After looking at the various hiking options in Vilcabamba we decided to do the Izhcayluma Loop Hike. Most looked quite easy and short and this one looked just right for a day's outing.
Making the decision to do a hike was easy … the area invites you out to experience the majesty, mild weather and clean environment. With that in mind we chose the estimated 5 hour Izhcayluma Loop.
The leaflet advertised it as being through a variety of terrain, along a mountain spine, with stunning views and finishing with a section along a riverbed.
This looked like a perfect balance between a physical challenge and enjoying nature. Little did we realize that this hike had recently been upgraded from the "hard" category to the "worst".
As we started it looked like a perfect hiking day. Overcast and mild we set out as if the weather could never change. As it turned out we were lucky and stupid. Lucky in that the day stayed dry and mist free. Stupid because on a 5 hour hike (that eventually took us 7 hours!) the weather could easily have turned nasty.
Our lack of hiking skill showed as we took the wrong route 3 times. The first being rescue by a local young lady who opened a locked gate to let us through. The next one was when we missed a turn resulting in a long, hot walk back uphill. And finally missing another turn and trudging and crouching through muddy paths that were obviously only for the cattle!
Izhcayluma Loop Hike
The first part is a long steady climb along a dirt road. A steady but relatively easy walk... nothing in preparation for what was to come.
After turning off after a short section on the paved road (which we made a long detour!!!) there is a steep winding path. Ever upward. After missing another turn and some bush bashing we diligently followed the blue marked stones.
The spine is breathtaking and adrenaline pumping. From the narrow, about 30 centimeter (2.5 foot) wide path both sides fall away steeply for hundreds of meters. It was very, very scary as we virtually crawled our way across.
Initially quite jubilant at our progress we walked on upwards with a slightly wider path for another few kilometers.
With all the uphill comes the often more difficult downhill ... and this time it didn't fail to challenge. We slowly made our way down, slipping on the loose stones and sand. Enjoying the few grassy flatter sections. Getting lower and lower but very slowly.
At last we reached the river bed. But no respite as we hopped from the left of the river to the right. It was uneven, slippery and the rocky river bed was only relieved by a few short paths next to the river. This section took us a painful few hours and was especially tough on tired legs. Another "gringo killer" section.
Along the riverbed we had to make our way through about 5 barbed wire "gates". Sectioned off by the local farmers to prevent their cattle straying. These were designed not to let anyone through and we
Making our way up the hill back to the hosteria in the heat of the afternoon we staggered into a local "tienda" for a very welcome Coke.
With tired legs, a few scrapes and bruises, the only long term discomfort was nursing bites from "no see ums".
A tough challenge beaten... and a promise from my wife that'll be her last hike.