Tumbaco – Cotopaxi – Chimborazo – Quilatoa – Guamote
Snaking through three classic giant volcanoes, this is an undeniable highlight on the Trans Ecuador and not to be missed. My particular experience involved exhilarating and nervous moments passing through closed Cotopaxi volcano National Park; enduring hailstorms, fording streams and hiking through mud on the north side of Ecuador’s highest peak Chimborazo (which I resolved to return and climb); and following some manmade water channels by a somewhat treacherous drop off (heart in the mouth moments). All part of the norm crossing Ecuador’s mountains.
Update: check out the main official report of the TEMBR at bikepacking.com for a rather more elegant description of the route compiled by Cass. (Complemented by his exceptional photography).
A photo journal of my experience:
In preparation for the tough TEMBR terrain that lies ahead I opt for a tyre upgrade and swap out my old 2.0 inch Maxxis for 2.5 inches. It feels like I have a fat bike…
…but Brian’s 4.8inch Surly “Ice Cream Truck” quickly changes my mind.
Managing to pull myself from the comforts of Tumbaco’s casa de ciclista, a quiet hilly route takes me into the jewel of Ecuador’s crown, Cotopaxi. Arguably one of South America’s most lethal volcanoes, it is unfortunately closed due to recent activity. However, I decide to make a run for it. After a slightly uncomfortable run-in with some strange folks high on mushrooms I have a nervous night stealth camping on the fringes of the park. I choose higher ground, a short distance away from the volcano’s main mud and lava flow (almost definitely futile in the event of an actual eruption!) and awake to this…
To avoid the southern control station I must hop over a couple of locked gates and pass some private property but it feels good to be out of the danger zone. On the climb up to Isinvili I find myself riding in the dark searching for a place to camp. After an unfortunate incident clocking an aggressive dog on the head with a small rock I settle for a hidden spot by a stream and bed down riddled with guilt. The next day a quick return down the road and I am relieved to find the dog alive and barking as aggressively as ever.
I have a very wet night at 4000+m before the start of the climb up to Chimborazo. I am cold and tired and my kit is soaked. The rain makes no hint of relenting causing a notable dip in my morale. To my utter delight I stumble across some hot baths (ok, luke warm but still…). Here I camp under the roof for the night before the climb up to Chimborazo.
Chimborazo’s northern pass climbs up to 4300m+ and is worth every calorie. After dropping a fair way on a muddy wet trail there is a short section of bike pushing and carrying across vegetation / streams which eventually connects to a gravel road. The trail continues to drop and pass through some interesting features…
The most notable of which are these manmade water channels.
Check out the main official report of the TEMBR at bikepacking.com for a rather more elegant description of the route compiled by Cass. (Complemented by his exceptional photography).
(This was done some months ago and I’m now finally re-united with my laptop.)
Next: The Trans Ecuador continues to Cuenca…