TAMBO: Where the road ends and another world begins

09/Julio/2012 | 10:55


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“When you get here, the road ends.  Period.”

Juan Fernando Perez is not exaggerating as he surveys the great expansive valley just south of  Cotopaxi National Park. He says it is called the Vicious Valley.  There is one way in and one way out.   The scene is unfathomable unless you are standing in the middle of it.

Glacier-capped, Cotopaxi Volcano and the barren, Quilindaña Volcano border the valley on two sides, with lesser, but still intimidating elevations all around. 

Though Juan Fernando says, “There are days when it is completely clear and it is spectacular,” this time of year it is often dreary. But, it is  still spectacular. 

Only 50 km into the park, the seasons seem reversed.  Summer time in Quito, which sits 700 meters lower and a couple of hours north, seems to be winter time here.

Somewhere off in the mist beyond the peaks, the earth slopes downward to where another world begins. 

Juan Fernando points to eastern ridges, “The Amazon is there, behind.”   But the cold conditions make the tropical rainforest on the other side also unfathomable, because we are not there.  We are here, on a different plane.  This is Tambo.


Hacienda Tambo is 4,000 hectares carved out of the Andean highlands and part of Tierra del Volcan, a tour operator that coordinates visits to their three haciendas: Tambo, Porvenir, and Santa Rita, all in the Cotopaxi region.

Of the three haciendas, Tambo is the largest and the most isolated.  All three were once part of the same large area known as Pedregal centuries ago. 

“In this area they had the farm of the four corners: Quilindaña, Ruminhaui, Pasachoa and Sincholagua,” explains Jorge Perez, owner and manager of Tierra del Volcan and Juan Fernando’s son. 

“They” refers to the Jesuits, the first ones to claim title to the immense area that is now one of Ecuador's largest national parks.  And the four corners are the other volcanoes in the area, which used to delineate the enormous hacienda of the Jesuits.

The word “tambo” means lodging or inn, and though the hacienda house - a stone bulwark with a thatched roof - appears primitive, it offers a welcome respite from the raw weather of the Andean highlands.

The Tambo house  sits elevated, above the corrals, which are empty all but a few days of the year when they are used during the cattle drives to move herds from one part of the hacienda to another. 

Clustered nearby are traditional “chozas” or Andean huts inhabited by some of the workers – one room constructions made with an earthen base and straw roof.

Hacienda Tambo has been in the Perez family for 99 years but documentation and physical evidence show that the house existed when the Jesuits arrived at the end of the 16th century - a construction abandoned decades earlier by the Incas.

When Juan Fernando took over the hacienda from his father-in-law in the 1980s the property had been neglected for many years.   Only the base and one wall of the house were left. “Everything was in ruins,” he says.

Upon close examination he discovered that though no house remained, the elements were still present.  He found the original stones in the corrals.  “I said this is a barbarity.  How is it that the Incan stones of Tambo are in the corral?  So, with my own 4x4 I took them back up.”  He reconstructed the house, expanding it and making other modifications to suit the family.

Today it is still rustic by any measure. Two chimneys provide a source of heat, electricity is available by way of a generator in the evenings, and portable natural gas tanks offer hot water.  It is a place that appeals to those who are adventurous both in spirit and practice.



When the Perez family decided to open it to tourists they recognized that it would appeal to a certain niche – the adventure tourist, to whom the great outdoors and the local “chagra,” or cowboy culture, are attractive.  

Tambo is the premier place to experience authentic, chagra life.   Tourists not only can horseback ride but participate in cattle drives and have a genuine encounter with rural, Andean life. And the Perez family has augmented their adventure offerings with  mountain biking, trekking, climbing, and fishing.

Though an experience at Tambo offers adventure, surprisingly it also attracts the not-so-adventurous types as well.  Maria Jose Andrade, Director of Sales and Marketing for Tierra del Volcan, says another group has discovered the value of Tambo: city folks.

 “We have groups, that are usually businessmen and people that are looking for something distinct, with no connections, no pollution.”, she says.  Tambo, because of its isolation (there is no cell phone coverage and no Internet), offers something the other two haciendas cannot quite match.

“There are people who come to disconnect and reconnect with their families…It is very good because it gives you good opportunities for family bonding.”

Tambo offers families a chance to relax, without distractions.   Simple pleasures, like trekking, visiting the river, or simply playing with the hacienda dogs appeal to many, including young children.

And every night Tambo hosts a barbeque.  The fire, hot drinks, marshmallows, and the chagra, campfire songs offer warmth not often found in more refined lodgings.

Juan Fernando says  those who discover Tambo  will find it is like few other places they have ever known.  “There are people who feel these things and there are people who don’t.  There is a strong energy here - the energy of the earth.  Here is the best sky in the world when the sky is clear.  It is like you are much closer.  The stars are closer, the moon is closer…it is a magical place.”

This is what you find at the Tambo at the end of the road.

To visit Hacienda Tambo contact Tierra del Volcan, www.tierradelvolcan.com.   Call the offices at 2-600-9533 or 094-980-121 or write to  [email protected].  Overnight stays at Tambo are $39 per person plus taxes.  An additional $6 conservation fee is charged to care for the environment.  Breakfast and dinner are included.


Ciudad Quito

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lbrashear - en Diario HOY - Noticias de Ecuador.