If that looks to you like a precarious trail along the top of a ridge, it is. This is the Izhcayluma Hike in Vilcabamba, Ecuador.
As I mentioned in my review of Hosteria Izhcayluma , one of the things we enjoyed most about this hostel was how the owners made it easy for their guests to get out and enjoy the surrounding countryside with hikes, walks and horseback tours.
There are five marked hikes to choose from for which the Hosteria owners provide maps and trail descriptions. We chose the Izhcayluma trail as one which seemed not-too-easy and not-too-difficult and would give us some preparation for the Dead Woman’s Pass section of the Machu Picchu trail (which we’ll be doing in October). The time estimate for this trail is five hours. Walking at a 10-year-old’s pace, we found the trail a little more difficult than it’s moderate rating but we completed it in three and a half hours.
The initial part of this trail follows a paved road uphill. After crossing over the main road and scrambling up a 2-foot ridge onto the next section of the trail, you follow an old wall uphill and towards the ridgeline section of the hike. Taking this hike this turned out to be a very good call as preparation for Machu Picchu, since the ridgeline is indeed an extremely narrow trail – sometimes with huge gusts of wind blowing through. I thought things would improve once we started descending but no, the trail doesn’t broaden again until you’re back down from the mountain. The last part of the hike is mostly flat and tree-shaded following a river bed.
It took quite a bit of convincing to keep BigB going on this hike. He has a little vertigo so the ridge section was scary for him – especially the parts where the trail drops away completely and you have to jump over a foot-long gap in the trail on the top of the mountain. That said, we had long chats about why we’re traveling and why we like to hike among other things. It may seem a little extreme, but sometimes it helps to get way off the map in order to be closer to those we love.