We stayed two more days with our friendly host at his finca, exploring the area nearby and even panning for some gold, or at least trying to. As we learned the hard way, the rivers here do not provide much gold; still, it was quite an adventurous afternoon by the river. Due to the lack of gold in the surrounding rivers we assumed that the main function of Loyola had probably not been a center for gold panning or mining but as a trade post between the rainforest and the Andes, for example for cinnamon (which, in Spanish, is called Canela, the name of the little village higher up). Finally, it was time for us to say goodbye and take on the hike back to La Canela. It took us a long day to make it back, but hey, we finally caught a day without rain! All in all, a great adventure to the no longer lost City of Loyola!

 

Here is some information for anyone interested in visiting Loyola:

 

We took the route from the Andes down to the rainforest, but we learned you can also hike up from the lower rainforest. In this case you need to travel from Loja via Zamora, Zumbi, Guayzimi and Zurmi to Puerto Las Orquídeas, where the road ends and you have to take a boat (canoe) upriver to “Las Mariposas” (sometimes people use different names for the same place; ask around) and hike up from here through the Shuar territory. We only saw the trail in the upper part (in the area of the City of Loyola and the Shuar Center Nayump), where it was easy to follow. Nevertheless, for any route we strongly recommend getting a local guide and making sure you (or your guide) have permission to enter the Shuar territory.

 

For the trip down the Andes we can warmly recommend Don Maximo Luzuriaga and Pedro Ordoñez as local guides to the finca area; both can be contacted in La Canela. As a guide for the last part to Loyola, we went with Rolando Castillo, who owns one of the last fincas before the Shuar territory and who is an excellent guide and the best guarantee that you will not get lost during your adventure! Besides knowing the whole area like the back of his hand, he is a great cook and a very welcoming host too. Good luck!

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The Butterfly-farm in Mindo

The Butterfly-farm in Mindo

Two hours from Quito, Mindo is one of the main ecological destinations in Ecuador. 19,200 protected acres surrounding Mindo making it one of the most biodiversity places on the planet. Mindo is a very famous place among birdwatchers. Around 500 varieties of birds and about 40 kinds of butterflies can be found here.

Butterfly-farm in Mindo     Butterfly-farm in Mindo       Butterfly-farm in MindoButterfly-farm in Mindo

Mindo was known internationally as “Life of Bird” or “Important Bird” in America, for its exceptional flora & fauna, considered vital for the development of ecotourism.

Mindo is one of the favorite cloud forest tourist destinations in Ecuador.
One of the attractions is the Butterfly-farm where you can enjoy the full contact with nature and have the opportunity to know the whole process of metamorphosis of butterflies, which consists of 4 stages: egg, caterpillar, chrysalis and butterfly. You can also see a wide selection of them, like the eye of an owl, Morphos, sarita, among others.

Butterfly-farm in Mindo      Butterfly-farm in Mindo

 

Butterflies are very diverse in size, being from 2 mm to 30 cm.
Entry to the Butterfly-farm: 3 USD

http://www.ecuadorgalapagostravels.ec/modulos/mindo_cloud_forest.php

Quilotoa , one of the most beautiful volcanic lakes in the Ecuadorian Andes

“A crater lagoon with turquoise water in the volcano named Quilotoa is one of the postcards of Ecuador.”

Product of the collapse of Quilotoa volcano, about 800 years ago, a caldera was formed with a perimeter of about 9 km and 250m of depth, within which is formed a lagoon with turquoise colored water when struck by sunlight.

  “Visit the Quilotoa is an awesome experience around 3800 meters above sea level”

To begin our adventure we head south of Quito looking for the Panamerican highway on the so called “Avenue of the Volcanoes”, the name given by the famous explorer Alexander von Humboldt, as from Quito to Riobamba volcanoes can be seen on both sides of the road: Pasochoa, Corazon, Illinizas, Cotopaxi, Rumiñahui, etc.

Arriving at Latacunga you should leave the Panamerican Highway and drive westwards into the Zumbahua region. From the town of Zumbahua it takes around another 10 km to reach Quilotoa. The entry has the value of 1 USD for Ecuadorians and 2 USD for foreigners.

This lake is considered one of the most beautiful volcanic lakes in the Ecuadorian Andes. From the crater edge and on a clear day you can see the different snow-capped volcanoes.

A walk will take you through this fascinating landscape and provide many impressions of this beautiful region.

The Quilotoa, Zumbahua, Tigua, Shalala, Chugchilán, Guayama Itupungo and San Pedro communities offer accommodation in hostels, hotels and cottages.

For those who like sports activities like Trekking, Hiking, Horseback Riding, Camping, kayaks and boats can be rented. The way up from the lagoon to the crater edge can be done by foot (1.5 hours) or by mule (45 minutes) for 8 USD.

