The equestrian tradition in the Andes of Ecuador dates back from several centuries ago, when the inhabitants of the villages, towns and farms travelled through small roads throughout the Andean Region on horseback and in carriages. At present, the rides purpose is mainly tourism or to celebrate festive days, in which one can enjoy watching beautiful landscapes with snowcapped volcanoes, forests and Andean highlands. For these reasons, Ecuador is the ideal destination for exciting rides.
There are several routes and circuits for horseback riding. Most take place in the Mejia County, south of the province of Pichincha. There are also routes around the Cotopaxi National Park, in the jurisdiction of the same name. There are also routes in the central provinces of the Andes, such as in Tungurahua and Chimborazo.
The route offered in Mejia goes to the "Bomboli cloud forest", a site located on the hill of the same name. One rides from Aloag to the Corazon Volcano. Then, it continues to the cloud forest, located at an altitude of 3,000 meters above sea level (masl). This place has a tropical microclimate that allows spotting birds, small mammals and endemic epiphytes, like orchids and bromeliads.
The next day, riders return to Machachi. The day tour includes refreshments and entrance to the reserve. The two days tour includes the return ride, two snacks, lunch, tea, dinner, bed and breakfast. It does not include transportation to and back to Machachi and Bombolí, or drinks.
Another route is in an area near the Illinizas Ecological Reserve, specifically in these mountains shelter, located at 4,750meters above sea level. It is accessed via the Panamericana Sur Highway. Upon reaching the Jambeli Bridge, one must deviate towards the west, passing through El Chaupi Town. Subsequently, one must access the Ilinizas "La Virgen" parking lot located at 3,900meters above sea level where horses will be ready to start the ride.
In its first section, the ride goes through a forest of polylepis or "paper trees", and finally to a sandy and rocky section, en route to the refuge located between the North and South Iliniza, at 4,750meters above sea level. The Andes flora and fauna can be observed here. Lunch is served before returning to the parking lot. The difficulty level is low. You can contact Andes Climbing for this ride.
The ride to the Corazon Volcano takes five hours and its difficulty is also low. It leaves from Sierra Loma to the Corazon (4,788 masl), which is crossed by cattle and agricultural farms. The view in this tour is extensive and one can see almost the entire north central Andes Region. To return, it takes small paths to Sierra Loma.
A very interesting ride is the "Circle the Rumiñahui" ride which lasts two days and one night. It has a medium-high level of difficulty. It leaves from Sierra Loma to the Rumiñahui Volcano (4,712 mts.) through second-order paths that cross the haciendas found in the volcano slopes. Then, one reaches the moor and after passing through sands, it goes down to the Limpiopungo Lagoon, in the Cotopaxi National Park. Riders spend the night in a hostel and the next day they return to the Machachi area.
La Alegria Hacienda offers the ride from the hacienda, located in Aloag, in Pichincha, to Baños, in Tungurahua, through the mythical Llanganates National Park, where people say the Atahualpa Inca treasure is hidden somewhere within this protected area. The ride leaves the hacienda bordering the Cotopaxi National Park, near Chalupas, to reach the Llanganates, a seldom visited site that houses spectacular Andean mountain landscapes. One rides for 5 days in the high Andes, while admiring many mountains and volcanoes in unpopulated areas.
Many lakes and rivers that supply water to farmers and ranchers in the valleys are crossed, as well as major cities and towns in the Ecuadorian Andes. The landscape of this area is very hilly: there are high mountains and deep valleys in the Llanganates area. Every night, one sleeps in cozy haciendas: Huagrahuasi Leito, Manteles (Tungurahua), among the main. Riders can rest from the long journey upon arriving in Baños de Agua Santa, a famous town for its waterfalls, hot springs, food and fun.
Those who wish to make this ride should be experienced riders, due to difficult ground conditions. Riders must be able to mount and dismount their horse autonomously. Good physical and adaptation to altitude conditions are required. We recommend at least two days of acclimatization and adaptation to be fully able to ride. The tour includes 7 days riding and 7 nights, all meals and return transportation between Baños and La Alegria Hacienda.
