Podocarpus National Park

From Loja we decided to take a trip toΒ Podocarpus National Park – our first national park in Ecuador πŸ™‚

Podocarpus National Park is not only pretty big, but is also a park with a huge altitude range, and therefore is considered to have huge diversity in the range of plants and animals that you find within the park’s limits…

From Loja you visit the ‘Cajanuma Sector’ – this is the highland sector of the park.- to get to the lowlands sector you need to access the park from Zamora – and we were planning on heading there after our time in Loja πŸ™‚

To get to the park from Loja was pretty straightforward – we caught the bus headng to Vilcabamba, which stopped at the park entrance πŸ™‚

We’ve arrived!

When we got off the bus we registered with the park ranger and chatted for a bit as he told us about the walks in the park… and the walk to the park itself!

Unfortunately when you arrive at the ranger station after a nice easy bus ride from Loja, you are not exactly inside the national park… in fact you are EIGHT KILOMETERS from the park itself… so before you can actually start walking any of the trails inside the park, you need to hike 8kms!!! Some people have been surprised by this on their arrival – BUT not us – we’d read up on the park and were prepared for the 8km hike πŸ™‚

However, we started to get excited about the 8km walk after talking to the ranger – apparently Andean Spectacled Bears had previously been spotted around kilometer 6 of the 8km walk… okay so we didn’t want to get our hopes up – but at least it would give us something to look out for as we strolled along the road towards the park…

The stroll along the road towards the park far exceeded my expectations – with views of green rolling hills, cloud shrouding over the valley, and then views of cloud forest and glimpses of the town of Loja as we got higher – it was pretty stunning πŸ™‚

The view from the road as we pass through farmland.
CC on her way to Podocarpus National Park.
Looking down the valley.
A second view down the valley.

Still outside the park boundary, we caught sight of our first new exciting colourful bird πŸ™‚

A Turquoise Jay.

5kms later we were in the park… and although we were still 1km away from the place where Andean Spectacled Bears had been seen, we started looking out for them anyway… the search only intensified when we reached Km 6!

We’re in the park!
PB in Podocarpus National Park.
A view of the cloud forest.
PB looking for andean spectacled bears…
More views of the park on the walk in.
It might not be a bear, BUT this butterfly caught my attention nonetheless.
The start of the trails is in sight…

There are three trails that are pretty easy to walk once you’re in the park… the first is the trail to the mirador (viewpoint). It was a pretty scenic trail through cloud forest, to the dizzy heights of 2,900m above sealevel.

The ‘mirador’ trail.
The vegetation on the trail is pretty cool πŸ™‚
PB enjoys the uphill climb to the viewpoint.
The view at the top is pretty nice.
CC has made it to the highest point of the trail!
PB at the mirador.
The trail carries on… but unfortunately we’ve left it a little late in the day to complete the loop – so we dutifully turn back and retrace our steps.

On the way down from the mirador we took in the two short side trails… both were pretty pleasant walks through the cloud forest – but neither could beat the mirador walk…

PB on the trail.

Back at the admin centre we ate our picnic lunch before starting the 8km walk back to the road… still hopeful that we would see an andean spectacled bear… or at least a few more cool birds πŸ™‚

A cool plant we spotted on the way home…
PB on the long walk back to the main road!
A bearded guan.
The clouds are closing in.
Exiting the park… only 5km to go to the main road!

We might not have seen an andean spectacled bear πŸ™ BUT nonetheless we really enjoyed our trip to Podocarpus National Park, and were looking forward to checking out the lowland section from Zamora.

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