GPS Track Details
Difficulty: 2/5 - Easy
Track length: 397.6 Kilometers
Total Ascent: 9678 Meters
Total Descent: 9666 Meters

G-1.0  Loop Vilca–Gonzanama-Cariamanga-Macara-Catacocha-Vilca 396 km

Distance         396 km             

Time               2–3 Days

Altitude          445 m – 2578 m

Ascent            11’030 m

Descent          11’020 m

Rating             Easy

Start               Vilcabamba bus terminal

End                 Vilcabamba bus terminal

This Loop along newly upgraded highways, where the paint of the road markings is hardly dry, is a bikers dream. Never gets boring with permanently changing Landscapes. The balanced curves are designed for enjoyable speeds.   

 Route:           From the Vilcabamba Bus terminal, follow the highway north to Malacatos. Turn left at the second traffic light in Malacatos on to the highway leading to Tambo-Catamayo. Seven k’s out of Malacatos, you get to the San Jose intersection. If you like gravel roads, you can take this shortcut to the left via Purunuma to Gonzanama. Otherwise, follow the sealed highway via La Merced, la Era, El Tambo to Catamayito, the Intersection that joins the road connecting Catamayo to Gonzanama, which you reach after 36 k’s on this road. Another 26 k’s later you get to the town of Cariamanga, easily recognized by the Cerro Ahuaca landmark, that round topped hill towering high above the town. Crossing town is somewhat like getting out of a labyrinth. For the next 26 K’s the road climbs from Cariamanga’s 1935 m.a.s.l.  to 2575 m.a.s.l.,  the highest point on this trip. From this point, the highway drops that evenly, you could descend the next 20 k’s by pure gravity to the roundabout of Sozoranga town. The highway bypasses the little town. If you like to have a look at Sozoranga, you have to descend the 500 meters from the roundabout.

From Sozoranga it’s another 1000 meter elevation drop on this brand new road to the rice fields of the Macara plain. Just six kilometers short of Macara town, you pass the entrance to the Reserva Jorupe, which belongs to the Jocotoco foundation, which unites 12 different reserves:

Macara is a laid back border town with Peru. The unused Airport lies just a stone throw away from the town square and divides the town in two. At this halfway point of the loop, cheap accommodation is available and offers also a small variety of restaurants. The one who likes to extend the loop, there is a neglected street parallel to the border, going west and reaching another border town, Zapotillo after 58 kilometers. Our loop is heading on the Panamericana Sur north east, climbing a little pass, before dropping into the Rio Catamayo valley. Near the hamlet of el Batam is the intersection where the road to Celica branches away. 20 k’s later, the Panamericana swerves east, and after crossing the Rio Playas climbs in serpentines to the Catacocha town, another possible overnight stop. Catacocha, due to its efforts to preserve the historic character of town, has been declared a cultural heritage town of Ecuador. One of the attractions of town is the lookout “Cerro Shiriculapo” with the figure of “Jesús del Gran Poder” on top of a rock above a 150 meter vertical drop, a magnet to people who want to commit suicide.

Leaving town, soon the eye is catching the cone shaped Cerro Tarimbo. 17 k’s from Catacocha, at the Hamlet of Veracruz, our “Panamaricana Sur” is hitting the coastal road leading west to Machalla. Driving east, the highway follows mostly a ridgeline with spectacular views on both sides, before dropping down in serpentines to the little town of San Pedro de Bendita, the turnoff point to the Pilgrim town of El Cisne. From San Pedro, the Highway drops another 12 K’s to the airport town of Catamayo. 5 K’s south from Catamayo, past the airport, we find the turnoff to the Tambo-Malacatos road, closing the loop we started a day or two earlier.




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