October 8th - 9th 2003
A 7 hour drive brought us to Vilcabamba, the "Valley of longevity", so called because the locals supposedly live a great deal longer than average. Rather than stay in the town itself, we headed out to the upper end of the Vilcabamba Valley, to the Cabañas Rio Yambala. It was a rough ride along a narrow dirt track to the Cabañas, but the views were wonderful. Unfortunately there was no room to put out the roof tent, so we took one of the Cabañas which are very private with their own porch/balcony and hammock, and beautiful views. The only downside was the steep walk up to it - not a walk we wanted to do too often. The Cabañas are owned by Charlie and Sarah and they can also arrange a number of excursions into the surrounding Parque Nacional Podocarpus or their own reserve. We stayed two nights which gave us the opportunity of doing one of the horse treks into the surrounding hills.
Entrance bridge to Cabañas Rio Yambala
The trek was about 6 - 7 hours, all on horseback, with the exception of a one hour walk to the Waterfalls and lunch. Most of the paths were very narrow and steep and some had sheer drops into the valley below, but the horses managed to get us there and back in one piece - just! It started to rain heavily and get extremely muddy on the way back so we had to dismount and walk a short way downhill until it was safe to get back on the horses. We eventually arrived back at the Cabana for a welcome shower and a rest to ease the aching muscles we never knew existed.
The pictures don't do the views justice. But we were too busy hanging on to take many photos.
October 10th- 11th 2003
Vilcabamba is about one or two day's drive from the border with Peru (Macara/La Tina). We decided to veer off the main road and travel along the quieter, more adventurous roads (Ed was bored of the Panamerican by this time and wanted some more offroading). Not easy when our maps were fairly useless away from the Panamerican. One thing we have now learnt - sometimes to our cost - is that people are very friendly and will always give you directions without any problems. The only downside is, that sometimes we get the impression they give us directions for the sake of telling us something and appearing helpful. A number of times we get conflicting directions or are pointed in the completely wrong direction. This became ever more apparent on this "little" detour. We eventually found our way though the hills and were back on track for Catacocha and the border.
It turned out fortunate for some locals that we did take the back roads. After an hour or so of driving from the main road, we came across a pick-up which had got bogged down in a stream. They said they had been there for about five minutes or so, but they certainly looked relieved when they saw us. The first attempt to pull them out failed as their strap was not strong enough and snapped as soon as the Weasel started to pull the vehicle out. We then got out our vehicle recovery kit and pulled them out no problem. With low box and diff lock we went through the same stream easily (avoiding the holes they had made spinning their wheels). The track we followed ended up running beside a large river, this was the only indication of where we were as the river was on the map, but the track was not.
We eventually reached Catacocha, where we stayed the night before the early rise the next morning to cross the border into Peru at Macara.
Check out the pictures in the Gallery for some views of the scenery along the way.