Three hours away from Quito on the outskirts of the Andes, lies a modern masterpiece hidden away in the clouds.
Mashpi Lodge is set within a private reserve in an area in Ecuador well known for its biodiversity, with hundreds of birds, insects, amphibians, waterfalls, and other flora and fauna.
The hotel is a striking, contemporary structure of glass and steel, with angular shapes that blend surprisingly well into the forest landscape. It’s an exclusive affair with only 22 rooms, all of which boast floor-to-ceiling windows which allow you to gaze straight into the trees from the comfort of a cushiony chair in your climate-controlled, insect-free room, perfect for a wildlife lover who loves her modern amenities and creature comforts, like me.
All meals and activities are included at Mashpi Lodge, and one of the activities is the Sky Bike, an aerial bike connected to a 200-metre cable suspended over a gorge in the forest, 60 metres above the ground at its highest point.
Two people sit in tandem – the person in the aft pedals to propel the bike, while the person at the fore enjoys the ride. It’s a round-trip journey, so one person normally pedals in one direction and then you swap.
Being slightly acrophobic, I thought I’d be more comfortable if I were in control, so I opted to pedal first. But my irrational mind got the better of me and I ended up pedaling through the highest bit with my eyes closed, rationalising to myself how secure the cable must surely be.
It’s a surreal feeling to pedal yourself across the gorge. Once you leave the platform, you traverse dense vegetation, and then gradually, the trees thin out and you realise you are buckled into a bizarre contraption, suspended in mid-air with the gorge 60 metres below.
The pedaling itself is an interesting sensation. It’s not terribly grueling, but the cable dips in the middle, so when you first embark, you need to control the pedals so to avoid surging forward too fast, and when you near the end, you do need to exert a bit of effort to get the weight of the bike uphill (in my case 160 kilos+) for the final stretch.
I found it more enjoyable as a passenger on the return trip. By this time I was confident that the cable wasn’t going to break.
You and your companion are alone with nature. It’s quiet and peaceful. And you get to enjoy the expansive landscape from a completely different perspective with a private, 360-degree, bird’s eye view.
From US$1205 per night per room including accommodation, all meals and soft drinks, transfers to and from the lodge from Quito, and activities.