The natives, handicrafts, flora, fauna, weather, food and geography make this region one of the most desired by national and international tourists.

 

Otavalo Market

Almost two hours north of Quito is the city of Otavalo, famous  for its Market especially dedicated to trade fabrics, textile crafts, pottery, ornaments, antiques and tourist attractions.

The Otavalo Market is the quintessential craft center where you can have everything you need, currently being the preferred place for tourists to buy their purchases. Otavalo Market The weekly show has become one of the most important tourist centers, but besides this recent transformation Otavalo has been able to preserve its old roots that go back to pre-Columbian or even pre-Inca times. An amazing maze of fabrics and clothes in bright colors extends from there for a number of streets around the square every Saturday. The rest of the week, the market is restricted to the Plaza and direct surrounding. Almost anything can be found while wandering the crowded streets, from coats to paintings, handmade jewelry, crafts, wall carpets and even ceramic fried eggs. Do not worry to leave the main streets as the entire city of Otavalo is a big market where you can find everything you can imagine or couldn’t do far.

 

Accommodation

In Otavalo there is absolutely no shortage of lodging options. The vast majority are hostels or inns, clean, friendly and central loLodging in Otavalocated managed by families that offer rooms with shared bathrooms at very low costs. There are also plenty of options from cheap to hotels with higher standards.


To enjoy the tranquility and natural beauty of the nearby sites, we recommend unpack your bags in one of the nearby farms. These huge ranches dating from the time of the conquest and have witnessed much of the history of Ecuador. During the 90s many estates turned to tourism and converted into hotels that provide luxurious accommodation, fine dining and outdoor excursions to the beautiful Andean landscapes that surround them.

 

Beyond Otavalo

Just as Otavalo is famous for its textile productions, some nearby communities so are for their own productions.

The waterfall of Peguche Such is the case of Cotacachi, the center of the leather industry in Ecuador, where the smell of polished leather permeates the air. The local specialty is San Antonio woodcarving. Its main street is lined with shops selling everything from wood, from statues, small carved figures, pictures, frames and home furnishings. In addition to the walk to the waterfall of Peguche, there exists a large number of lakes in which you can spend a pleasant afternoon. These are: Laguna Mojanda, Lake San Pablo and the Lagoon of Cuicocha. This huge Imbabura region also offers great opportunities for horseback riding, water sports, hiking and mountaineering. Several of the farms and inns in the region offer these trips.

 

 

 

Source: http://www.ecuadorexplorer.com/es/html/la-ciudad-de-otavalo.html  

Galapagos Islands

The Galapagos Islands are one of the greatest treasures we can find in the Pacific Ocean. The islands are also called “Colon Archipelago”, its capital is Puerto Baquerizo Moreno.

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The Enchanted Islands, the archipelago designation earned in the sixteenth century by the great biodiversity of flora and fauna for generations inheriting the name, are 19 islands and hundreds of small islands where life takes on a special dimension, known in the whole world by its endemic and studies by Darwin’s theory of evolution species.

The archipelago is one of the most active volcanic groups in the world. Many of the islands are only the tips of some volcanoes and show an advanced state of erosion.

A study in 1952 by historians Thor Heyerdahl and Arne Skjolsvold, ceramics revealed that some people may find Incas before the arrival of the Spaniards, however there were no graves, vessels and to disclose any old building settlements before colonization.

On March 10, 1535 -discovered by the Bishop of Panama Tomás de Berlanga- while traveling from Panama to Peru

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along the west coast of South America, wind and ocean currents gradually pushed the boat too westward reaching what we now know as the Galapagos Islands.

In a letter to the King of Spain -Tomás de Berlanga- recounts his arrival in the islands:

“Once the boat docked, we all went down and some of the crew were given the job of making a well and others were sent to get water inside the Island. Within the Island men could not find a single drop of water for two days.

The thirst was too much and as a last resort people attended a similar fruits prickly pears, and juicy as they were somewhat, but not very tasty, we started eating them, and squeezing out to extract as much water as possible and men drank of this fruit.”

 

The Galapagos were used as a hideout for English pirates on their trips to plunder Spanish galleons carrying gold and silver from America to Spain. The first recorded pirate who visited the islands was Englishman Richard Hawkins in 1593. Since then many pirates came to the archipel.

An interesting anecdote in the history of the Galapagos Islands was when Alexander Selkirk, whose adventures in the Islands “Juan Fernandez” inspired Daniel Defoe to write the novel Robinson Crusoe, visited the Galápagos in 1708 after it was rescued from Juan Fernandez Woodes Rogers.

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Rogers was fixing their boats in the Galapagos after looting the city of Guayaquil in Ecuador.

The first scientific mission arrived in Galapagos in 1790 under the leadership of Alessandro Malaspina, who was a Sicilian captain whose expedition was sponsored by the King of Spain. But this expedition records were lost.

