Ecuador: Trans Ecuador and rich dirt veins

Whilst Peru brazenly lays its wares out to bear, offering a dizzying array of dirt roads through high Andean country, by contrast Ecuador has a girl next door charm.

Shy and difficult to get to know at first but scratch beneath the surface, dig a little deeper and you will find a country as equally beguilling. A rich vein of dirt coursing through the Central Highlands and in to the country’s volcanic corridor.

With compadre Cass back on South American soil, a plan is hatched to join him and the Ecuadorian based Dammer brothers as they team up to piece together a route spanning the length of the country on lesser travelled singletrack and historic routes high up in the Paramo dubbed ‘Trans Ecuador’.

Arriving early on a Tuesday amidst Guamote’s thriving market, I wander amongst the throng of local Andean villagers who have come to do their weekly shopping, everything from a humble mango to sheep are on offer.

Meeting the the Trans Ecuadorian crew, the first thing that comes to mind is food. The ubiqutious staple of chicken and rice gives myself, Cass and the brothers chance to acquaint ourselves and catch up.

Farmers, Climbers, Mountain Guides and avid Bikepackers the brother’s enthusiasm is immediately obvious. Over the coming days their warmth and kindness comes to shine through as we form a tight knit group, cooking, eating, riding and laughing together.

Like any good adventure Trans Ecuador leaves a lasting impression a rough and rugged DIY adventure shared amongst friends old and new. A tough uncompromising route, and the unique riding style of the high paramo, Trans Ecuador leaves a lasting impression.

Mijael & Matthias: Surly Pugsley & Surly Krampus

Michael & Matthias

Thomas: Salsa El Mariachi

Thomas

Farmers by trade the brothers are used to early morning starts. 7.30am mist and cloud hang in the air.

Morning

Climbing up in to the Paramo, a patchwork of fields and lingering clouds in the valley.

Cloud inversions

Big country riding.

Big Valleys

A suprise Andean lunch. Trout, savoured as we sit out passing rain showers.

Trout

Ecuador: land of helter skelter style roads.

Climbs

The following day a big hike-a-bikes take us over 4,000m. A seemingly never ending series of ridgelines follow one another.

Ridges

Rocky ridgelines interspersed with narrow muddy trails, make for tortously slow going. Unaccustomed to the riding style I lag behind as the brothers power off in to the distance.

Valleys

Camping high up, we are rewarded with a beautiful morning sunrise and cloud inversion.

Cloud Inversion

A grumbling camera refusing to turn on and an equally unhappy stomach make for a long day as we join the Inca trail and head for the town of Ingapirca.

Empty valleys

Feeling no better the following morning I leave the guys to continue southwards.

Dirt Veins

A hop, skip and a jump by bus back to Cuenca to recover for a few days, I once again to return to Guamote by bus precisely a week later to begin my journey north.

Quiet dirt roads take me around the flanks of Volcan Chimborazo (6268 m).

Climb to Chimborazo

Dirt roads cut through the tussocks.

Trails

Climbing higher up the flanks of Chimborazo vicunas graze on the land.

Vicuna

Chimborazo. Permacloud shifts long enough for me to catch the merest of glimpses.
Chimborazo

Putting Chimborazo behind me, a beautiful back road takes me down to the town of Salinas. In recent history Salinas has redeveloped itself from another gloomy Andean town relying heavily on subsistence farming to a set of thriving cooperatives producing cheese, chocolate and textiles with it bringing additional tourism.

Rio Salinas

With tourism comes gringos and I spend my one year anniversary of cycling in south america with fellow travellers and a healthy dose of red wine. Leaving Salinas the following morning with a slightly foggy head, the weather sympathises enshrouding me in cloud for the rest of the day.

Cloud

Climbing higher lush green valleys are revealed.

Lifting

As ever the high Andean landscapes breath taking, patchwork fields above Angamarca.

Angamarca

Zumbahua

Zumbahua

The Pugs and the Quilatoa Lake. Ditching the bike I scoot around the crater’s rim by foot before continuing.

Quilatoa

Before dropping down in to the Toachi Gorge, bound for Isinlivi.

Toachi Gorge

Ecuador has a variety of higher end accomodation options, nearing the end of my trip I decide to treat myself at Llumu Llama.

Llumu Llama

Set in an old farmhouse, with bare wood floors and open fire its the antithesis my usual lodgings. The breakfast and views arent bad either.

Breakfast

Flowers.

Flowers

Soon descending to Tocasco and the Panamerican highway.

Tocaso

Briefly crossing the Panamerican I take tree lined forest roads, as Cotopaxi comes in to view.

Cotapaxi

Descending too low, morning mud awaits me as I retrace the previous evenings descent.

Mud

Following vague trails, I’m temporarily lost as my GPS runs out of battery. Empty valleys….was it this one?

Valley

Grasses.

Grasses

Reaching Hacienda El Tambo, I begin following broader trails.

Gloom

Amongst the gloom Cotopaxi’s glacier extends beneath the cloud, as I ride toward the northern exit.

Cloud

Fine Ecuadorian cobbles taking me to Tumbaco on the outskirts of Quito and the Casa De Cicilistas.

Thanks

A special thanks goes to everyone at Cikla (Cuenca) for their help sourcing a new tyre for me, and the use of their workshop.

To Santiago Lara and family at the Casa De Ciclistas in Tumbaco for their kindness and hospitality.

Route

Guamote – Colta – San Juan – Chimborazo – Salinas – Simiatug – Angamarca – Zumbahahua – Quilatoa – Isinlivi – Tocaso – Saquisilli – Cotopaxi – Tumbaco

8 Comments

  1. paul g
    28/02/2015

    Great stuff mike, brings back some good memories; names like Angamarca and Isinlivi ring bells, but even now I can scarcely remember where they were…!

    Cheers

    Paul

    Reply
    • Mike
      01/03/2015

      Hey Paul

      Maybe its your age catching up with you 😉

      I have got to admit I am the same with some parts of my trip. Especially the northern Argentina drag.

      Hope to see some great images of Patagonia from you soon!

  2. Grace J.
    01/03/2015

    Some really great images!

    Reply
    • Mike
      01/03/2015

      Thanks Grace!

  3. Sean McKinnon
    11/03/2015

    I am enjoying your adventure. Thanks you for sharing.
    Best wishes
    Sean

    Reply
  4. Cass
    14/03/2015

    Awesome pics Mike! Makes me want to get out there and do it all again. Oh, those rose-tinted glasses…

    Reply
  5. Nicholas Carman
    23/03/2015

    Beautiful images. I can’t believe you pushed and rode that bike up some of those ridges!

    Reply
    • Mike
      25/03/2015

      Me neither Nicholas!

      It was a brutal few days, the inaugural Trans Ecuador route is a real leg ripper.

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