LojAventura – Outdoor Adventure in Loja and Beyond
“We’ve been told there’s a waterfall up the Zamora Huayco river, but nobody ever goes up there. Do you want to go scout it out with us tomorrow morning?”
I was on the phone with Diego, one of the founders and leaders of LojAventura, an outdoorsy adventure and tourism group based in Loja. We first discovered LojAventura through Facebook toward the end of our 2014 stay.
That first trip took us to the remote Cantón Espíndola in the southernmost part of the Loja province, where we discovered a national park virtually untouched by tourists and big, powerful waterfall at the end of a beautiful country trail. (You can read more about that adventure HERE.)
Naturally, one of the first things we did when we returned to Loja in late 2016 was to reconnect with Diego and LojAventura, and let them know that we wanted to participate in any activities they had going on!
The Zañe Hike
On Christmas Eve (2016) we struck out on our first adventure with the group: a hike to the summit of Cerro Zañe (aka Sañe), on the northern outskirts of the city (the hike begins at the end of the L-2 bus turnaround. CLICK HERE to see my post about the city buses).
We walked along a dirt road, passing country homes and powering up a steep hill leading to a church on the very edge of town, overlooking Loja.
The road turned into a trail as it continued up the mountain, beyond more homes only accessible by foot, pack animal or dirt bike. People tending to their gardens, animals, and laundry waved at us as we hiked on.
The route morphed from remote farm fields and grassy hillsides to thick vegetation with orchids and bromeliads.
Up we went, marveling at the beautiful plants and landscape until we reached the white cross at the summit.
It seems a lot of summits around Loja have crosses on them, and people from the neighborhoods hike to them once or twice each year in a mini pilgrimage.
Everyone pulled out fruits and snacks and began passing them around, sharing a big, friendly potluck.
We sat and relaxed while everyone shot photos and videos with their smartphones. Here’s a video that one of the hikers put together:
On the way back down, we paused once again under a small tree, crowding into the shade and admiring the view of Loja while we chatted.
The Waterfall Scouting Trip
Our next adventure with LojAventura was the unofficial event—a scouting trip with the organization’s leaders to see if we could find the Zamora Huayco waterfall. We followed the trail along the river past homes and farmlands until we reached the place where the city collects its water.
From there, the thick jungle prevented further exploration by land. We hopped into the stream and sloshed onward. A couple of the guys led the way with their machetes, cutting away vines and branches impeding our progress.
We came upon several obstacles that seemed impassable at first glance, but we found our way around each of them. Our hiking companions seemed surprised that we were willing to keep going.
Then we reached a waterfall. Not THE waterfall, we surmised, but a big enough waterfall coming through a narrow enough rock canyon that without the aid of a ladder, there was no going forward.
I flipped on the GPS on my phone so that we could map our route on the way back, and discovered we had covered just over 5 kilometers from the trailhead to the mini-waterfall. From the satellite images, it does look like a bigger waterfall exists farther up. It would be fun to return with better equipment and explore more!
The Rappelling Scouting Trip
After the waterfall scouting trip, Diego invited us to scout another spot—some cliffs on the north end of town that they wanted to rappel.
In addition to great hikes and camping adventures, LojAventura also ventures into the extreme sports arena with rappelling and other activities.
It was a sunny, but very windy day that found us heading up another steep hill to the cliffs in the Carigán neighborhood.
I had my doubts as we picked our way across the ground, churned up by hundreds of thousands (millions?) of years of earthquakes and landslides.
People who build in this part of Loja struggle to keep their homes from sinking into the soft ground. We’ve seen several alarmingly lopsided buildings—some of which have been abandoned even before being completed.
On the hillside, we saw several landslides in the making—huge sections of the hill which had fractured and just needed one strong torrent to bring them down onto the road below. These events are a regular occurrence in this part of Ecuador.
The cliffs themselves were not hard rock, but rather hard dirt which crumbled at the touch.
“Are you guys sure about this?” I asked.
Once we reached the top, the guys walked back and forth for a long while, looking for potential spots to rappel from. Amazingly, they found two very well-rooted anchors to which they attached the ropes, and the first brave pioneer put on the harness and stepped off the crumbly cliff. The wind whipped up dust and gravel as he put his feet against the wall and rappelled to the ground below.
Another adventurer followed a few minutes later. Then Keith went down. I walked over to the anchor points and inspected them closely. They still held strong, and a spotter held onto the rope as well for extra security, so I decided to go for it.
I felt the dirt and gravel hit my face, lifted by the wind hitting the cliff and shooting straight up as my feet crunched at the edge of the crumbly wall. I leaned back into the wind and kicked off, sliding down the rope, reveling in the thrill of the sport and the beauty of my surroundings.
Sadly, we were unable to join LojAventura for a trip to Zapotillo at the end of January. They went to see the flowering of the Guayacanes—a once-a-year event in a special part of the Loja Province where the trees burst into blooms of flaming yellow for a week or two before the flowers fade away for the rest of the year.
The event attracts thousands of spectators, and I had hoped to be among them, but our time in Ecuador had come to an end. I can’t wait to go back and participate in more adventures with LojAventura!
If you’re interested in joining in on some adventurous outings with LojAventura, you can find them on Facebook at facebook.com/lojaventura or on their brand new website at lojaventura.com (still under construction as of this writing). Get in touch and see what kinds of adventures you can experience with the locals!
By the way, if you're thinking about a trip to Loja, why don't you pick up a copy of my Loja packing list? CLICK HERE to get it.
My husband and I are nomads, having lived in over a dozen U.S. states, plus Mexico, Antarctica, and Ecuador. I write. I recently released the 2nd edition of my 2nd book, "Live Like a Local in Loja," and I'm looking for a publisher for my third book, "Seven Years Running"--the true story of my fugitive childhood.