Thomas Vanderham and Scotty Laughland join H+I Adventures for a trip to South America to explore Ecuador.
Explore Ecuador with Thomas Vanderham, Scotty Laughland and H+I Adventures who might just put the South American country higher on the list of potential riding destinations.
Photos by Ross Bell.
Landing into Quito, the capital city of Ecuador, I had an overriding feeling of bewilderment. It was distinctly nothing like I’d imagined, but it also reminded me of several countries at the same time… It was my first experience of South America and I expected a chaotic and nervous arrival into its city streets, 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 cactus, 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.
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 the jet lag off 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 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 gully 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 stood 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 thrusted into all our 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 day to day 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 day-to-day that you could imagine.
Lush jungles, arid deserts, and volcanic slopes. The trails are up there with the best and shouldn’t be overlooked, especially if you’re fancying heading to South America with your bike… The likes of Chile, Peru, or Argentina might be more “fashionable’ or mainstream, but it’s Ecuador that should be atop your list.