In the seventeenth century is beginning to populate the area when the navigator James Colnett describes the place as some islands rich in flora and fauna, which attracted the first settlers, mostly English, with interest in whales, sea lions and mainly for the Galapagos tortoises to extract their fat, fat discovery of sperm whales also attracted many whalers which led to a makeshift post office where boats left and collected letters believed.

Ecuador annexed the Galápagos Islands on February 12, 1832 under the government of General Juan José Flores, baptizing as “Colon Archipelago”.

The September 15, 1835 the ship Beagle brought aboard the British expedition under the command of Captain Robert Fitz Roy Galapagos to investigate isolated places hardly visited by boaters. This list of places include Valparaiso, Callao, Galapagos Islands, Tahiti, New Zealand, Australia, Cape of Good Hope and anchored back in Falmouth on October 2, 1836. The captain and others on board, including the young naturalist Charles Darwin made ​​a scientific study of geology and biology on four of the islands before continuing his expedition around the world. The ship remained afloat for 5 weeks in the islands, but Darwin was on the ground just for two weeks, there investigated animals from the region would lead in the future to make Darwin’s Origin of Species.

An Irish man named Patrick Watkins was a hermit and was the first person who lived in the Galapagos Islands, specifically on Floreana Island in 1807.

Watkins lived alone and was famous for providing vegetables to the whalers in exchange for Ron for many years until he left the island in an unknown direction.Galapagos_Beach2

Then the General José Villamil arrived in 1832. Villamil (Ecuadorian general) founded a penal colony for political prisoners and common criminals who exchanged meat and vegetables with the whalers.

In the late twenties Dr. Friedrich Ritter arrived at the Islands with his wife. The story says he extracted his teeth before going to Galapagos to avoid having to take them off after it.

The second group were the Wittmer´s, a family from the city of Cologne in Germany.

The final group and one of the most talked about were three lovers who escorted the Baroness von Wagner Bosquet who had plans to build a luxury hotel.

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The earlier settlers were appalled at the arrival of this new character who later called himself “Empress of Floreana”.

The Baroness also disappeared with one of her 3 lovers.But the story ends on a mystery as all settlers from Mrs. Strauch Doer and the Wittmer family began to fade and die along with Dr. Ritter who died eating poisoned meat which was very strange because he was a vegetarian.

A book published in 1961 and was a best seller is based on the life of Margaret Wittmer who was one of the oldest survivors of the Galapagos. She died in 2000 aged 95.

 

ENDEMIC SPECIES

 

Endemic reptiles

 

Galapagos tortoise

• Previously there were 14 species of Galapagos tortoises, three became extinct in the nineteenth century and ended on June 24, 2012, with its last issue “Lonesome George”.

There are still ten species of giant tortoises (Galapagos turtle or terrapin) belonging to the genus Chelonoidis.

• Land iguanas (Conolophus subcristatus, Conolophus Conolophus pallidus and pink).

• The marine iguana (Amblyrhynchus cristatus), the only species of iguana that seeks its food in the sea.

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Endemic mammals


• Lobo furrier or fur seals Galapagos Galapagos (Arctocephalus galapagoensis), which is the world’s smallest (Salazar 2002).
• Galapagos Sea Lion Galapagos sea lion or (Zalophus wollebaeki), related to the California sea lion (also described as Zalophus californianus wollebaeki, a subspecies of the California sea lion).

 

 

Endemic Bird

GalapagosPenguin

•Galapagos Penguins

• Lava Gull (Larus fuliginosus).

• 13 endemic species of finches, of which the best known is a kind of vampire bird that feeds on the blood of infected birds and is known as Darwin’s finches, which inhabits the most northern island of the archipelago named Wolf.

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• Galapagos penguin or booby of the Galapagos (Spheniscus mendiculus), the only penguin species that has been recorded in the northern hemisphere, in the northern part of Isabela Island.

• Cormorant or Galapagos Cormorant (Phalacrocorax harrisi).

• Kestrel or the Galapagos hawk (Buteo galapagoensis).

• dwarf Galapagos Heron (Butorides sundevalli).

• Waved Albatross (Phoebastria irrorata).

• Leg stuck (Pterodroma phaeopygia).

• Burrito Galapagos (Laterallus spilonotus).

 

Living History in Loja, Ecuador

From the 24th to the 27th of July Flor Maria and I spent some days exploring Loja and its surroundings. Even today, history is alive in many parts of day to day life in Loja and currently many projects involving the research and conservation of archaeological sites are carried out throughout the province; the biggest one being probably the Qhapac Ñan with the support of the UNESCO. Our visit coincided with the bicentennial of the Quito Revolution in 1809, which was celebrated with a lot of music, dancing, reenactments and presentations.

On Sunday we visited thePodocarpus National Park. The park exhibits an exceptional range of flora, and has beenconsidered the “Botanical Garden of America”.

