March, 2013: Wayne’s post –
What a great trip!! Hiking and biking 3 incredible volcanoes in the heart of the Andes of Ecuador.
First, we (Tony, Michelle, Bill and I) endured a long 8 hour bus ride and arrived at Latacunga where we spent the night. The next morning we got a ride to the entrance of Cotopaxi park and met up with our group organized by Biking Dutchman. The rest of the group were youngsters; a couple from Montreal, a guy from Singapore, and a couple of Brits. Our guide was Alberto and 2 drivers for the vehicles which hauled us around with our bikes on top.
After about an hour ride up the volcano we arrived at the end of the road. Though we were close to the snow we couldn’t see much – it was foggy, cold, windy and sleeting. We quickly put on as much clothes as possible and jumped on our biked to start the descent. Fortunately, the further down we went the warmer it became and the more we could see of the beautiful landscape. We rode for 3 to 4 hours mostly downhill on dirt trails and roads on our very nice mountain bikes. At the end of the ride, we were hauled to Quilatoa, a small indigenous village at about 1300 feet. It was cold there but we stayed in a beautiful lodge that had wood stoves in our bedrooms as well as the lobby. I remember being frustrated at my inability to sleep well but I later realized that it was from the altitude.
The next morning, we hiked down to the Quilatoa lake which was at the bottom of an extinct volcano crater. It is incredibly beautiful. Tony and I took a nice kayak ride. After a good work-out to hike back up, we got on our bikes and rode to Zumbahua where we had lunch. Then, we were shuttled to what seemed the middle of nowhere where we started biking downhill on a dirt road that had spectacular view of the valley and Cotopaxi in the distance. Later that afternoon, our descent ended in the valley at Saquisili.
Our third and last day, we left our hotel in Riobamba and headed for Chimborazo volcano, the country’s tallest mountain at 20,700 feet. We hiked up 200 meters in elevation from the 1st refuge to the 2nd refuge, where those that attempt the summit depart from in the middle of the night. Here, we were at 5000 meters, about 1650 feet and the views were amazing. The nicest bike ride of the trip was in the afternoon – about 60 kilometers down to Ambato. As the younger Europeans raced by I was trailing the pack taking in as much of the beautiful scenery as possible.
That night, the Cuencano gringos (including myself) decided to stay the night in a nice hotel in Ambato and relax before taking the 7 hour bus ride home the next day. Soaking in the Jacuzzi was a perfect way to end our very satisfying biking and hiking trip in the heart of the Ecuadorian Andes.