riding in ecuador

Ecuador – “One of the Best”

In this edition of GG Journeys, In The Saddle guest Vivien Gwynne-Howell tells us about her recent adventure in Ecuador. Out of more than 23 riding holidays, Vivien rates our Colonial Haciendas ride as one of the best she’s done – high praise indeed for this wonderful country!

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Vivien says, “I decided to book a riding holiday (Colonial Haciendas ride) in Ecuador which was a country I initially knew little about. However, having returned from there, I think it was one of the best riding holidays I have ever been on. The two areas I visited are so beautiful (the northern and the central highlands) and the riding holiday itself was fab. The first few days were spent in the pastoral mountains and valleys of the northern highlands, riding along country tracks and across steep slopes used for a multitude of farming crops. We saw a condor soaring on the first day’s riding! Any rough patch of land between the fields was usually occupied by a cow, a pig or a horse, all looking really healthy and in good condition, calmly watching us passing by on horseback. The Ecuadorians working in the fields were friendly and looked amazing wearing their brightly coloured clothes, complete with trilbies, going about their day-to-day work.

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In the Northern Highlands you get a taste of what rural Ecuadorian life is like

The second part of the holiday was spent in Cotopaxi National park in the central highlands, riding around the volcanic terrain. This was my favourite region for riding. The scenery was absolutely stunning, surrounded by four volcanoes, rock faces, rivers, waterfalls, open plains, snow-capped Cotopaxi etc..etc..

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Cotopaxi National Park, where this conical peak dominates the skyline

As a Geography geek, I was in my element, immersed in a region marked by glacial and volcanic evidence, each of the four volcanoes seeming to generate its own weather system. Despite this, we had great weather and never got wet apart from a few drops of rain at the end of Day 5.

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Riding up into the paramo (high Andes)

There were also several herds of wild horses on the plains that were curious about us and would inspect us from a distance – there was one magical moment where we were able to canter along beside them which was absolutely beautiful and I will never forget the experience.

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Curious wild horses in Cotopaxi National Park

Before I left home, I was initially a bit apprehensive about the high altitude and whether I would struggle with it. However I need not have worried. Sally, my guide, managed the ride very professionally. It was planned with slowly increasing altitude, giving enough time to acclimatise and with regular reminders to keep sipping water and having small meals and regular snacks (so as not to overload the digestive system with big meals). It worked, and I was not affected at all apart from occasional mild breathlessness at the highest points.

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This ride is high in parts, but designed so that you can acclimatise to the altitude gradually

The horses we rode were superb. All very healthy and happy, well-schooled and much loved. I rode a selection that were all responsive and behaved beautifully. Difficult to choose but my favourite was Capuli who gave me some wonderful smooth canters across the Cotopaxi plains (I could have spent weeks there). The saddles were incredibly comfortable, covered in sheepskins and I had no aches at all to contend with.

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The handsome and smooth-gaited Capuli

The food was delicious and so full of flavour, a testament to the fertile volcanic soil that the crops grew in. It was a relatively simple fare but tasted amazing (especially the tomatoes and avocados).

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Locro de papa soup – delicious

Outside of riding, we had a trip to Otavalo market and also visited some traditional weavers that created some beautiful scarves, blankets etc using a completely manual method. Absolutely fascinating, and I came away with a brightly coloured scarf (they have a small shop where you can buy their creations).

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During the ride we visited a weaver’s workshop

The haciendas we stayed in were wonderful. Most were very traditional with lots of history, my favourite of these being La Merced in the Zuleta valley which is a working dairy farm, plus the owners breed Andalucians and their herd and stallions were lovely to watch (such a beautiful breed).

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The very lovely La Merced, home to gorgeous Andalucian horses

The hacienda I stayed at in Cotopaxi (Los Mortinos) was modern but built very tastefully and in a fab location with stunning views of Cotopaxi (my second favourite hacienda!).

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Los Mortinos, with Cotopaxi behind

Sally is a great guide. With immense knowledge of Ecuador and its history, I learnt so much from her. Sally’s horses are a real credit to her and the ride itself was organised very well. I also enjoyed the company of the two volunteers Marie and Josh who were very nice to ride with.

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Guide Sally, aboard her horse Annemeike (photo credit: Tony Marshall)

All in all, it was a great holiday. Ecuador was absolutely beautiful and amazing to see from the back of a horse. I would massively recommend it as a place to ride.

Thanks very much to In The Saddle for organising the holiday….now have to start thinking where to go next!

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Many thanks to Vivien for this super insight into riding in Ecuador. We are so glad you enjoyed your trip. If you’d like to find out more about our Colonial Haciendas, Andean Adventure and Volcanoes & Vistas rides please contact Abbie on +44 1299 272 239 or email abigail@inthesaddle.com

Categories: Equestrian Travel, horse riding, Horses & riding, in the saddle, Ride reviews, Riding Holidays, riding in ecuador, Riding in the Andes | Leave a comment

Adventures in Ecuador

In this feature, Vincent Obbard tells us about his recent trip to Ecuador to take part in the Andean Adventure ride.

“We had a GREAT holiday.

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Our adventure started in the Antisana foothills, relatively gentle these hills are good grassland for cattle and afford super views of the Andes beyond. My mount was small but full of energy. Our accommodation that first night was a characterful hotel perched on the side of a hill. The hospitality was warm and the food was wonderful.

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Joining us on the ride were 4 Finnish guests, a Dutch lady and two other Brits. We were all experienced riders and so had a great time together.

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For the next portion of the ride we moved on to Pinan, a remote mountain village of only 200 inhabitants. Then followed an exciting few days of riding through staggeringly beautiful scenery, on lovely horses. Conditions in Pinan were poor; the villagers don’t own their own land despite appeals to the Government. The remote lodge we stayed in was clean and we enjoyed wonderful hospitality.

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Pinan was a magical experience; the village nestling in the valley with its friendly villagers, its thatch, its animals, its community, its hospitality.  We came away having enjoyed time with the people and shared a little of their way of life. We rode the villagers’ horses which were willing, strong and loved.  The ornate harness and reins were made by someone I had the privilege to talk to.

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Our circular ride around the lake in the Pinan region was a real experience. After a long but thrilling day in the saddle, we returned to the lodge for a special celebration dinner with the villagers.

CA & VV northern lake & riders

Leaving Pinan by a different route we were surrounded by staggering views of distant mountains, ice and cloud. Soon we were descending deep into a second valley still covered by tropical rain forest, complete with tree ferns, bromeliads including orchids and dense vegetation.

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Our next night’s stay on Ivan’s coffee plantation was good and really informative. No cup of coffee is ever going to be quite the same after learning how the beans are grown, harvested, roasted and ground!

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For the last part of the ride we explored San Clemente and the pastoral Zuleta Valley. Here we enjoyed excellent hospitality throughout and lovely horses.

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All of it was fantastic, but the best bit was visting Pinan. It was ecotourism at its best; truly a remote area, a seldom visited village. We were privileged to be there while the idea of visiting this region is still fresh. It was really a great experience. We have been on a few trips, but this was one of the very best.

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We are already talking of going back to South America!”

Many thanks Vincent, we have really enjoyed reading your blog. Do you have an exciting riding adventure to tell us about? If so, we’d love to hear from you. Please email abigail@inthesaddle.com  with your travel stories.

Related posts:

Abbie’s blog on the Colonial Haciendas ride

Perfect Ecuador extension – the Galapagos

 

Categories: Equestrian Travel, Horses & riding, in the saddle, Riding Holidays, riding in ecuador, Riding in the Andes | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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