We entered the park at its main entrance in the south of Loja at the Loja – Vilcabamba road and from here hiked our way across three of the four

trails created by the national park staff. The trail “Los Miradores” took us up to 3050m altitude and due to strong wind and rain it got pretty cold but the exquisite scenery made it well worth the effort. Nevertheless we spent Monday a little more easy going, visiting the University UTPL (Universidad Tecnica Particular de Loja) and shopping in the bookstores in the centre of the city.

For all who missed the “expedition-factor” in this report: of course we did some successful research for our next expedition into the mountains of Loja which is planned for an October departure…

2010 – The year of the mysterious Lagoon

Usually the plans for the next year start with a retrospection of the ending year. This year has been really full of travel and exploration, many of which have been planned with good friends accompanied by a cold beer (or two) sitting in the hot equatorial sun at one of Plaza Foch’s cafes in Quito. Planning our tours and expeditions is still one of our favorite pastimes and many afternoons and long nights have been filled with conversation on the best way to explore new routes. 
This makes it an ideal moment to thank all the many friends and family members that supported us in our endeavors, our main sponsor EGT and especially our wives once more for their endless patience and backup! We have spent many memorable moments in the wild, camped overlooking the clouds, hiked with old friends, explored with new friends and had great times in Ecuador’s many national parks.
During 2009 we have made several explorations throughout Ecuador with a strong emphasis on the Mountains of Sabanilla in the Province of Loja in the South of Ecuador. We have been very successful and found three different ruins, most probably Pre-Inca sites where the Calvas, a tribe of the Nation of the Paltas, worshipped their gods. Working in Cooperation with the University of Loja (UTPL) as well as the INPC (Instituto Nacional de Patrimonio Cultural) we suggested to name these ruins “Torneados de Sabanilla”. For 2010 we plan to continue the cooperation as well as our explorations of the Espindola Valley and the Sabanilla Mountain, this time also with the support of the Consejo Provincial de Loja (the Government of the Loja Province).
Once more it is local legend that catches our interest: High up in the mountains a lagoon is said to be not only hidden by difficult terrain but also protected by rain, wind, hail and even storms that cast anyone away who tries to get nearer to this mysterious lagoon. So far we have not found one single person that actually stood at its banks and truth to be told we suffered 3 failed attempts in 2009 too. Fortunately we returned always healthy from our explorations and of course look forward to solve the mystery of the hidden lagoon in 2010…

La Laguna del Tigre

Once more we have climbed up the high slopes of the Cordillera de Sabanilla, again with the goal to reach the banks of the mysterious lagoon called “Laguna del Tigre” said to be hidden deep inside the mountains. With the support of two mules carrying our backpacks during the first day – they returned with their owner back home at the ridge where the strong winds and rain made them shiver – we had a good start. On the second day our venture was supported by surprisingly good weather.

 

Even the sun warmed us for a few hours in the morning before the typical afternoon clouds started to come in. Nevertheless, in the late evening hours we reached the valley of the lagoon and set up our camp just below the ridge with sight over the lagoon.

The next day we kept the camp and went down to explore the lagoon

and its surroundings but besides an impressive flora found no hints of the ancient cultures that most probably used to hunt in this area but seemed not to live permanently here due to the cold and harsh climate.

Having brought provisions for a week we decided to continue our way further south. So the next day we left the lagoon and hiked along the Cordillera de los Sabanillas, impressed by the wide and untouched mountain scenery with its immense valleys, small rivers and rocky mountain peaks. After two days we reached the “Laguna Los Huicundos” where we set camp in the evening right beside a small stone pyramid. From the ridge we could spot the lights of the small town of Amaluza deep down in the valley. In the morning we found a small path running from east to west which looked like it once was used a lot but now slowly started to disappear.

 

Spontaneously we decided to drop our original plan to explore the Cordillera further south and instead started to follow the path towards the East. Though the path lost itself several times in the thick mountain grass (Stipa ichu), there were every now and then parts, especially in the higher rockier regions, where it was still clearly visible and we could follow it easily walking on the footsteps of the people who used it in former times to cross the Cordillera along this route (as we should learn days later from an 78 years old farmer on the other side of the mountains they ceased to use this route about 15 years ago!).
This tour has been kindly supported by:Unfortunately, once we crossed the ridge and started to descend down to the junction of the rivers Rio Jibaro and Rio Blanco, forming Rio Palanda, the path more and more faded and we had to cut our way through with the machete. Nevertheless, just before we ran out of provisions we reached the first Finca (farm) on the Palanda side of the Cordillera and from here a comfortable track led us back to civilization, a hot shower and a

huge “Churrasco” waiting for us in Palanda…

 

This tour has been kindly supported by:
Galapagos Cruises
Galapagos Cruceros