Posts Tagged With: National Park

Loja and Vilcabamba… gain a minute of life

17-19/12/2013

The more time we spend in Ecuador, the more we get used to the altitude, the more we like and can enjoy hiking in the high mountains.  Loja offers us a nice town with beautiful church, lovely town square with its famed clock tower and with some lively celebrations on the streets, perfect to spend some nights and a good base camp to go and visit the surroundings.

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Vilcabamba is a village at 40km from the province capital of Loja hidden between two mountain ranges known as Valley of Longevity, assuring a quite live and lots of years to live that live.

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This town is well-known for its older population that seem to have forgotten the day to die.  In this spot on earth people get bored by celebrating the 100th birthday of one of the inhabitants and get barely excited when one of the dwellers reaches 120 springs.  It is remarkable to see at 3 o’clock in the afternoon a disco filled with greybeards and grannies shaking their skeletons at the rhythms of a Pasillo or a Yavarí. The National Institute of Gerontology Investigation must have thought the same, the day they decide to build an investigation centre right next to the centre of the village.  As far as we know, it’s proven that the bones of those old buggers are comparable with those of teenagers but the mystery of their almost immortality is still unfound.   We buy a bottle of local water in the hope to gain at least some minutes.

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We have a great time in Vilcabamba wondering around in the green surroundings and letting the peaceful ambient entering our soul… which must add at least another minute of live! 😉

The enjoyable green surroundings and healthy fresh mountain air are one of the main features of Loja.  And when we talk about green, we talk about the 1462 square kilometers big National Park Podocarpus.  The park, divided in 3 explorable sectors (Cajanuma, Vilcabamba and Bambuscaro) gives us an infinite combinations of visits to do; from just a walk to lose yourself for a week of hiking without contacting any civilizations, from an entertaining exploration to professional investigations, from mountain over fog covered forest to hundreds of lakes and from fauna and flora spotting to the observation of rests ancestral knowledge.  Together with the German travel companions Lara & Sophia we decide to explore the northernmost Cajanuma Sector, at 13km from Loja.

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From the free entrance of the park we walk 8km with stunning views to the refugee at 2750MASL.  From there we start our odyssey through the cloud forest of Ecuador.  There is a loop to do with different side paths for some extra kilometers… and we decide to do them all.  First, the declivitous ‘Sendero Oso de Antiojos’ with an extension of 400m, then the even steeper 700m upwards ‘Sendero Bosque Nublado’ and finally the almost vertical ‘Sendero El mirador’ of 5km which follows the sharp mountain edge.  It’s a hard track to do and takes more time then we calculated.  So right at the very Mirador Cajanuma, after a short check on Lara’s out smoked lungs and after a democratic voting we decide to go on and fulfil the hike. (to watch video click here)

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It goes more and more up, clouds are pushed up the hillside by cold wind gusts and drop down as soon as they pass the edge.  Sea of clouds floating under us are hiding the deep, by river erosion out shaped, valleys just a step away from the path.  Our full adventure heads to a climax, just after the long downhill on creepy overgrown in mist covered slippery paths, as the last rays of sunlight fight their way through the dark, heavily charged, rainclouds.  The divine is with us and sends us a sight that ships emotions straight to the heart, almost too great for the mind to comprehend or recognize.

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Hours after the day departed we finally reach the main road and with the last strength we have left in our muscles, burning the last calories left in our feeble bodies, we raise our thumps in the dark night and get lucky the fourth time that they are lightened up by the headlights of a truck.  Once in Loja again, after two big empanadas, one litre of fresh squeezed fruit juice, French fries and a soup each we go back to our dear Aguilera International Hostal, our save and soft nest for the last two nights.  We fall asleep with the José Bolivar castle, the gateway to the city, glowing in the night just out the window, shielding our night rest and safeguarding our dreams.

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Recommendations:

–          For outdoor lovers, trails in Sector Vilcabamba, Bombuscaro and Cajanuma are well indicated, and depending of the extra loops you do it goes from beginner to advanced.  All entrances are for free.  For the pros there is an extra trail to do (only open from October till January) for about 14km till ‘Lagunas Compadre’ an area with more than hundred crystalline lakes.  For this trail you are obligated to go with guide and takes between three and five days. Here prices depend on your needs (Spanish or English speaking guide) and your negotiating skills to lower them.  We paid 0,75$ pp sharing a taxi with 4 persons to get till the entrance of Cajanuma.

–           Vilcabamba is, in our opinion, not worthy to spend the night as hostels are more expensive. It is very small and easy to reach from Loja and to see in one day. Unless you want to live forever of course.  😉  There are regular buses from Loja at 1,15$

–           For a good night rest we recommend Hostal Aguilera International.  Prices go from 15$ for clean rooms, Wi-Fi, breakfast and hot water of course.  The hostal even has a sauna and Turkish bath for their clients! We assure you that, after a long day of mountaineering, you will not forget it fast!  

