San José de Mashpi, paradise on the mountain

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The Mashpi River makes its way among guava trees and centenarian ceibas, meandering through one of the most biodiverse places on the planet, a remnant of the Chocó cloud forest ecosystem. This marks the lowest elevation within Metropolitan Quito and everything seems to converge here, as if we were standing at the very threshold that divides Andean subtropical forests from the lowland, tropical world below.

This small niche is a bustle of incessant life.

There is no room for silence, although deer and felines slink silently amid the tangles in perfect camouflage, as insect, bird, toad and frog calls burst boisterously from the green. All of this beauty is shared by approximately 200 people who live here; true paradise.

For about five years now, the community has been talking about sustainable development, conservation and respecting nature; they proudly tell us that behind them lie the years of tree-cutting and forest destruction.

Now they promote responsible tourism practices; they really want to be “friends of the river”, which is, of the many possible translation of the word Mashpi that exist, the one with which the community most identifies itself with.

Every season of the year is good to visit, and each has particularities that make it unique. The Turismo Sustentable Río Mashpi organizes visits, hoping to share experiences and convey the message of preserving this area’s fabulous natural heritage.

They offer camping, lodging, many trails for hiking and the delights of local dishes, where you’ll discover guaña broth, sautéed sabaleta and heart of palm ceviche.

From the forest to the pot!

The crystalline river and its surroundings are part of the Mashpi-Guaycuyacu-Sahuangal Conservation and Sustainable Area, which recently became the Protected Natural Area of the Metropolitan District of Quito, a new category of conservation and community sustainability.

Chocolate and conservation

As part of the community’s guided walks, you can visit Mashpi Shungo, which has quickly made a name for itself for its innovative harvesting, processing and preparation of chocolate and cacao products. This plantation demonstrates how we can restore our forests and combine environmentally-friendly activities to strengthen the community through tourism and production

Amagusa Reserve

A nearby stopover for bird watchers and nature enthusiasts is this private reserve. It is full of striking species such as the gorgeous Glistening-Green Tanager, Rose-faced Parrot, Indigo Flowerpiercer, Moss-backed Tanager and Flame-faced Tanager, with excellent feeders and trails that lead into its extensive protected primary forest.

www.riomashpi.org

Two-wheel Mashpi

To venture out into the Chocó foothills by bike, take the Pacto-Mashpi road, passing by La Delicia and Guayabillas, a 39 km long route that follows the so-called “brown sugar, chocolate and heart of palm” trail (all dirt roads). The first 10 km are uphill, and although there are some additional climbs, most of the way is downhill, a clear advantage when it comes to just taking in the joys of nature!

We recommend wearing comfortable clothes, a waterproof vest or jacket, change of clothes and hydration. Don’t forget your swimsuit and don’t miss out on a dip in the nearby rivers and waterfalls! In case you can’t drive there, you can hire a pick-up truck service at the town of Pacto.

By car you can take the paved road Quito-Los Bancos-Pachijal (Cielo Verde)-Mashpi, it is approximately 135 km; the road is in good condition.

Technical information

Average time: 2h30 – 3 hours

Physical level: medium

Technical Level: Easy, though there is little traffic, so be watchful on your way down when riding.

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