CROSSING BY THE AVENUE OF THE VOLCANOES
CNN Travel selected the horse riding bythe avenue of volcanoes, offered by La Alegria Hacienda, among the 15 top horseback riding experiences worldwide. The portal highlights the Andean haciendas and excellent service, the Andean scenery and the company of chagras, the cowboys of the Ecuadorian Andes. They know the best routes, secrets and legends of the highlands of Ecuador. The CNN Travel portal also highlights the scenic beauty of the 11 volcanoes that exist in the inter-Andean corridor of the north-central Andes of Ecuador. It mentions that one "can learn from the daily life of chagras, who rely on horses for their life, while riding on pure Creole horses through farmland, moors and cloud forests," the portal points out.
"The word chagra has its origin in the Quechua word 'chacra', which is a plot of planted land, usually with corn. The chagra character arose after the arrival of the Spanish in America, when they needed reliable people (usually mestizos) who knew the earth in order to take care of huge extensions of land they overtook", reports the Surtrek.com portal.
Fabian Corral Burbano de Lara, who holds a Law Doctorate, a professor and expert writer in the subject of the Andes chagras, in an opinion piece entitled "A Portrait of the chagra" published in El Comercio Newspaper on July 23, 2012, hedescribes the essence of the Andean chagra.
"Dressed in old-fashioned clothes, carrying with poise a Castillian poncho, wrapped in a scarf, matching the snorerspurs, the chagra rode and rode, since colonial times, through rural country routes. The old chagra knew about fallow land, sowing and harvesting. His skill was the same yoking the oxen than taming wild mules. He fixed tools and twisted ropes in the empty hours of the winter evenings. He rose early to tend to the milking and loved those bellowing barns that gave depth and warmth to the chilly mornings. He knew by heart the bend of the road. He was familiar with every penco and all directions to get to the villages and how to ride safely down the moors. He knew about horizons and streams, of snowfalls and marshes. He loved and still loves, perhaps without knowing it, the farmer and deep country", states part of the opinion column written by Corral.
The text adds that "the horse is, and was, his love, and his creole tools, his pride. He was a learned rider who knew the wonder of riding full days. He knew the art of making the way without haste and to live the landscape as a home and as stage. Only by the sound of hooves he was warned if what was coming by the mule track was a humble mule or a presumptuous step horse. He admired the gait of the “brace adores when entering the town” and the energy and docile mood of the work horses".
Corral mentions that "in Machachi (at the southern area of Pichincha), or in Yanahurco (hacienda in the Cotopaxi National Park), and in other highland places, the chagra and his children still thrive. In each of the peoples festivity, as in Machachi or Sibambe (Chimborazo), when it comes to honor the patron saint, the chagras come to the marches; they fill squares and streets with the sound of their horses; they bullfight extending ponchos in front of the bull; they bet in the cockpits, ride in rodeos, and then they return to their villages to shake their hidden pride, the horseman prestige of the sturdy, affirmative and honest people which constitutes the human background of a culture that survives despite all prejudices. The chagra is an essential mestizo. He is, as the montubio, a confession of identity", concludes Dr. Corral in his writing. He has written several books on the fascinating topic of chagras in the Ecuadorian Andes
THE CHAGRA RIDE
It is the largest celebration in terms of rodeos in the Andes. It is carried out in the framework of cantonization celebrations on the streets of Machachi, in the Mejia County, Pichincha. The chagra is a character closely linked to the identity and culture of Machachi. The three facts that caused the birth of the Chagra Processional Ride are: the eruption of the Cotopaxi in 1877; Machachi religious patron, Santiago Apostle, and the cantonization of Mejia. In 1983, this festival was institutionalized in the official calendar of Ecuadorian festivities, as shared in the Foros Ecuador portal. This year's Chagra Ride was held on July 18.
On Saturday, October 3, 2015 the 43th edition of the fox hunting will be held, in homage to the city of Ibarra, capital of the Imbabura Province, on the anniversary of the 409 years of its foundation. It is a competition in which hacienda owners, military and police officers in passive service, professional and amateur riders take part. During the event, riders will cross obstacles called "peñaroles", as well as logs, ditches, and trees. The hunt consists in pursuing "foxes", to catch them and remove a tail similar to that of the animal. Foxes are characters from different categories, dressed with masks, black dresses, hats and capes.
Specimens of thorough bred and Creole horses will participate: Arabic, English, Anglo Arabs and Spaniards. The competition will take place in the Yahuarcocha Lagoon Circuit, located north of the "White City", Ibarra.