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Categories: Ecuador | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Being the astronaut…

11-12/06/2013

After again a long ride, because America is big we arrive at Zion Canyon National Park. With the 2 campgrounds full, we look for a parking place and get some information. The scenic drive is just for the free shuttle which goes every 10 minutes and brings you to the different points in the canyon. A good initiative that guarantees the peaceful nature of this ancient sacred place.

The afternoon here is very hot, the sun above us and no wind to refresh us tells us is not the time to do big hiking. WatchmanTrail is not too far, climbs to a viewpoint over the canyon and gives us an idea of what we can expect: heated dry air that rises from the canyon!  After the trekking  we end up swimming the Virgin River to refresh a bit…

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So the next morning we wake up early, at 6 am, so we can start before the sun heats the canyon. First we do the Benchsand Trail starting from the Court of the Patriarchs (8 km) to reach the head of the Emerald Pools Trail (5 km)

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which goes after climbing the 3 different levels of natural pools, to the Grotto Trail (1 km) back to the Zion Lodge. Here we take a shuttle to Weeping Rock. The trail till there is short (0,8 km) and connect us with the Hidden Canyon Trail, our main walk and hike of the day. A 3.9 km trail that has a 260 m elevation in 1.9 km track… that is steep! The trail is described as ‘Strenuous! Hidden Canyon Trail: 3 hours, long drop-offs. Not for anyone fearful of heights. Follows along a cliff face to the mouth of a narrow canyon’. We did it in 2 hours… and I am so proud of Giorgia who actually is afraid of heights. Lov’u!

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After this we have a nice salad picnic at the “Temple of Sinawava” and a swim in the Virgin River. We have a long rest and nice entertainment of squirrels stealing food from people.

Last walk of the day is the easier Riverside Walk Trail that ends at the Narrows. From there on people can walk the river up the canyon, we are not prepared for that clothes-wise and decide to make a hot chocolate on the last dry spot the river canyon offers. In the shadow between these big walls with the sound of the river, it’s heaven on earth.

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While the Grand Canyon is a view, Bryce Canyon an edge to follow, Zion Canyon is exploring the inside of a canyon along the river itself. It’s like the difference between an astronomer and an astronaut…

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Categories: U.S.A. | Tags: , , , | 8 Comments

The Canyons Are Calling

10/06/2013

Secondo giorno a Panguitch. Lasciamo la nostra tenda in un altro KOA camping e ci dirigiamo verso il Bryce Canyon National Park, sempre qui nello Utah. Il parco si trova in Garfield County che detiene il primato del territorio con la piú grande concentrazione di attrazioni sceniche al mondo. Consta infatti di due National Parks, tre State Parks, due “scenic byways” e un monumento paesaggistico nazionale. In pratica, in qualsiasi direzione si stia guardando, si puó assistire a spettacoli naturali da sogno.

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Stabilitto ufficialmente nel 1928, il Brice Canyon Nat. Park nasce con lo scopo anch’esso di preservare una zona unica dal punta di vista ambientale e di gra valore scientifico. Conosciuto soprattutto per i suoi “Hoodoos”, (bizzarre formazioni rocciose a punta, scolpite e modellate dal vento e dalla pioggia, artigiani pazienti e capaci, e caratterizzate da 3 colori che, sfumando, passano dal rosso fuoco della base al rosa del centro per poi terminare con un bianco marmo), che danno vita a un anfiteatro di forme e colori, il parco si presta alla nascita di curiosi miti e leggende ed é da molti descritto come “terra sacra”. Un’antica leggenda degli indiani Paiute narra infatti che gli hoodoos, ovvero le guglie del Bryce Canyon, erano in origine creature assai dispettose. La loro malignità incollerì a tal punto il Coyote che questi decise di trasformarle in roccia congelando per l’eternità le loro pose.

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Una passeggiata tra “il Giardino della Regina” alle pendici del canyon per ammirare scutlure e formazioni dalle sembianze umane, una sosta presso il Sunrise prima e il Sunset Point dopo, per poter godere dello scenario sotto la sua luce piú bella, e un salto all’ Inspiration Point per lasciarsi semplicemente avvolgere e stravolgere da tanta bellezza. Un luogo perfetto per essere esplorato a piedi lungo le 50 miglia di sentieri che lo attraversano in lungo e in largo, a cavallo e in auto, seguendo le 37 miglia di strada costellate da numerosi belvedere sui punti piú significativi del canyon.

Il parco é fortunatamente aperto tutto l’anno e l’entrata é di 25 dollari, valida anch’essa per una settimana.

Come giá fatto per Yellowstone Park, non ci resta che lasciarvi un pó di foto (sezione Photos)per dare una forma alle parole e magari farvi venire la voglia di andarci di persona 🙂

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E domani amici, Zion National Park!

Categories: U.S.A. | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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