Ecuador: Avenue of the Volcanoes Ride

by Hidden Trails 08/31/2009


By Bernadette & Stefan Basler, Switzerland

Vacation in Ecuador… are you talking about Galapagos? Riding in Ecuador coming from Switzerland?
Who in the world would ever think of something like that?
Aren’t there more exiting rides available all over the world? Canada, Kenya, Botswana, Tanzania, Namibia, Jordan, Spain, Portugal?
I can assure you … we’ve done them all!
For many years my wife Bernadette and I, have spent time riding all around the world. We started taking riding vacations long before we bought our own two Arabians. Being Swiss, we first visited Portugal and Spain, since they are so close to home and because of the warm weather there.
Then we decided to do a more “exotic” ride in Jordan, in the Wadi Rum in the footsteps (well - hoof prints) of Lawrence of Arabia. We felt like Peter O’Toole and got addicted to the desert. As a consequence, the following three years we were “deserting around,” mainly riding in Namibia’s desert. Then we visited other African countries like Tanzania, and we also swam the Okavango-Delta on horseback.
In 2009, we wanted to discover something new and just by coincidence we choose Ecuador, because the volcanoes looked nice in the pictures. We had more-or-less no idea what we should expect, even after visiting the homepage of Hidden Trails.
It was a long flight from Switzerland and the airline did it’s best to make us suffer. ☺
Eventually, we arrived in Quito. We were picked up by our “Chief-Chagra” Gabriel around midnight.
The following day we stayed at La Alegria, tried horses and discovered neighboring villages and local farms before we got ready for a two-day trip around “el Corazon” volcano. (elevation approximately 4’000 meters)

During this trip, we were overwhelmed by the variety of landscapes: farmland, alpine terrain and cloud forest with lots of greenery and different kinds of wild orchids. Have you ever ridden above the clouds? Have you ever galloped through a city (Machachi) next to buses and heavy traffic? We couldn’t believe that all of this was possible.
The following day we climbed up to even higher elevations and finally arrived at the old crater of the volcano Rumiñahui with it’s green slopes. It was hard work for the horses… carrying us up to an altitude of over 4’200 meters. During the climb, even Gabriel’s excellently trained horses sometimes got out of breath.
Once we reached the top -- here it was, shining out of the clouds -- the mighty Cotopaxi Volcano rising up to around 5’900 meters. Unbelievable, it is on par with Kilimanjaro!
Getting down on the other side of the mountain again was hard for the horses, but harder for me as I am afraid of heights!
The following days, we rode further and further into the backcountry of Cotopaxi, a protected area of Ecuador that is home to the Cotopaxi Volcano, and finally ended up in an area without roads where even the 4x4 that carried our gear could not follow any more.
The scenery started to look more and more like the highlands of Scotland with clouds hanging low, giving the landscape a mystic feel and when the sun came out we were speechless. The swampy ground and the steep terrain (up and down hill all the time) made it very hard for our super horses, well … actually for all of us!
I can assure you that our two “spoiled” Arabians at home could not even STAND on a swampy hillside like that!
We spent nights at local farms and experienced “real Chagra-Life.” No luxury hotel stuff. Coming from the so-called civilization, this was a really different experience. Fortunately we carried all the food with us and sometimes a bottle of wine mysteriously appeared during our simple dinners. I have to admit that I missed a cold beer after these long days in the saddle!
It was a great spectacle to see how the Chagras lasso wild horses and bring them down to check them. They also showed us the cattle and the bulls that they care for. I can assure you. These are real wild bulls.


These five days out in the backcountry were really special. We experienced the purest Chagra culture, beautiful landscapes, mystic weather (Swiss-like!) and the riding itself on these fantastic horses. We spent 8 hours each day on a horse, which is hard for soft-boiled tourists. This is the real deal and Gabriel’s excellent lambskin saddles really saved our buts!
We give our compliments to the horses, to Gabriel for telling us all about the Chagra culture and for the two guides Guido and Jorge for training the horses so well and for taking such good care of them and of us! Our only regret was not being able to speak Spanish. I am sure the two guides could have given us a lot more interesting information about life in Ecuador’s outback in their native language.
I could continue telling you a lot more about this fantastic trip, but I hope that the pictures will speak for themselves.
Be assured: Ecuador is a rider’s paradise.
We have never seen such a variety of landscapes and such excellent horses.
Not to forget of course the very nice host family.

You can book this trip vie Hidden Trails, a company specializing in equestrian vacations all over the world. Details about this trip are on their website at:
http://www.hiddentrails.com/tour/ecuador_volcano_avenue_haciendas.aspx

 

 

 

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