It’s always so nice when you can rally a few friends for an all day excursion into the forest.
Though I must say this time it took a lot of jabbing from me to get Mike and Carey to get off their duffs and get moving.
It’s the dry season in Ecuador so I wanted to find a sliver of lush green in all this brown. I had heard about a lovely waterfall up one of the canyons on the other side of town.
Carey owns a small motorcycle with hardly any juice but with two good wheels. That was our transportation to Mike’s house just outside town.
From there we walked 5 km up a dirt road toward Yamburara. I had been told that Cabanas Rio Yambala (known as Charlie’s cabins) was the start of the hike up to the cloudforest and waterfalls. It was hot as hell out – and the air was thick with humidity.
Mike (one twin from Washington State) started complaining, although he wouldn’t call it that, right off the bat.
In the middle of the first of many “observations” a lovely little Ecuadorian lady came around the corner in the highest of heels, carrying her two year old toddler, complete with a smile on her face.
You know the saying a picture is worth a thousand words. The vision of thispetite woman, dressed to impress climbing a steep road with a child in tow.. well, I just looked at Mike and said… really?You were saying?
Our journey took us past a less known entrance to Parque Nacional Podocarpus – definitely high on my list for places to visit. Today we wanted to hike on the edge of the park – I think I may have described the hike as…. laidback?
The road was getting smaller and we weren’t entirely sure where we were going, so we stopped to ask a local for a little help. This guy’s smile couldn’t have been any bigger as he welcomed us in with open arms.
First we had to get by his prized “Cocks” – roosters who were tethered outside. Unfortunately this is a sport which brings big cash in this country, sorry to say.
I will never EVER watch two roosters go at it till death, but I’m told the guy with the winning bird can collect more than $500 a night – which is HUGE money here! I tried to ignore the bondage I felt for these poor roosters.
To our surprise, this business man also made musical instruments. Gorgeous drums made out of old Agave plants.
While I made plans to buy one on my next visit (too big to carry hiking) I got sucked in to buying a wooden recorder after he whipped out the most beautiful melody for us.
I will always respect anyone with musical talents. The gentlemen tried for like a half an hour to teach me how to play. While entertaining for the boys, it was mega frustrating for me, though I will practice for the next few months and WILL learn how to play a song on it.
Back on the road, we were told Charlie’s cabanas was just across the bridge and up the hill.
Luck on our side, we caught Charlie and his son on their way to town to pick up supplies. They showed us an interactive type map and tried to explain where we needed to go.
They also just happened to have a tall big beer for us three to share – beer always taste wonderful outdoors and it hit the spot!
Charlie is an American who’s lived in Ecuador for 31 years. His son – who speaks perfect English – has never been to the states! He has done a tremendous job with the place.
A great entrance and eating area, surrounded by a handful of cabanas – more like tree houses- dotting the hillside. A warning here, you are going to sweat and experience heavy breathing getting to your bed every night, but the scenery is worth it!!
As we climbed the extremely steep hill up to the main trail, I could tell this might be a lot longer day and a lot tougher hike.. but I kept quiet as I know that’s not what the boys wanted to here. The sun caused us to take quite a few breaks along the way.
Now I’ve never gone on a hike without bringing food. The guys didn’t even think about eating. Fortunately I had enough to satisfy our hunger and I divided it up into 3 separate stops – anything to keep the troops moving forward. Thank goodness we all had doubled up on water – because we ended up needing every single drop.
Another crucial moment happened between our 1st and 2nd stops. We were just getting to the top of this terribly steep ravine when I looked up to see a site that stopped me in my tracks, a smile sweeping over my face.
All three of us were sucking wind, terribly. I mean it was steep and extremely hot. Here in front of us, on the other side of a barbed-wire fence, was an old lady – must have been in her mid 80’s, walking along her farmland which had to be on a 40% grade.
She just looked at us with such ease and muttered a friendly “buenas dias“.
I looked down and she was barefoot, just trotting along with no effort. Unbelievable. We all were silenced by her grace and fitness level. This is why they call this place the “valley of longevity”.
While many locals faces may look old with wisdom, their bodies are fit and strong, their souls happy and content with what little they have. A great lesson for 3 gringos from America.
We were told the waterfall should be under 2 hours away – but we weren’t finding it and it had been over 3 hours now. We kept pressing on, hoping to hear or see signs of water (we all had visions of jumping into the cool waters after such a sweaty hike).
It wasn’t all bad. We had the most gorgeous weather on the way back. The sun was started to set – you know that perfect time of day for a little photography.
Finally we had to make a decision or we were going to be hiking home in the dark (yes, I had a headlamp :)). We had to turn around.
Inside I threw a huge tantrum, especially because my whole goal for the hike was to see lush green and come in contact with some fresh cool water. I also know though to let it go. it’s just not worth taking risks and chancing a hike down in the dark in a foreign land. Safety has to come first!
Another day I thought to myself. I will be back oh dear trail, except next time I will be prepared to stay the night if need be.
Carey was able to get a signal on his phone and call us a cab to meet us at Charlie’s instead of the long dirt road home. The only way we could have had a better ending to the day? If another one of those cold beers would have suddenly appeared. Oh well, the cheap margaritas at Carlitos in town did the trick.
Fun, exercise and exploration in Ecuador!