Ecuador: Andes to the Amazon

My friend Ruben told me that there was a trail running adventure trip happening in Ecuador with Veronica Rojas Paurell and Anna Frost – two famous runners. We decided to sign up.

First things first was to acclimate. If we were to trail run in Ecuador at altitude (approximately 8k – 14k of elevation) then we needed to get there a few days early.

We explored Quito by foot and by visiting a bunch of vegan lunch spots after track workouts. And the tracks in Quito were pretty spectacular. They weren’t a perfect oval, instead they had up and down hills and were misshaped a bit. Plus things like pull up bars in the center of them and football / soccer turfs. But still a track. We decided to Uber over there (only once did we run the 1 mile there) and it was worth the $2 because the air quality in Quito was pretty poor.

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Also saw some parks, churches, and more.

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One of my favorite spots was Cumanda Parque Urbana. It was like a YMCA, open to the public and had cool fitness classes, a pool, an outdoor area for soccer, and more – essentially a community recreational center. And it had some cool art inside as well as programs like film classes.

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The trail running adventure began in the Andes. We first went to Sigchos, did some running, and all nights were stayed in eco-lodges for the most part.

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We also celebrated Ruben’s 33 birthday! Vanessa, his wife, a good friend of mine had called the lodge and she surprised him with a cake and card. Super sweet of her 🙂

Quilotoa was beautiful – it’s a crater lake surrounded by mountains.

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After that we journeyed to Cotopaxi, which is one of the world’s highest active volcanos. It’s gorgeous on a clear day!

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The next day we hiked up to el Rumiñahui and we got to ~15,000 feet which is the highest I’ve been up (after Mount Whitney, the highest mountain in the continental United States). This volcano was named after the general of the Inca Emperor, Atahualpa, who fought against the Spaniards. The emperor was murdered and it’s said that Rumiñahui hid the gold that was set to pay for Atahualpa’s freedom. We got to the top, was amidst the clouds, and then there was a bunch of scrambling downhill in which I got a ton of sand in my shoes.

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Guinea Pig Lake aka Laguna Cuicocha was one of my favorites. It’s the place Veronica fell in love with trail running, and I have to say it was pretty cool having your tour guide show you her home country. I stuck with Zach most of the run and I took so many pictures. We ran around the full lake.

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The next day we hiked up to Fuya Fuya in Otavalo. We hiked the whole way cause it would be easy to twist an ankle on this trail.

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Journey to the Amazon!  And it was hot, especially coming from elevation. We took a boat over to our lodge and that night went for a “Night Walk,” which um, was terrifying – full of spiders the size of your hand, and so many creatures – imagine Indiana Jones when he runs into the spiders all over his shoes – yeah, it was full of bugs like that. 😳

The next day we rafted the Jatunyacu river, which was so cool! It was my first rafting trip where I didn’t need to wear a full blown wetsuit – in New England you have to in order to bear the cold waters). Rafting definitely works your arms so we got a bit of a different workout from running. We rafted 25 km so ~15 miles. And we had a delicious lunch halfway through – tacos, yum – on the beach.

We did a jungle hike too where we learned about the trees, bees, Drago blood, and more…plus got to swing on the trees.

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After the Amazon we headed back to the Andes to Papallacta.  We did a route which was a part of the Cayambe-Coca Ecological Reserve and got great views. Was an awesome last run to the trip and we had seen so much in Ecuador!

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The final night we stayed at a lodge nearish Quito. We had our last group dinner together. The next day before flying out Ruben, Asdis and I all went into Quito to explore a bit of the city, and got some delicious Ecuadorian chocolate.

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