Besides being a pretty great place to retire, Ecuador is known as an adventurer’s playground. This small country runs the range from coastal beaches to Andean mountains, from Amazon jungle to the wonder of the Galapagos.
I am not the least bit adventurous; my thrill-seeking gene is switched to “morning in coffee shop.” Every now and then, I engage in vigorous debate, but I draw the line there. I don’t paraglide, ride ziplines, go on safari, or do any of that stuff. I have always sought a physically peaceful life so that my mind is free to wander whatever exciting intellectual path it desires.
So, what the hell am I doing here?
That’s me and author (and good friend) Scarlett Braden about a hundred feet above ground on a rickety cable bridge near El Chorro de Giron (the waterfall of Giron – pronounced “heerown”). My wife, Lee, is nearer the end of the bridge to the right of the picture. Another friend took this photo from the foot of the waterfall (more on that later).
What were we thinking?
The husband and wife team of Sole Riquetti de Gould and Jim Gould own the restaurant and shop known as La Yunta just outside Cuenca, Ecuador. They also host very reasonably-priced tours of local attractions. So when Lee asked if I’d like to spend a Friday on a La Yunta tour to the Giron waterfall and area, I surprised us both and agreed. We’ve lived an hour away from this well-known attraction for five years and haven’t made it there yet. (There’s that adventurous spirit I was talking about.)
After a lovely breakfast at La Yunta, about twenty of us hopped a small bus for the thirty-minute drive to Giron. A winding mountain road and a short, easy, ten-minute hike brought us, at last, to this spectacular view:
The lower part of the waterfall (pictured above) is about 60 meters (around 200 feet) high. We didn’t do the more strenuous five-mile walk to the upper falls and back, but you can read more here, if you’re interested in that beautiful and spectacular hike.
El Chorro is pretty amazing but doesn’t it look even more interesting what this fellow (in the red jacket) is doing?
This bridge is made of two strong cables with aluminum ladder steps strung between them. The hand-guide cables at shoulder height on either side provide a much-needed handhold and you clip the two safety harnesses there. Apart from being about a hundred feet over the rocky center of the ravine below, it didn’t look two bad. Somehow, the three of us (myself, Lee, and Scarlett) managed to convince ourselves this would be fun and safe.
So we stepped into the safety harness, put on gloves (to better secure our grip on the slippery guide cables) and set out on the swaying steps behind our trusty guide. Lee went first, then Scarlett, and I brought up the rear. There would be no turning back.
Lee and I practice Tai Chi (Chen style) and we felt confident we could keep our balance as we smoothly made our way across. Hah! Less than ten steps in, we came to the first set of wires running down from the cable to the stepping cable. You had to unclip one safety wire on one side of the vertical cable and reconnect it to the guide cable a few inches along. First the right side, then the left. Or the other way around. All while trying to keep your feet firmly anchored on the small step, and while trying not to add to much to the unsteady shaking of the entire bridge.
We managed to slowly (and carefully) work our way across the bridge, unclipping and clipping our safety harnesses four times. And then we reached our, “Wait…what?!!” moment.
Ecuador is not always known for its excellent planning, but it is known for running out of money in the middle of projects. So when the space between steps started getting longer (stretching from two feet to five feet), we started getting worried. Look ahead of Scarlett. Notice the complete lack of steps with about ten feet to go to the end of the bridge. How is one supposed to manage that?
Never let it be said that authors cannot handle a plot twist.
Lee had already made it to the end of the bridge (where she took the above photo and the video below), so we knew it was doable. The solution was obvious. When there’s only one step you can reasonably take, you take it. Here’s Scarlett navigating the last few meters of the bridge, while I
laugh heartily behind her hold the cables steady.
Just a reminder that we were still a long way up. Here’s an image we took from over by the waterfall, itself. Those little white dots about a quarter-way down from the top of the photo were what we walked across. (I circled them in red.)
Here’s a zoomed-in image.
But Lee and the guide were at the end (no exit ramp) to help us off the bridge.
I even got a laugh out of the guide when I told him (in my broken Spanish) that we had to stop at the waterfall for a few minutes to wash out our pants.
After a brief scrabble along a muddy trail through the woods, we reached the bottom of the falls and Lee and Scarlett shared a celebratory hug. We survived!
You may have noticed earlier the wooden walkway going to the falls and wondered, “Why didn’t they just take that way?” All I can say is, “Where’s the adventure in that?”
I hope you enjoyed our little adventure as much as we did…because we won’t be repeating that any time soon.
Please share with your friends. Maybe it’ll encourage us to do more crazy things in the future.
Until next time – Paul