February 2, 2008

Loja's Abandoned Gondola Castles
Loja, Ecuador

Sauntering around the southern edge of Loja with no particular objective in mind, I happened across a park that sported a structure that looked like it would offer up some good views of the cities (as I'd had to climb a bit to reach the recreational area itself).

Walking around the perimeter of the castle-like structure, I was rather baffled at its purpose. Two large openings gazed out onto a sunken fĂștbol field of dirt, while a large, horizontally orientated metal wheel sat in the center of the main chamber.

The interior walls of the building were heavy with graffiti and dangling wires from exposed outlets. Rusting pieces of metal were strewn about the floor without care. Two teenage girls were scampering about.

I climbed two flights of stairs to the roof and found the matching boyfriends. The view of greater Loja enjoyable—a nice make out spot, for sure.

Back on ground level, I spent more time looking at the giant wheel. The only thing that really came to mind was part of the mechanism that rotated the cable for a hanging gondola car, or ski lift.

Peering up the forested hill, I saw a tower that resembled more of a cell phone repeater than what I thought of as a cable support, but my curiously was peaked, and needed to investigate further.

Castle atop a hill

I kept walking out of town to get a better glimpse of the hill. Not long after the road turned to dirt I was able to get a clear view up the large hill I was climbing—there was some type of castle and turret at the top. Three additional metal towers made a clear line towards matching openings in the castle wall—it was a lift (minus the cars and cable).

Mindful of snakes on the dirt trail I was walking, I reached the hill's apex after 15-20 minutes. I'd noticed movement on the turret as I was climbing, and kept my guard up as I stealthy ascended the circular stairs of the structure.

I saw the feet of a woman begin to climb down the stairs, and I made a little noise and positioned myself so that I wouldn't scare her as she descended (with her man in tow). Neither returned my friendly greeting.

Judging from the dates on the graffiti in the tower, the building had been without maintenance for at least two or three years. Light sockets were rusted, wires exposed, but all the glass was surprisingly intact.

The top of the turret offered up an absolutely amazing view of Loja. The quaint city is nestled in the foothills in a way that reminds me of a mini version of Ecuador's capital (Quito), Colombia's MedellĂ­n, or my old university town of Ashland, Oregon.

I've never tried taking a panoramic photo before, but now that I've got Photoshop on demand and evenings to myself, I figured I'd give it a shot. The results are pretty spiffy:

Out of the tower and over at the "castle", I found the front door locked up tight, but some… (ahem)… gentle persuasion with the back door found me inside the structure.

It was clear that none ever came inside the castle, as it was in absolute perfect condition—not a spot of graffiti on the walls, not a vagrant in sight. Again, the glass windows were intact, which was a surprise.

Upstairs, a matching giant wheel was found, waiting to rotate a steel cable.

The size of the gondola room was impressive, especially given the emptiness of the room. The building itself is really quite nice—perhaps so much so that the project ran out of money in the final phase of construction.

I can only speculate as to why such a lovely attraction was abandoned before completion, but exploring it will certainly be one of the highlights of my visit here.

Comments:

Eric

February 5th, 2008

The panoramic photo was pretty cool. I've seen a few times people take multiple photos of a landscape from a tripod, each photo a little more to the right, then photo shop all the photos together to make a 360 panoramic view of what they were looking at. Turns out really cool if the photos are taken correctly.

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