When you have the opportunity to mountain bike down the world’s highest active volcano, yet you have no mountain biking experience, nor have you acclimatised to Quito’s 2, 800m altitude (almost 10, 000 feet) having just arrived yesterday from Colombia, clearly you should respectfully decline.
Add a reunion with an old friend into the mix, a measure of peer pressure and a rather large ego and declining is no longer an option; so off I went. Mountain biking down Cotopaxi. Oh sh*t.
Before long we were signed up through the Biking Dutchman, 49USD for the day trip, quality equipment, transport, guide etc. Done.
The day started pretty early early, we met at a cafe in the Mariscal district in Quito and waited for our guide to turn up around seven thirty am. There was a group of six of us and before long we were in the back of the minibus for the ninety minute ride out of Quito, and to near the summit of the world’s highest volcano, Cotopaxi.
The ride is pretty easy until you enter the national park, from there it’s a little bumpy but the scenery is fantastic so it’s no big deal. As usual, I had come very unprepared, not even wearing a coat, and once we finally got to near the summit, at 4500m, it was snowing, and the temperature was around five degrees, marvellous. Thankfully, the Biking Dutchman clearly come across idiots like me fairly regularly so they had a couple of spare coats to keep me warm.
Once we were out of the car, the dramatic landscape really hits home, this part of the world is just epic. We had a quick debrief about how to use the gears, wearing a helmet etc and we lined up ready to go.
There are essentially three sections when you mountain bike down cotopaxi, so here we go:
The best section, but also the most difficult. You don’t have to peddle at all, it’s all downhill and it’s pretty steep. You’re constantly on the breaks and the bumps really take it our of your arms, but the views are second to none, and with Cotopaxi in the background you really feel like you’re out in the wilderness.
You can stop as often as you like, and the group gets quite spread out. Dare devils gunning it down the hill as fast as they can, photographers stopping every corner to take some beautiful pics, and the more risk-averse peeps holding the fort at the back.
You’re free to work at your own pace, which is perfect, because it’s not that easy, it’s loads of fun though, and for me this was ‘real’ downhill mountain biking.
Takes around two hours
Spread out before and after lunch, section two requires a little bit of peddling. You’re on more of a flat plateau, cycling over dirt paths and rocky routes. The volcano is further back behind you now, and there are two or three uphill sections that require you to drop gears. The speed is much slower, but the workload is slightly higher, it’s a gorgeous track and you cover a fair few kms through the Ecuadorian country side.
You stop for homemade lunch halfway through which is well needed, and the brownies to finish off are pretty special. Remember to ask for seconds.
Take around an hour before, and an hour after, lunch
You’re almost home and dry. It’s much easier from here on in… almost. Before you get to the paved, asphalt road you have to hit a seriously taxing uphill battle, complete with hardcore bumps which bloody hurt your hands and arms. It’s pretty good fun, and you really earn the ease of the last section.
Once you get up the hill, it’s literally almost all down hill on a smooth road, with mountain ranges all around you. Super peaceful, and a wonderful way to end the day.
You finish up at the national park entrance, grab a cup of coffee/beer and jump back in the transport to be dropped off at your hostel/hotel. My plans to party afterwards fell by the wayside, as soon as I hit my bed, as I was a goner – so tired. What a briliant day, an absolute MUST DO as a day-trip from Quito.
Check out http://www.bikingdutchman.com/ to sort out your trip, or hit them up on:
Good luck guys, if you do this – let me know how you get on, I know you’re gonna love it. Happy travels.