sábado, 19 de diciembre de 2009

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…

Good luck to all Explorers in the world for 2010 – keep your spirits up!

The Expedition Department Team

jueves, 24 de septiembre de 2009

Ancient Cultures along the Qhapaq Ñan in Loja, Ecuador

Before the Incas conquered the region that today forms the north of Peru and the south of Ecuador this land was inhabited for centuries by the people of the Calvas tribe who were part of the Paltas Nation. During our last expedition we found two archaeological sites of the Paltas in the Sabanilla Mountains. Our next expedition in October 2009 has the goal to find further remains of this lost culture to prove not only the existence of the Calvas/Paltas in this region but also to show that they formed a highly organized culture, similar to other cultures of this period.
We will leave Quito on October 2nd travelling south on the Pan-American Highway to Loja and on to San Antonio de las Aradas which will be again our starting point. We plan to be about 8 days in the mountains and if our theories are correct, we should find at least one more site.
Currently we are preparing our equipment. Though I am jogging twice a week in La Carolina Park here in Quito at ca. 2850m altitude I will climb one of the surrounding mountains this weekend in order to further improve my acclimatization as the expedition will lead us into altitudes between 3200m to 3600m. After the expedition we are going to visit several sites along the Ecuadorian route of the Qhapaq Ñan to learn more about the ancient cultures in Ecuador that lived here before the Incas.

miércoles, 5 de agosto de 2009

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 the Podocarpus National Park. The park exhibits an exceptional range of flora, and has been considered 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…

miércoles, 29 de julio de 2009

Expedition Update: Loja/Los Paltas - Part II

In addition to the adventures described in the first report of our Expedition in the mountains of Loja, Ecuador we also discovered two archaeological sites hidden in the cordillera. We spotted the sites from up the ridge and in our second attempt managed to descend to them, passing through Paramo (grassy Andean Highland) and cloud forests. The first site on 2276m altitude is in a quite bad shape as the weather has strong impacts on the place while the second site on 2852m altitude is in very good conditions because it lies in an area protected by the cordillera. As both archaeological sites have been constructed by the pre-Inca culture the Paltas they are at least 500 years old. As many pre-Inca cultures the Paltas have been conquered first by the Inca who destroyed most of their culture imposing their own on all conquered civilisations and a few years later the Spanish Conquistadores finished the work of the Incas. Therefore today there is little evidence of the Paltas who inhabited big parts of what today forms the most southern province of Ecuador: Loja. We reported our discoveries to the INPC Loja (Instituto Nacional de Patrimonio Cultural Loja) who confirmed us as discoverer of both sites and assured that they will start the investigation of the sites as soon as possible in order to conserve the ruins as well as to determine their function.
All our tours in this area have been supported by EGT: http://www.ecuadorgalapagostravels.ec/

lunes, 20 de julio de 2009

The Loja Expedition Part II

In June 2009 we travelled south from Quito and continued our exploration of the Province of Loja, especially the Forest Protectorate Colambo - Yacuri in the south of the province near the border to Peru. Once more we used the little Andean village San Antonio de las Aradas as the base for our tours into the mountains, following the kind invitation of Don Jose who provided us with cozy lodging, tasty local food and many information and histories on the mountains. Unfortunatley soon after we started our tour bad weather kept us from completing the planned route but nevertheless we spent 7 days exploring the mountain range. At the ridge strong winds and heavy rain fall combined with cold nights were a hard test for us and our equipment while exploring the valleys steep slopes which are largely covered by Andean cloud forest made it difficult to find routes and often slowed us down. Also it resulted quite difficult to find good campsites and in spite of the rainfalls we had problems to find drinking water in the higher parts, obliging us sometimes to descend more then an hour to find a spring and then ascent back in double the time carrying the water up to the camp. Descending from the mountains we had to cross several swollen rivers in the valleys due to the heavy rainfalls in the upper parts. While trying to cross these rivers we gave several involuntary feasts to the local mosquito community... Besides the fascinating landscape the encounter with an Andean spectacled bear was the highlight of this adventure. We are planning to return to Loja to finish the orginally planned route in october/november 2009.

domingo, 14 de junio de 2009

Qhapaq Ñan II

Once more we followed an invitation by the Centro de Investigaciones Turísticas (CEITUR) of the Universidad Técnica Particular de Loja to explore the Qhapaq Ñan (English: Great Inca Road, or Main Andean Road), this time into the Loja province in Ecuador. We explored the south of the province visiting Gonzanama, Quilanga, Amaluza and Jimbura and crossed the border to Peru to Espindola.

The highlight was a hike leading us up to 3400m altitude to the Lagunas Negras (black lakes) in the Bosque Protector Colambo Yacuri (Protection Forest Colambo Yacuri). Still old remains of Pre-Inca ruins and paths can be found in the area, some of them are currently restored as part of the Qhapaq Ñan project.

