Tulcan to Tumbaco: A change of plans.

For various reasons which I’ll expand on at some point, I’ve had to put my journey on hold for a few of months.

I now find myself back in the UK, desperately missing the road and its rhythm. The bananas don’t taste half as good, the avocados are tiny, and a clean bed is definitely no improvement on my cosy little tent… But on a brighter note, it’s wonderful to see my family again and catch up with friends after so long away. And reacquainting myself with my local Bristolian trails is a good reminder that you don’t have to travel across the world to have a great ride.

I aim to keep the blog going during this interim, as there are various stories and kit reviews I have in the pipeline. I’ll be posting a report on the last ride into Quito soon – a cracker of a dirt road climb to Lago Mojando, followed by 40 kms of uninterrupted trail and blisterinly fast singletrack along an old railway line. In fact, the last few days in Ecuador were as good a finale as I could have hoped for after two incredible years in the Americas.

Our last campspot. Lago Mojanda, 3700m, reached by climbing one of Ecuador’s infamously cobbled climbs.

Arnaud picks his way along a sublime dirt road up at 4000m.

Welcome to the Ecuadorian Andes: the permanently snow-capped Volvan Cayambe, 4690m.

I’m already missing the simple life, my bike loaded with only as many possessions as I can carry.

A boxed Troll, a sad sight indeed. Heading home two years and three days after I left… But I hope to be back soon.

The Need to Know Bit:

From the border, it’s possible to stay on dirt (or cobbles…) for much of the way to Tumbaco – and it’s a stunning ride, up amongst the high altitude Paramo.

From Tulcan, look out for the bizarre church with gun-toting dward statue, a few kilometres out of town. Turn right up the dirt road, heading for the Reserva Ecologica El Angel. Up amongst the Paramo makes a great spot to camp. From the reserve (toilets and water), it’s a cobbled descent down to El Angel, a good resupply point.

A paved road drops down via Mira to the Panamerican. A back road exists to Otovalo, via Salinas, Urcuqui and Cotacachi (some cobbles) or you can stick to the highway via Ibarra, as we did. However, I’d highly recommend the backroute from Otovalo to Tabacundo, via Laguna Mojanda (3700m). After a cobbled climb, a beautiful dirt road loops round the lake to the left. Ignoring the first right hand turn after the climb, drop back down instead to the lakeshore on the other side (we camped beside the building under construction). It’s a climb from there  up to Cerro Negro, before a steep descent back down to Tabacundo, on a mixed surface dirt road, with views to Volcan Cayambe. Stunning! Timewise, we explored the market at Otovalo in the morning and headed up to Laguna Mojanda in the afternoon, camping there. From the lake, it’s a day’s ride to Tumbaco.

If you’re headed for the Casa de Ciclistas at Tumbaco via Cayamba and Santa Rosa, be sure to pick up ‘El Chaquinan’ from El Quinche – drop a line to Santiago at the Casa for details on how to get to its start point, which is a little awkward to find. It’s a lovely dirt road and singletrack route, a converted railway line bike track popular with cyclists, and easy going for the most part.


17 thoughts on “Tulcan to Tumbaco: A change of plans.

  1. Luis

    Hi Cass! It´s the first time I write a comment in your blog (at least I do think so), though I´ve been following your wonderings for a while. I hope you are doing well back in home and to keep reading your stories. Please, keep us updated!

  2. Susan Moberly

    I cant believe you are back in Blighty, Cass? WHAT made you decide to fly home? Family pressures? Afraid I’ve been out of touch with your Mum though I do write more often than she does. Yes, bananas and everything else are about to double in price so I’ve just heard but thanks be Buddha I’m still living in Chiang Mai and enjoying it much more than I would shopping at Tesco in UK! I hope you manage to get back to your life on the road soon as (for selfish reasons) I shall miss your blog and awe inspiring photographs. I’ve just spent six weeks floating in tropical waters off Samui and it was sheer bliss. Give my love to Ma and Pa and tell Ma I’ll write again soon X

  3. Matthew Karsten

    Sometimes it’s necessary to take a break…

    Looking forward to seeing you back on the road in the future though! This has become one of my favorite blogs to visit. 🙂

  4. gyatsola

    Hey Cass, sorry to hear you had to cut it short – at least you got home during the summer! And lots to do of course (hint: http://www.sswc2011.ie)

    Hope you get to finish off the trip and this blog sometime, your updates have been the main reason for me to bother logging into the internet these days.

  5. bpdlr

    Hey Cass, look me up if you’re in London, would love to meet up. Sorry to hear you’ve cut your trip short, I’ll miss all those lovely food pictures! 🙂

  6. hendrikjonker

    Will miss your great stories and beautiful pictures. Felt like being on holiday myself. Hope you’ll be back on track soon. Hope to read from you again. Keep up. Henk

  7. richNYC

    Wow Cass!!!

    Hope to see you in South America soon;))) Or anywhere else… Thanks for sharing your travels through this amazing blog;))) And keep us updated on your plans;)

    Tailwinds brother,

    Rich, still from NYC but most likely soon from Madrid…

  8. Tickles

    I was very sad to hear that you will be on hiatus. I echo the others here to say that I have greatly enjoyed reading your blog entries. In fact, While Out Riding is the highlight of checking my RSS feed and I always save your entries for last so that I can go on with my day with a smile on my face. I mean how can’t I revel in the beautiful pictures and your masochistic determination to find the least traveled route between two points?
    So, if it’s not too forward: rest up, tune the parts, and get back for a couple thousand more kilometers in the Andes – I need something to distract me from my doctorate studies!
    Charles Stone (some American bloke in Colorado)

  9. brian

    It”s been great reading your blog, especially the kit reviews as well as everything else, on my own way down the americas at the moment, look forward to more of your writing and pic’s.

    go well.

  10. Andrew

    Welcome back Cass, the lure of English beer too strong ….?

    I just came across this chaps videos and thought you’d enjoy them


    Best Wishes


    1. richNYC


      That’s Mike Curiak;))) Google him, he used to be a racer… Did the Great Divide MTB race some years ago;))) Great video btw!!! Thanks for the link!!!

    1. Tom

      Hoping you will be too.

      We’re heading out from Bogota tomorrow (13th). If you’ve time in between other things, we’d love to hear more details (even just jotted notes) about the Laguna Mojanda route..

      Muchas gracias
      Tom y Sarah


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