27-Jan-2005 -- We didn't make it. We've been climbing a steep slope for about 2 hours, reaching an altitude of about 1950 meters above sea level and the GPS still did show some 1100 meters West by North to go. But there was no forthcoming anymore as the brush-wood got way to dense to continue without machete.
We started our journey to this confluence the day before at only 50m above sea level in Pasaje / El Oro. We took the unpaved road via Uzhcurumi - Guanazan - Manu - Selva Alegere - El Paraiso de Celen to Saraguro from where we drove on the Panamericana down to Loja.
Near Manu we visited the beautiful Cerro de Arcos (3°33.850'/79°28.170', 3700m) which is an impressive rock formation (towers, columns, arches...) with spectacular views over the high paramo from the Cordillera de Chilla to the Cordillera de Timbayacu. Going by 4wheel-drive you can reach the Cerro de Arcos in about 2hours from Manu (1hour driving, <1hour walking).
We had no map of the confluence area, only an 1:650'000 Ecuador street map which did show the point on the same side of the Zamora River and very near the Loja-Zamora road. Therefore we expected to spend between 2 and 4 hours to reach the confluence and get back out to the road again.
We left Loja not to early and stopped near the point where the paved Loja-Zamora road crosses the 4south line at 9am. The GPS pointed across the Zamora River to the point, some 2200 meters as the crow flies. We were still on the wrong side of the Zamora River, our Map apparently did show the old road to Zamora. Thanks to directions we got from some Road-workers nearby we could find the turnoff to the old unpaved road some five kilometers back (3°57.415'/79°01.534', ca. 1650m). The road leads you down to the river and after crossing it follows the river on the opposite side.
We drove the unpaved but good road some 5 kilometers downriver looking out for possibilities to climb the steep slopes to the west where the confluence point lies. After passing a lot of very steep and woody terrain we found a small cowpath and parked our car right after crossing the 4-south line (4°00.378' / 79°00.915', ca. 1550m).
Our GPS features a magnetic compass but the area is crossed by a high-voltage power line which renders this feature useless for the first few hundred meters. Entering the cowpath after a few meters we crossed a small shed and entered a pasture area with cows.
The path still led us uphill for about half an hour and then gets lost in the pasture. In direction of the confluence we can see a ridge we have to climb high above us.
Reaching the ridge there is another ridge and yet another. The terrain gets steeper and steeper and the pasto higher and higher and we only advance very slowly. We were lucky about the weather. On a rainy day climbing this ridges can take several hours and would be "no fun anymore" at all.
After about 2 hours we reach the last ridge at about 1950m above sea level. The GPS tells us, that we're still about 1100 meters to go, we made 400m of altitude but less than 1000m of distance. The terrain gets now less steep, on the other hand the woods get to dense to find a path through. To reach the confluence we guess that a short descent would be followed by another ascent of another few hundred meters. The confluence might even lie behind a small mountain which we can spot from our position. But onwards from our position the woods are dense and would only be crossable using a machete. It appears that somebody has attempted to clear parts of the area recently using fire, probably to make it usable for cattle.
After trying a few drawbacks and turns we give up and decide to return to our car.
After heading back to Loja and then west down the foggy road to the coast we get back to Pasaje the same day late night.
Recommendations for this confluence:
- Start very early (start walking near the confluence best before 6am)
- Take machetes and other gear to make a path up in the woods
- As making the path might take quite a few hours be prepared to camp (tent, food, a lot of water)