|Mountain Biking for Wusses on Cotopaxi Mountain||1 | 2 | 3 | 4|
COTOPAXI, ECUADOR — Neither of us had ever been up as high as 4500 meters before (over 14700 feet for the metric-impaired), but we figured having spent the past few days getting acclimatized to the elevation of Quito at about 2850 meters, things shouldn't be too bad. I would scoff at that now, but it would require too much oxygen. Naturally, the air was pretty thin, and we were out of breath if we so much as tried to fart.
Which is why it made perfect sense for us to go mountain biking here.
|Preparing to Fly|
Technically, I'm probably giving ourselves way too much credit to say we "went mountain biking". It's true, we were on mountain bikes, but 99% of that time was spent going downhill. Then again, if you think racing downhill at 14000 feet is a trivial task, let me be the first to strongly recommend you wear your protective gear, cause you'll probably need it.
At the earliest stages of our trip planning, many many months ago, there were a few things I knew I wanted to do. Among those, I knew I wanted to mountain bike down a mountain in Ecuador. The idea came from an article I read in the newspaper, talking about how you ride up in a truck, then fly down on a bicycle while the truck follows behind.
Shortly after we arrived in Quito, we made arrangements with The Biking Dutchman, after doing extensive research and weighing several important criteria, such as: 1) which was closest to our hotel, and 2) who had the coolest URL. We elected to go on Thursday: being a city holiday, everything in town would be closed, so this would give us something to do and keep us away from all the hung-over partygoers of the past week.
We were accompanied on our excursion by Sharon, a student of public administration at CUNY, with family here in Ecuador, and our guide, Jan. Jan is the founder of "The Biking Dutchman" (so, yes, he's Dutch), and he usually doesn't take people out anymore, but he needed to give his guides some time off after more than twenty days without a break. We couldn't have been more fortunate, though. When I had mentioned in the van that I'd wanted to do this ever since I read about it in the newspaper back home, Jan replied, "Yep, the Miami Herald." That's when I realized that the article I read was about Jan and his company. In fact, Jan is actually the pioneer of mountain biking (as a tourist activity) in Ecuador, and is somewhat of a legend for it.
Given the odds of wanting to come here to do this very specific activity, finding that very same company just next door, and getting the man himself to guide us, I felt like luck was on our side more than ever today.