- Carlee Frank
Daredevil Conservationists of Ecuador
Zipping through mountains and past volcanoes, driven by my friend, tour guide and self-proclaimed daredevil René Arévalo Coloma, the Ecuadorian adventure began.
From Bolívar province of Ecuador, René is the founder of El Divino Enduro, a mountain biking tourism company fighting for the protection of natural spaces. He moonlights as an adventure tour guide for Haku Expeditions, a Peruvian adventure tourism company promoting cultural appreciation worldwide.
An impressive resume, however, can't accurately depict the depth of René's character. After six days of travel around Ecuador, from Quito to the Amazon, I would personally label him a true Ecuadorian, borderline anti-establishmentarian, environmentalist and an absolute hippie.
Where do you see yourself in 20 years? “In twenty years? In twenty years, I’ll probably be dead”, René laughed.
It may seem like an extreme answer, but it couldn’t describe René better. It takes into account the reality of his daredevil lifestyle, to which he said, “You have to be reckless in life. This is how many places, people and strong emotions are known.”
It also captures his life’s philosophy and goal: instant gratification and even seeing the fruits of one’s labor are not the goal, but rather living in a way that will positively impact the future of this planet and its inhabitants.
“Right now, we are creating the first municipal ordinance in Bolívar province in the protection of sustainable biking trails, because currently there is no protection against mining and deforestation,” René said.
The ordinance has since (Dec. 2019) been passed and new trails are being created. The surrounding land will be protected by the Bolívar province government, which, he said, will benefit not just his province but every region suffering under harmful industries.
While there are not many governmental attempts to protect ancestral lands from mining and big business, ordinances will fight to change this reality.
He is working with friends across Ecuador to establish relationships with municipal authorities to secure more ordinances. Though, he said, big business from foreign countries such as the United States and China make the process arduous.
“But, at this time in my life, I am using mountain biking as a means of communication between the parties,” René said.
Not only has mountain biking helped him break free from addiction, it is the tool he uses to protect endangered lands. Furthermore, mountain biking has connected him to others just as passionate about the environment and culture of Ecuador.
Similar to El Divino Enduro, Haku Expeditions promotes cultural appreciation via adventure and exploration. Haku is based in Cusco, Perú and was founded by William and Nicole Koch, an American couple beckoned by the beauty and heritage of South America over ten years ago.
The Ecuadorian Haku branch was established in 2018, providing tours with business partner and mountain biker Tony Martin. After meeting both William Koch and Tony Martin in 2018, René became their connection to the mountain biking community in Ecuador.
Mountain bikers in Ecuador can experience some of the best trails in South America in San Miguel of Bolívar province. The Andes Cordillera passes through here, allowing mountain biking enthusiasts to descend 9,000 ft. in just 12 miles. On these trips, bikers camp under the stars, enjoy homestays and eat incredible food, all while seeing beautiful Ecuador. This is just one type of several trips you can take with El Divino Enduro and Haku Expeditions.
In twenty years, René's true desire is to see Ecuador become a global mountain biking and adventure destination, while dually connecting people and celebrating culture and the environment. He wants to see tourism flipped on its head globally.
“It’s the kids in the country with real smiles, eating real street food with the people and having real conversation that will make a change," René said.
Visit El Divino Enduro and Haku Expeditions Ecuador on Instagram
@eldivinoenduro and @Haku_Expeditions_Ecuador