Mountain biking guide to Ecuador
An Ecuador tour diary, by Mountain biking guide to Ecuador Jorge Pérez, H+I Adventures local guide
Our Ecuadorian mountain biking adventure starts in Quito, in the heart of the Andes at 2,800m above sea level. Waiting for a new group to arrive is, in itself, part of the tour for me because it gives me the chance to pause and re-discover the beauty of Quito, which was declared by UNESCO as the first World Heritage Site. After a short time people- watching, our new clients arrive, laden with bikes and baggage, and ready to hit the trails!
First thing’s first, though, and we enjoy some local cuisine before building bikes and picking up last-minute biking kit for the week ahead. It would be a real shame not to take in some of the culture of Quito before we get into the saddle, so we spend an hour or so enjoying the sights and sounds of the old town. Then it’s time to turn the pedals and get used to the altitude, so we go for a ride in el Parque Metropolitano, right here in the city, which stretches travel-weary legs and whets the group’s appetite for more.
The following day we take an uplift to the top of some of the most amazing downhill trails around Quito. We’re surrounded by volcanoes and at every turn there’s a great view – which can sometimes catch you out when you’re whooping down singletrack descents! Everyone arrives safely at the bottom, grinning from ear-to-ear and comparing favourite sections, so I guess they enjoyed it.
After another superb lunch we travel north to the Ibarra area, stopping en-route to explore Otavalo Market, one of the most famous and colourful indigenous markets in Ecuador. In the evening we chill out with some beers at El Chota Valley, enjoying the warm dry weather and recounting tales from the trails.
We spend the next two days riding the incredible singletrack, challenging climbs, and mouth-watering descents in and around El Chota Valley and through Andean desert. We ride from the Paramo (highlands) at 3,600m, on ancient Inca trails that take us all the way down to Ibarra city at 2,000m above sea level.
After enjoying the night life of Ibarra we turn in to get some rest before our next ride, into the mouth of a volcano and cloud forest. This ride is known as ‘Infernillo’ or ‘Little Hell,’ but for us mountain bikers it’s just heaven. We start with a tantalisingly good singletrack trail into the mouth of Pululuhua volcano at 2,800m, then down from the Andes into the cloud forest – an amazing change in scenery that has to be experienced to be believed.
At the end of our ride we head to an incredible Andean Hacienda, close to Cotopaxi, the highest active volcano in the world.
On Cotopaxi we spend the day shuttling up to 4,800m and descending on superb trails to 3,900m, enjoying the variety of different descents that this fantastic snow- capped volcano has to offer. This steep terrain is made up of volcanic ash, sand, large boulders, and petrified lava, which make for very interesting mountain biking!
The following day it’s definitely time to give the legs a bit of a rest, so we spend the day experiencing the life of the ‘Chagras’, Andean cowboys, and do some horse riding to the slopes of Ruminuhui volcano. Before returning to our hacienda we take time to plant some native trees and give something back to Pachamama.
Our penultimate day on the bike is a beautiful cross- country route that takes us between ancient Pucaras, look-out points used by the Incas to spot approaching danger. At the end of our high altitude adventure we’re delighted to take advantage of the natural hot springs at Papallacta – bliss!
On our final day we enjoy a fantastic trail, full of switchbacks, that weaves through Andean forest, then out into the open and along trails linking traditional working haciendas. We transfer back to Quito in the afternoon to pack our bikes, buy gifts for the family, then have our final celebratory dinner before waving farewell to Ecuador the next morning. Hasta luego amigos!
Join mountain biking guide to Ecuador Jorge this year to experience mountain biking in Ecuador for yourself.
[Photos courtesy Stefan Neuhauser]