Taking the Railway Tracks to Tumbaco

Leaving Quito came as something of a relief. I would never have visited the city if it wasn’t for the arrangement to meet my sister, Jo, there. All I saw during my stay was the inside of a hospital and the view from my bed. Fortunately my illness was easily treatable and within a few days of her arrival Jo and I were battling our way out of town. I can’t say the ride north from our lodgings in La Floresta out towards Calderon was a particularly positive experience. We managed to find some bike lanes along the way but the mood had been set within ten minutes of setting off when a shard of glass put an end to my run of luck with punctures. It took a while to leave the city but by mid afternoon we were finally whizzing downhill on fresh black top away from Quito’s urban claws.

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Me and my little big sister leaving our Quito hostal and starting our adventure together

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Meandering through Quito we came across plenty of interesting street (and plane) art

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Shark vs. Pig… both look pretty fierce to me!

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Finally released from the city the road swooped quickly down then up towards Guayllabamba… the new airport can be seen on the right of shot

Our first port of call and the reason we were heading north was the Equator. I’d already crossed the Equator several times without any sign or ceremony on my route towards Quito but Jo had not. It seemed a shame to her to be so close and not pay 0° latitude a visit. So after a cheap night in a love hotel we climbed about 15 miles up through Oton to the Equator monument just south of Cayambe. When we arrived there was a small group of paraglider pilots already there. We got chatting to their leader who was kind enough to pay the gratuity on us being there. Then after many photographs we turned on our heals and cycled back the way we’d come towards El Quinche.

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Our first night on the road together was spent in this quite comfortable auto motel (aka love hotel) just up from the junction towards Ascazubi

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Divided by the Equator, me in the southern hemisphere and Jo in the north… things look bigger in the south!

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Straddling the Equator… south on the left

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Jo hangs out int he northern hemisphere chatting to our paragliding benefactor

Just through El Quinche we left the busy roads behind and headed out onto Ciclovia El Chaquiñan, a cycle route following an old railway line. This interesting little interlude would take us through tunnels, over bridges and around canyons to Tumbaco. A storm and failing light forced us to split the 30 km ride in two with a night in Yaraqui. This turned out to be a blessing as the next morning was a glorious Sunday. All manner of cyclists flooded onto El Chaquiñan giving us plenty of people to talk to and a real sense of the vibrant cycling culture in the area. One of these groups of cyclists were a speedy bunch of mountain bikers led by the legendary Santiago, who along with his wife Ana Lucia runs the Casa de Ciclista we were heading to in Tumbaco. Bringing up the rear of the group was Martin, an Austrian cycle tourist who has thus far spent 10 months cycling up from Urshuaia. Martin was glad to peel off from the group and dordle back to the Casa with us, a stroke of luck as we didn’t have much idea where it was.

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Just a little way through El Quinche the old railway line peels off to the right and provides a cycle route all the way to Tumbaco

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As you’d expect from a railway, there are plenty of bridges and tunnels to negotiate

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I’m sure the original rail route wasn’t this steep… fun riding though

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After a night in Yaraqui we rejoin the route on a sunny Sunday morning

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It’s a fun route to navigate… just look for remnants of railways track

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Some of the tunnels are quite long and dark

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And some of the bridges may scare nervous souls

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The closer we get to Tumbaco the more established the route becomes and the less rubbish litters the way

I think every cycle tourist I know and have met who have spun through Ecuador have made a stop in Tumbaco. A quiet little nondescript place about 15 km outside of Quito there is little attraction other than the very welcoming Casa de Ciclista. These are homes that people have opened across the continent to passing cyclists. Santiago and Ana Lucía’s CDC in Tumbaco is one of the older more established and popular stop overs. The couple have been allowing cyclists into their home for 23 years but yet still manage to maintain enormous enthusiasm for their guests. It is an incredibly generous gesture on their part to offer free accommodation to so many people. Last year they had 108 cyclists stay at their house! It felt like a genuine privilege to meet Santiago and his family and we’re grateful for their hospitality. Although we only stayed one night Jo and I made our mark, apparently the first brother and sister combination to pass through in all 23 years.

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The church in Tumbaco’s main square

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Ana Lucía has sisters that live in separate houses on the Casa de Ciclista plot

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Austrian Martin has been at the CDC for three weeks… a long three weeks for the dog!

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Lucy and Alberto were in Tumbaco waiting to start their tour of South America… check out their blog machacasonwheels.blogspot.com

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Real cycle tourists have beards and tan lines

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Santiago lives and breathes bikes… a successful bike mechanic the property is home to countless old bikes and parts

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Santiago even has a Harley sitting neglected in the corner

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Tumbaco CDC offers loads of space for camping and even has a spare room that I was lucky enough to sleep in for our one night stay

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Tumbaco seems to have its own warm and sunny climate… hard to leave

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Thank you Santiago and family… you make many peoples lives better

It would have been nice to stay longer in Tumbaco but we’d only been on the road a few days and were chomping at the bit to get out and ride Cotopaxi National Park. So, the morning after we arrived we packed up, said our goodbyes and headed out for the start of a memorable route around the east side of Cotopaxi.

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One response to “Taking the Railway Tracks to Tumbaco

  1. Glad to have met you guys in Tumbaco. We´re now about to tackle the road up to El Ángel to follow your route in reverse to Tulcán. We´ll keep a close eye on your routes as you head South to Perú. All the best and keep all those good off-road km going!

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