Oyacache Gorge: Trekking

Oyacache is the gateway to the Amazon. it can be the beginning of a descendent into the depths of the rainforest. you can start be having a trout dinner right in the Oyacahe villager's homes. Even more popular are the hot springs, which were built with the help of an international aid fund. On you way, you will find a vast array of waterfalls, old ruins built by the Oyacahe people hundreds of years ago, and miles of jungle waiting to be tamed!

Trip Information

We start this spectacular trek from the Indian village of  Oyacachi, high in the Andes of Ecuador, and descend into the Amazon Basin, following a long abandoned Inca trail.  It is probably one of the most rewarding journeys in the entire Andes.

We will spend two nights in Quito allowing an opportunity for sightseeing and acclimatization.  From Quito we travel north towards Cayembe to the small mountain town of Oyacachi that lies just to the south of Nevada Cayembe a 19,000’, a glaciated volcano.  Our trek into the Cloud forest begins in the cool highlands around 10,500 feet, on the banks of the Rio Oyacachi, and ends four days later in the frontier jungle town of El Chaco at 5,000 feet, a descent of 5000 feet. A Quest team traveled to this little known backwater of the Andes in 2003 and were instrumental in re-opening an Inca trail that had been abandoned more than two centuries earlier. Local Ecuadorian groups had attempted to find and open this trail but they had failed.  With a terrific team armed with machetes, persistent exploration, and a fair amount of good fortune, we were able to re-open, the trail that we named, “the lost Trail of the Incas.”

The trail we follow is believed to quite old.  Part of the trail is paved with cobblestones similar to the Inca Trail in Peru , though the exact age in not known.

The trail will take us through the heart of the Cayambe-Coca Ecological Reserve and is truly wilderness trekking. The vegetation becomes more dense as we descend into the cloud forest.  The coolness of the highlands gives way to the humid, warmth of the Amazonian lowlands.We will cross the Rio Oyacachi at the end of the trek using cables that were strung across the river after an earthquake collapsed the bridges in 1987.  We will use pulleys, harness and ropes to make the crossings safely.

The route from Oyacachi to the rain forest has historic significance and is believed to have been a trade route used by pre-Inca and perhaps the Inca people themselves, between the cool highlands - dominated by the snow capped mountains of the Andes - to the hot, humid rain forests of the Amazon basin. 17th Century Jesuit priests are also thought to have used the trail to service their missions on the far flung fringes of the rain forest. Descending more than five thousand feet, the trail is a sinuous, sometimes elusive pathway, paved with interlocking rocks. The trail is still intact over most of the distance through the cloud forest but much of it is slowly being consumed and overgrown by trees and a phalanx of impenetrable vines.

Lesson Learned:

Fix blisters before they start
If you are on a multi day strenuous hike, attend to your blisters before they become one. The minute you feel a hot spot, stop, take off your boots and socks, dry the area, and put on some moleskin. Blisters will ruin a good hike, for you and your group.

If you're sweating on a trek, remove layers
If you are sweating on a trek, you are overdressed. Remove some layers and you will be in a better position to not only enjoy the hike, but also to keep from overheating.

90 % of your heat is in your head
To keep it in, cover your dome. To let it out, uncover it!


"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects."    — Robert A. Heinlein

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