My first time in Ecuador, and second time in South America, was in the Fall of 2016. As part of the study away semester offered by my college, I had chosen to fly to Quito, the capital; I would stay there for four months, living with a host family, taking classes and doing an internship in a biking organization. While I enjoyed the historic sights and the parks of Quito, it's when I ventured out of the city that I really experienced what sets Ecuador apart from any other country in the world. From its millions of species of plants and animals, to its various indigenous people and incredible landscapes, Ecuador is extremely diverse, yet it still retains a sense of uniqueness and unity.
1.8312° S, 78.1834° W
Having the Andes as a backdrop provides the country with spectacular mountainous environments. Having a week off in the middle of the semester, I set out to discover more about these regions. I rented a mountain bike in Quito and headed South to the mighty Cotopaxi, the second highest peak in Ecuador. With Martin, a German student I had met at the hostel the night before, we contracted a local guide to take us to the small parking lot set on the Western flank of the volcano, at 4500 m
(14,764 ft). After a quick round trip hike to the José F. Ribas Refuge, used for summit attempts, we took our bikes off the racks and started biking down the mountain. In itself, the descent was stupendous: the steepness of the slope and the unstable dirt created a thrilling experience. However, the landscape is what made the descent unforgettable. We would sometimes stop mid-slope, like Martin in the picture above, not only to catch our breath but to admire the striking beauty of the surroundings.