Ecuador - Volcano Trail Ride in the Andes
Our hacienda is situated south of Quito in the verdant valley of Machachi. As it is surrounded by eleven volcanoes, this region is often referred to as “The Volcano Avenue”.The first day of the trip is designed for the guests to get used to the altitude, to chose your horse and be introduced to the chagras’ lifestyle.
Indeed, you will come to appreciate the tradition and customs of the chagras’ (cowboys) abilities in the hacienda. In their goatskin chaps and woollen ponchos, they welcome guests to demonstrate their centuries old tradition of herding cattle. The chagras’ skill on horseback and knowledge of the Andean paramo are legendary. The Hacienda enjoys a special relationship with the chagras, participating with them in rodeos and festivals and visiting them in their homes each month. They are the inspiration for our journey, framed by ancient volcanoes, highland plateaus, and rivers that flow down the massive Andes towards the Amazon and the Pacific.
The first part of the ride includes acclimatization at the Hacienda and the cloud forest. At the cloud forest you will enter a completely different environment and see an exciting change in the surrounding vegetation; from a lush native tundra landscape of the high attitude to an impressive sub-tropical vegetation. Here, nestled deep in the mystical cloud forest, learn about medicinal plants and trees that are native to the area, and be regaled by tales of the remote life of living in the Cloud Forest.
Around the cosy fireplace of the hacienda, you will reminisce about the day’s events and discuss local traditions, especially those related to the chagras. You will also talk about the itinerary for the rest of the trip and prepare for what is to come.
After acclimatization at the hacienda as well as riding to the cloud forest you will be prepared for the second part of the ride and you shall start your journey towards the mighty Quilotoa Crater Lake
The second part of your trip you will ride through the western Andean paramo, an Andean ecosystem that encompasses approximately 12,500 square kilometres. Rolling hills of high altitude grasses, through little flowers that protect themselves from the cold with furry leaves, ravines that create microclimates that sprout a surprising variety of life; it is a wondrous place for both new and experienced visitors.
As you ride through the Andes Mountains, you will experience a diversity of geography and weather. Be prepared for a period of intense equatorial sun followed by chill Andes’ wind—all within the space of a few hours. The locals say that the highlands experience all four seasons within the same day. As you ride through the paramos, you will see the great llama used for packing.
Long after your return to the Hacienda and the end of your journey, the memories of this rugged but beautiful world will linger as a lifetime ride.
Depending on your arrival hour you can have a short ride at the hacienda, dinner included
Accommodations: La hacienda
Ride in the arena and get acquainted with your horse and tack that we will be using the next days. You will ride around the neighboring Haciendas at the west Andes. This day is key to acclimatize with the altitude and environment as well as your horse and tack. Then you will have lunch in the Hacienda house, visit the milking barn, the aging cheese cave, and finally you can enjoy the hot tub and fireplace.
Riding hours: 4 hours
Crossing extensive pastures and eucalyptus forests, you will have a nice view of the “Volcano Avenue”. From there you can appreciate the green and fertile Machachi Valley and we can also see the routes we will take the next day at the east mountain chain. You will ascend by Corazon Volcano up to 4,000 meters and descend through the Cloud forest reserve. At the cloud forest you will be able to observe a great biodiversity of plants and flowers, including giant guneras, orchids, and birds such as the turkey of the forest. In the afternoon you will arrive to Hacienda Bomboli at 3,000 m, and relax by the fireplace enjoying the sunset and watching the lights of the villages near the coast, we will arrive at teatime, then enjoy a great meal.
Accommodation: hacienda Bomboli
Riding hours: 4 hours
In the morning you will walk at the Hacienda gardens to learn about orchids and cloud forest plants. You will ride up hill admiring the forest and the hundreds of flowers and plants; you will use the old road that was built in 1873 to connect Quito with the coast. Arrive to Hacienda La Alegria for lunch, relax and enjoy the hot tub and the fireplace. Riding hours: 6 hours
Today is a long journey in the saddle. You will start the ride one hour south of Hacienda La Alegria; you will be transferred by car to this point to start our 4-day adventure at the southern Andes. You will ride by the Inca trail and dirt trails that will take us to Sigchos, the village that was known as the “last home” of the Inca general Ruminahui. From this day on you will ride through a dramatic landscape, including steep ravines and narrow passages. Even though you can visualize where you are heading and it looks near, you will have to cross many mountains chains to get there. This area is a combination of forest, rock peaks and eroded land from the past centuries. You will arrive at the Hacienda San Jose, a working dairy farm and guesthouse, in time for a good meal, Jacuzzi, sauna and a confortable night. Our horses will have lush fields of fresh grass.
Riding hours: 8 hours
After breakfast you head south to the Quilotoa Crater Lake. The trail goes across the highest mountain heading west. There you will find some small dairy farms and a couple of artisanal cheese makers. As we descend to the Canyon the environment becomes arid and desolate. The soil is composed by pumice from the Quilotoa volcano that erupted 1,280 years ago. In the afternoon you will arrive to the Quilotoa volcano summit at 3,800 meters above sea level, where our hostel is awaiting. At the edge of the volcano you will enjoy and amazing view of the breathtaking Quilotoa Crater Lake. The 3 kilometer wide caldera was formed by the collapse of this volcano after the last eruption.
Riding hours: 8 hours
In the morning you will take a small walk to take the last photos at the viewpoint of the crater lake. You will then start the ride down hill the volcano via a beautiful old trail. It will take you half day to descend the Canyon, crossing a few villages that remind of old images as those from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. Volcano pumice and dry soil hinder agriculture thus, just a few people live on this region. The ride continues thru several hills, arriving to a small village called Insilivi founded in 1857. Here you will find our Hostel Insilivi for the night, which was started by an entrepreneur from the UK 16 years ago and is now owned by a Dutch couple.
Riding hours: 4 hours
The last day riding at the region will pass through several narrow old paths ascending to the high Andes paramo. From here it is possible to admire the nice scenery form one valley to another. The colors and the mountains make the changes from paramo to eroded land full of different color patches. At the distance you will see the Eastern Mountain Chain. You will make your way back to the Hacienda.
Riding hours: 6 hours
Breakfast and transfer to airport
Accomodation: You sleep 4 nights on the owners hacienda and 3 nights on other haciendas and 1 night in a mountain lodge.
Riding: You ride on average 4-8 hours/day in high altitude. Minimum 2 persons, max 12.