For more information on the Qhapaq Ñan please see the links in the first Qhapaq Ñan report below.

viernes, 5 de junio de 2009

The Loja Expedition - Preparations in the Andes

We had to postpone our original planning to continue the exploration of the mountains in Loja in may and will now start the 2nd expedition for Ecuador Galapagos Travels end of june. All preparations are going well so far and we even have now a logo for the Expedition Department (thank you Wladi!). Last weekend we went for a hike into the Andes around Quito, the capital of Ecuador and base of The Expedition Department. Here in the Andes you can find some of Ecuador's largest outcrops of obsidian, a black volcanic glass that has been highly valued by the natives for its ready manufacture into various stone tools like knifes, arrow and speer heads etc. It was one of the most abundant and apparently preferred materials used at early sites in the Andes and throughout subsequent periods was traded to southern Andes, Pacific Coast and Amazon Jungle. During our hike in the altitude we found several examples of Obsidian and surely will go for another tour in the area before the expedition - you never know what you will come across in these wonderful mountains.

For more information on Obsidian check: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Obsidian

martes, 31 de marzo de 2009

Qhapaq Ñan

This time we followed an invitation by the Centro de Investigaciones Turísticas (CEITUR) of the Universidad Técnica Particular de Loja to explore the Qhapaq Ñan (English: Great Inca Road, or Main Andean Road) in the area between Cañar and Saraguro in Ecuador. The Qhapaq Ñan constituted the principal north-south highway of the Inca Empire travelling 6000 km along the peaks of the Andes between Quito in the north and Mendoza in the south along the spine of the Andes linking a network of roads over 23,000km in length connecting various production, administrative and ceremonial centres. For the past three years the World Heritage Centre has been assisting in a pioneering project: the preparation of a single nomination for the inclusion of Qhapaq Ñan in the World Heritage List involving six participating countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. During our 5 days of travel we explored several archaeological sites such as Ingapirca, Cojitambo and Chobshi which form part of the Qhapaq Ñan and learned a lot about the history and the cultures of the area including the Inca, Cañari and Saraguro.

For more information on the Qhapaq Ñan please see:

For more information on the UNESCO project please see:

viernes, 13 de marzo de 2009

Llanganatis Expedition

The mountainous labyrinth of Llanganatis National Park in the east of Ambato city is fabled in legends and obscured by mystery. Ancient chronicles tell a story of hidden Inca treasure. This gold treasure was to be paid to the Spaniards as ransom for the Inca king, but when it was known he had already been killed, more than 1000 men quickly carried the gold to Llanganatis to secret it away from the Conquistadors. Since colonial times, famous explorers and treasure-hunters have launched numerous expeditions in an effort to find the legendary treasure, but without success. In fact because of the inhospitable environment and infamous fog banks many of the treasure seekers have never returned...

Unlike many of the other mountainous regions of Ecuador, Llanganatis is not of volcanic origin, but is rather the result of tectonic plate movement. The area is characterised predominantly by Páramo (grassy and marshy Andean Highlands) and is home to the condor, tapirs and the spectacled bear. Its highest point is the top of Cerro Hermoso at 4570m. Because of its inaccessibility and foggy weather, this extraordinary region is relatively unknown, a great reason for us to go and explore the area.

We drove down from Quito on the Pan-American Highway through Ambato on to the little village Pillaro. From here the road goes to the east and passing the famous Hacienda Huagra Huasi where bulls are bred for bullfighting to Lake Pisayambo. Here we started our hike into the mountains.

We spend 6 days exploring this largely undiscovered region hiking most of the time through coarse weather conditions. Nevertheless during short moments of clear sights and even sun! the magic of this beautiful area becomes apparent.

The Llanganatis are in some publications, especially older ones, also called Llanganates or Llanganati.

For further Information on the treasure and the legends of the Llanganatis we recommend the following homepage:
link: http://staff-struck.freehostia.com/treasure/index.html
For further reading we recommend the book “Sweat of the Sun, Tears of the Moon” by Peter Lourie.

Note: If you decide to explore the Llanganatis yourself we strongly recommend going with professional assistance. An experienced tour operator covering this area is http://www.ecuadorgalapagostravels.ec/

martes, 24 de febrero de 2009

The Loja Expedition Part I

Loja is a province in the south of Ecuador at the border to Peru. Here we wanted to explore a mountain range called Sabanillas. We went to Loja in late december only to find out that bad weather would not permit us to make the planned expedition from the north down to the south. Nevertheless we explored the region in several short tours allways looking for traces of the Paltas, an ancient tribe that lived here. Indeed we found several fragments of Palta pottery in open caves that most probably had served members of this tribe as shelter. We will try to make the originally planned expedition in May 2009 and will post any results.