Vilcabamba and climbing Mandango

Vilcabamba Travel Blog

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No sorry to disappoint, I´ve not suddenly discovered the Christian faith. I was just so happy to have reached the first Cross on the walk, marking what we thougt was the most difficult bit!

A short distance from Loja (another wonderful bus ride through the undulating Andes) is the small town of Vilcabamba which has, according to my trusty guidebook (Footprint South America, very good apart from its occasional habit of making up restaurants that may have once existed in the past but don´t anymore, leading to me walking round the same streets a number of times to see if it really doesn´t exist and to work out where does, leading to locals thinking I´m either mad or a good target for a mugging) is one of those places that has become an established route on the Gringo-trail.  So I thought I´d go and have a look, much better than spending any more time than was necessary in Loja!

Also according to the guidebook a ´pleasant´walk is to climb Mandango (´The Sleeping Woman´) - one of those hills that would be described as a mountain in Britain, but at only around 2000m high its a hill here!  Anyway, pleasant doesn´t describe it properly - it was a tough walk, but rewarded us# with the most fantastic views I have seen in Ecuador.

The path we walked from Cross number 1 to Cross number 2, very narrow (big drops either side!)

# I say ´us´ because by some amazing coincidence when I entered the small cabin that marks the beginning of the walk, the old lady who indicates in rather too-quick Spanish the path that you should follow (and issues a threat that if you don´t tell her you´ve returned she´ll be forced to call the police and report you missing, or something like that) was talking to a Danish couple (Christian and Louise) who had left Baños on the same bus as me and who had then taken part in the endless hassle of trying to get tickets for the bloody Riobamba train (with the final result that they rather sensibly decided not to bother).

Anyway, it was very good to catch up with them again and have climbing companions.  And they said they had a map too, which would allow us to make a round trip.

This is what we ascended..
  Agreeing to interpret this sketchy map and ambiguous  directions with them looked for a while like being a mistake as we ended up coming down the hill via a path that led us first through a field of potentially aggresive though fortunately passive huge, horned bulls; then close to a house where 2 extremely aggressive dogs came bouding out barking (the map&directions we had even warned us about the dogs, so Louise had large rocks ready to chuck in their direction and I had a large stick to beat them off with).  These dogs managed to get under the fence we´d  confidently predicted would be our shield and so we were chased down into a steep bit of land where most vegetation had been burnt and only some dense charred bushes reamined.  This was perhaps the most bizarre landscape I´ve walked though.
And this is what we could see from the top!
  After a while we found the path again, and after much debating the various possible interpretaions of the map found our way back to the main road.

Anyhow, apart from this adventure the walk was fantastic because of the 360 degree views over the small town and surrounding hills.  These were the best ´vistas´ I´d seen on any walk in Ecuador (which are easily the best I´ve seen anywhere), I hope the photos go some way to indicate how beautiful the area was.  And in addition it was at times as dsngerous as the Pichincha climb had been, with very narrow and steep paths with a huge drop on either side.  Still,  that just adds to the fun in retrospect (if not at the time!).

Oh yes, and Vilcabamba itself was nice enough too - a typical quiet small town with a central park and not much else!

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No sorry to disappoint, I´ve not …
No sorry to disappoint, I´ve not…
The path we walked from Cross numb…
The path we walked from Cross num…
This is what we ascended..
This is what we ascended..
And this is what we could see from…
And this is what we could see fro…
If you look very closely you can s…
If you look very closely you can …
Louise and Christian capably demon…
Louise and Christian capably demo…
Another shot of what we had climbed
Another shot of what we had climbed
Cactus, and few hundred miles of v…
Cactus, and few hundred miles of …
Other strange looking cactus type …
Other strange looking cactus type…
And this is Vilcabamba!
And this is Vilcabamba!
Vilcabamba
photo by: Riz7