“Well, if they run away, we have about 20 minutes to get to higher ground.”
We were halfway up an active volcano in Banos, Ecuador, standing in the “canyon,” where pyroclastic flows travel during an eruption. The area was lush and green with puffy white clouds hanging in the moist air; making it easy to forget we were standing on a volcano. The black crumbling earth below our feet, however, was a good reminder.
We were on a horseback ride and had asked our guide why he left the horses untied while we wandered around the valley. Apparently the horses can feel the small rumblings and tremors leading up to an eruption. He said in all his years working as a guide this only happened to him three times – a relative comfort for us.
And although it is an active volcano, there are even some strong willed locals that have set up homes in the canyon. Not advisable, but they are generally evacuated in time. Interestingly the town of Banos is no longer evacuated because it sits below a mountain that protects it from the pyroclastic flows that pass beside it. The people living in the canyon, outside the town, are not so lucky. (Check out the map of our route up the volcano).
I try to horseback ride in any country I visit, as long as the horses are healthy and in good condition. The one thing I love about riding is that, I find that it gives you a really personal experience.
We met Jose, our guide, at a small farm nestled at the base of the mountain and squeezed within the city limits. Jose made an effort to give me a horse for an “experienced” rider, which mostly meant the horse had more pep then my boyfriend’s horse. Our G adventures tour guide set up the ride for us and relayed our riding experience, so I never even had to ask myself – such a nice bonus!
We rode through the city and took a left up Tungurahua volcano, where we met many locals because our guide waved and chatted with all the people we passed. For me this really added to the experience. Once out of the town the ride was fast paced with many areas to gallop. Our guide’s and my horse thought that racing would be fun, while my boyfriend’s horse cantered at a safe pace behind us.
Jose and I chatted horses for a while, probably to Greg’s dismay. He told me how he starts many young horses and also works with problem horses. It was neat to have our ride led by a true horseman. He even travelled throughout Europe learning about horses, but ended up back in his hometown of Banos.
We learned about the local horses and why they are very small – being bred to ride through the mountains on small rocky paths will do that. He explained that most of the horses are crosses that have predominately Arabian and Andalusian blood from horses brought over from Spain. Seeing a horse like my own in Ecuador would be incredibly rare, as she would just be too big.
Our ride came to pause as we dismounted in the canyon to learn more about the Tungurahua Volcano and why our horses were not tied! We spent about 20 minutes talking about the volcano and hot springs in the area. Before long, we remounted and took a leisurely ride down the mountain’s winding road towards the town.
I loved the town of Banos and everything is had to offer. I would also highly recommend checking out the Jose &Two Dogs tour group if you find yourself in this part of Ecuador.
Read more about our trip in Ecuador: Ecuador in 9 days: Quito, Tena, Banos, Lasso