Mountain Biking Ecuador – photo diary
Thomas Vanderham + Scotty Laughland join us for a mountain biking Ecuador adventure
Landing into Quito, the capital city of Ecuador, I had an overriding feeling of bewilderment. It was nothing like I’d imagined, but it also reminded me of several countries at the same time… It was my first experience of mountain biking Ecuador, and South America as a whole. I had expected a chaotic and nervous arrival into its city streets, but it was neither.
The route plotted over the coming week would see us circumnavigate Quito, going both North and South and over the equator for good measure. We’d take in lush jungles, arid deserts lined by cacti, and even onto the high altitude slopes of Cotopaxi volcano. The crew assembled by H+I Adventures was an eclectic mix. Thomas Vanderham flew down from Vancouver whilst Scotty Laughland joined from Scotland, alongside a selection of their core staff both from the UK and in-country in Ecuador.
Heaven to Hell
We’d reach as high as 4800m, meaning oxygen was at a premium. With this in mind, the focus would be on gravity-orientated riding which none of us sniffed at. To shake off the jet lag we started with a spin through the eucalyptus forests surrounding Quito, before an evening pump track session at H+I guide José’s house. We’d then kick things off true and proper for our mountain biking Ecuador the next morning.
First up was Infernillo, or “Little Hell” as it’s known, thanks to the abundant mosquito population. In truth, it was more heaven-like.
“We were marooned in the green jungle on a ribbon of ancient Inca trail lined by lush vegetation, the powdery volcanic surface hidden deep within a gulley that encouraged and rewarded playful riding.”
In contrast to the green of the opening day, we then made our way to the dust bowl of Chota, a popular moto enduro spot that happens to be just as good without an engine. Having rattled through whoops and roosted through axle-deep dust, both Scotty and Thomas got a little too close to the cactus lining the side of the trails and spent the afternoon removing the thorns from their hands and tyres.
The diverse terrain of Ecuador was unbelievable. We were now standing three-quarters of the way up Cotopaxi, staring down at an untouched ashfield which we had the pleasure of surfing and carving down. That wasn’t even the best bit…Cotopaxi had one last unexpected treat for us in the form of “Heaven’s Ridge”, a narrow strip of trail lined with blue and red flowers which was firmly thrust into all of our ‘best trails ever’ list.
The following day was spent traversing the flanks of Cotopaxi to her opposite side, ending up three hours from civilisation at a remote hacienda called El Tambo. We’d get to experience a traditional chagra cowboy at work as he rounded up cattle, and went about his daily life on the ranch which was a joy to watch.
After watching the world awaken around Cotopaxi, we began to make our way back to Quito via the stunning Quilotoa Lagoon, riding around the rim of the volcanic crater filled with inviting, turquoise blue waters. It’s a relaxed end to proceedings before we pack up the van and head for the airport and the subsequent lengthy flight home.
I didn’t know what to expect before arriving in Ecuador, but after a week travelling through a small portion of its countryside and meeting the enthusiastic and welcoming locals, it began to paint a much brighter picture. It was some of the most diverse riding that you could imagine, from lush jungles, to arid deserts and volcanic slopes. The trails are up there with the best and shouldn’t be overlooked, especially if you’re keen on heading to South America with your bike…Chile, Peru, or Argentina might be more “fashionable’ or mainstream, but it’s mountain biking Ecuador that should be top of your list.