When we purchased the Rio Uchima property in 2008, there was already a road from the river (Q2) to the old house on Q4. This road has been in place for 5 years. It was showing problems in several places mainly due to the fact that there was no surface material and that there were neither rain water gullies nor culverts. This is common in Ecuador and because of the heavy rainfalls in the winter season, water tends to accumulate and turn into rivers in the middle of the roads, causing a great deal of damage very rapidly.

Our first job, which is now complete, was to repair and upgrade the existing road in the following ways:

  • widen by 1 meter to allow space for water gullies
  • excavate water gullies 
  • enhance many curves that were too sharp
  • finish with all weather surface material (lastre)
  • compact

Then, we created a new eastern road to join Q2 with Q6 and Q7 on the eastern side. This road which is now finished is shown below:

There was a quite extensive network of walking trails on the property although they were in very poor conditions.

Three of these trails have been used to provide car access:

  • one to the west to connect the existing road to Q3c
  • one to the east to connect the existing road to Q14
  • one to the east to connect the existing road to Q17

One important aspect of the Uchima project is that it is ecological. Roads can be extremely destructive of the environment. We have decided from the beginning to keep roadwork reasonable to preserve the natural beauty of this property (*).

This means for example that :

  • road width is suitable for single vehicle only with passing areas
  • roads are unsealed
  • the gradients are steep but still comfortable
  • the roads are suitable only for certain types of cars (pickups and jeep) and for small trucks

More info on this can be found on the next page (or click on the Specs tab above)

We have only used a small machine called a "backhoe" or in Spanish "retroexcavadora" shown below. This kind of converted "tractor" is very common here and has the following advantages and disadvantages:

  • It is small and works rather slow but it is cheap per hour
  • Most importantly, it does not cause anywhere as much damage as big caterpillar machines particularly the falling of trees just to "make space" for it to get to the job
  • It has tires and because of that, excellent compaction of the road can be achieved. Caterpillars have a tendency to loosen or even destroy the road particularly in sharp bends
  • Because of the tires, it can be used to carry material up and down the mountain (using the big bucket at the front). Every trip up and down contributes to compacting the road further which is a bonus.

For the road to Q14 we also contracted a chainsaw operator who worked ahead of the machine cutting down the small trees that had to be removed. We found that this way the machine does not have to push trees aside causing damage to other trees. Also by preserving the root structures of some trees and or by only cutting some branches of trees but not others the banks remain stable. The end result is a lot cleaner.

Great care has been taken to preserve natural water channels and to manage storm water in a way that does not cause land erosion and future land slides. The 2008/209 winter was particularly wet and the entire region has been hurt with serious landslides cutting Vilcabamba off from the rest of the world at times.

Daniel Gortaire explaining how we want to cut the bank

Make the road a bit wider to allow storm water gullies

Discussing the work

The surface material "lastre" taken from the local quarry in San Pedro

Example of the road as it was when we purchased the property

Finished road with storm water channel on the right and lastre

(*) People also say with great wisdom that we are dealing with a mountain and if we do not respect the mountain we will have to deal with the consequences which can be dire. We need to show great respect , never move more earth than strictly necessary and pay great attention not to disturb existing natural water ways (surface and