Sunday, May 22, 2011
Chaquinan Bike Trail - Ecuador
Today my consuegro (my daughter's father-in-law who is visiting) and I went after a cache along the Chaquinan Bike Trail between Cumbaya and Puembo, Ecuador. The real blessing is what you see and experience along the trail. The gorge is beautiful and the three train tunnels are a blast. You might want to bring along headlamps for that part. I had not but my trusty cell phone filled in. We parked our SUV at the starting point in Cumbaya and started off. The trail is similar to North American greenways. In this case it isn't paved and isn't really well cared for either. We made it out of Cumbaya and around the 4 kilometer mark we pulled of at the San Pedro portal/gate to look for the cache. Good coords and a good hint made for a quick find. From there the trail wound through several small communities, some of them Quichua with their fields of corn and cebada. The trail, being an old railroad, follows a relatively gentle slope, at times climbing and at times descending. Between Cumbaya and Puembo there is a huge gorge through which the Chinche River runs. The long straight descent allowed us to coast and make good time. At the base of that ride we crossed the Chinche River on a small bridge. The scenery was beautiful and this just had to be a stopping point. Every time you ride down the mountain it usually means you have to go back up it. We started our 2 kilometer climb up the other side of the gorge. Again the path was straight and the grade was easy. On this side of the gorge (east side) we passed through three railroad tunnels. They had lateral tunnels that opened to the cliff side, allowing light in and exhaust to escape. We stopped to visit one of the overlooks at the end of these lateral tunnels. The east bound leg of the trip took about 2.5 hours as my consuegro was not used to riding a bike uphill at 9000 feet above sea level. He comes from a place about 600 feet above sea level. At the end of the trail we were pleasantly surprised to find that they have added another 15-20 kilometers heading north from Puembo to Quinche. That will be a good section to ride another day. We found a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant a block from where we finished the first leg of the ride and got a light "menu" meal. That means anyone who eats pays a $1.60 and gets soup, rice, mote, some kind of meat, and juice. Then we were off again. Having just ridden the trail I knew where I wanted to put the next geocache. We found the location (the name is a give away once you are on the trail) and placed the cache. Our trip back was more demanding than the first leg. We were both tired but we pushed on to finish our 40 kilometer day of bike riding. It was a great day. I recommend that you visit El Chaquinan - Portal San Pedro (GC2N6PT) when you get the chance. If you make the trip on to Puembo you can also be the first to find on Wulckow (GC2Q1P6).