The yellow-and-black motorcoach lazily wound its way down from mountainous Quito, Ecuador, into the deep, low-lying cloud forests of the Amazon basin. The Andes' peaks gave way to thick, verdant jungle, pocketed with bursts of waterfalls careening down from the rocky slopes.
We sat back against faded cloth seats while a movie blared overhead, the bus periodically stopping to let on local purveyors to sell lukewarm Cokes or freshly baked pastries. It would be four hours before we reached Tena and the start of our journey across the backroads of Ecuador with G Adventures.
The G Adventures Ecuador Multisport trip is a eight-night tour that starts and ends in Quito and loops through the Amazon basin, up into Llanganates National Park and over to the Cotopaxi volcano. The itinerary takes travelers out of their comfort zones and into whitewater rafting, mountain trekking and mountain biking down the face of an active volcano.
We met the rest of our group, around 13 other backpack-toting travelers, in the Mariscal neighborhood of Quito, with its bevy of backpacker bars and cafes.
In the morning we boarded a public bus to take us into Tena, an Amazonian city at the confluence of the Tena and Pano rivers. Here was the starting point for the first activity: whitewater rafting. This full-day excursion takes travelers cruising down the Jatunyacu River on Class 3+ rapids, enough of a thrill for avid rafters but calm enough for those with little to no experience.
Among the clouds
From Tena the tour moved on by bus to Banos, an outdoor enthusiast's paradise city surrounded by a cloud forest. With G Adventures, the town serves as the base for an overnight trek into Llanganates National Park.
The hike began at 10,498 feet above sea level in the rainy cloud forest. From there we hiked uphill for nearly two hours to 12,467 feet while taking in views of the Tungurahua and Sangay volcanoes. After a brief incline, the rest of the trek was downhill and relatively easy.
We spent the night camping in tents at a local trout farm in the national park. The following day the trek continued down the mountain back to Banos to spend the rest of the afternoon soaking in the hot springs or at one of the many hole-in-the-wall massage parlors.
The final days of the trip took us to the town of Lasso, at the base of the Cotopaxi volcano just outside Quito, where we would be mountain biking through the park. Our last morning we took a private transfer 13,123 feet above sea level to the start of the trail. The first five miles of the route were not for the faint of heart, as the bikes picked up tremendous and shaky speed on the soft, volcanic ash — expansive, moonlike vistas with Cotopaxi looming overhead.
Rates for the Ecuador Multisport trip begin at $934. See www.gadventures.com.