A Journey Through Ecuador: Andes, Amazon, and Pacific Coast Tour
We double check our kit, our “motorcycle bug out bags,” making sure everything is in order. We had packed everything for the trip in our carry-on bags to avoid arriving without our gear. Most people who travel try to plan ahead in one way or another in order to avoid potential problems. Some even obsess over every little detail of a trip. Every turn planned and every mile accounted for. In my opinion over planning causes stress and does not allow for a full experience, but that’s just me. There is an alternative, a guided tour may suit you well if you must have structure but don’t want to plan the trip. To me, motorcycling is a somewhat personal thing. I have never been huge on group riding. However, anyone would be crazy to turn down an invitation from Court Rand, the owner of Ecuador Freedom Bike Rental, to come ride with them for nine days on their Andes, Amazon, and Pacific Coast Tour. The tour covers nearly a thousand miles on twisting roads that wind past beautiful white beaches, through dense rainforest, and over high mountain passes by active volcanoes.
My wife, Marisa, and I arrive at the shop early to get our bikes packed and ready, eager to get our ride underway. I would be riding a Triumph Tiger 800XC and Marisa would on a BMW F-800GS. The group got a briefing from Court on the route and Ecuadorian road etiquette, and we set off into the chaotic Quito traffic. The traffic calms as we make our way out of the large capital city, nestled in the Andes at nearly 10,000 ft. We visit Mitad del Mundo where we take our first steps into the southern hemisphere, and learn about the ancient culture of Ecuador. We stop for a lunch of roasted chicken and cuy, or guinea pig as it’s called back home. With our bellies full we turn onto a gravel road and ascend into the cloud forest. The Tiger was a treat to ride as nearly every curve gave way to more amazing views of the Andes. We soon come across an inn perched on a steep mountainside where we stop for a few minutes and watch the swarm of hummingbirds dart by us as they feed. Back on the bikes we head for the end of the gravel road and to a small town called Mindo. Here we toured a chocolate factory where they explain the process of production from start to finish, and let us sample some of the fresh dark chocolate. With the chocolate tour finished we ride to El Septimo Paraiso; a paradise in the middle of the rainforest where we had a few cervesas and an excellent dinner with the group before turning in.
We continue to wind our way westward towards the coastal town of Canoa. As we travel west we drop in elevation and the temperature begins to rise. Here is the hot, humid weather I expected when booking our trip to the equator. We pass through the coastal towns Pedernales and Jama on our way down the coast. The next morning the group visits a school where English is taught as a second language. Ecuador Freedom is a part of Pack for a Purpose, a worldwide organization that teams up with travelers to bring needed supplies to remote towns and villages. The group brought along school supplies for the children ranging from seven to thirteen years old. We were given a tour of the school before enjoying fresh cooked seafood for lunch followed by surfing lessons and paragliding in the afternoon. A hard day of relaxing is rewarded with a stunning sunset over the vast Pacific Ocean. It’s back on the bikes as we head inland through rice farmlands towards Vinces where we stay on a banana, teakwood, and chocolate plantation. The manager of the plantation educates us on these crops in a short presentation before another excellent dinner and a refreshing swim.
Fresh fruit and eggs for breakfast supply adequate fuel for a walk in the banana groves where the plantation manager continues to explain how the banana plants are cultivated most effectively. With the tour completed we hit the road, climbing back up towards the town of Sigchos. The air thins and the mountains rise. The curves seem to contract with the drop in temperature as we ascend. We wind our way up the mountain stopping to layer up and have a bit of coffee. As we climb we pass through several small villages nestled on the side of the mountain. Locals in traditional clothing look up from their work and wave as we pass through these rural areas. The farmers use every inch of the land possible. Crops are planted on high mountain sides with extremely steep slopes. The mountains are draped with what looks like a patchwork quilt of fields as you ride up Quilotoa Loop, a beautiful asphalt ribbon that undulates through the mountain up to the Quilotoa Crater Lake. The lake resembles an immense blue-green gem wedged in the dull earth. We continue on towards Sigchos and soon the asphalt ends. The sun hung low over the mountains as we rode the dirt road down the mountain towards the hotel. We arrived just as it slipped behind a high ridge. This was without a doubt one of my most memorable days on a motorcycle.
The views are no less stunning on day six as the tour takes us higher in the mountains. We ride past our first major volcano, Cotopaxi, a widely known mountaineering destination. We climb to over 14,500 ft riding by Ecuador’s tallest snowcapped volcano, Chimborazo. Standing at the summit of this volcano (20,564 ft) you would be closer to the sun than any other place on earth. Cold winds blow hard at this altitude, making it difficult to keep the bikes upright. Passing by the volcano we see wild vicunas, a South American camelid that resembles a llama, which live in the high alpine areas of the Andes. The road weaves down the mountain towards the city of Banos, a perfect town for adventurous types. The group decides to spend our rest day going white water rafting on the Pastaza River and soaking in the hot springs.
Our next destination is the Amazon Rain Forest. The road continues to twist towards our destination though Puyo and the climate changes yet again as we descend. The air becomes damp and warm once more. The Catacocha Amazon Lodge has small cabanas on the side of the Nabo River, a large tributary of the Amazon River. We get to our lodges and drop our things before boarding a motor canoe that takes us down river to a small town with a large population of monkeys where we spent the evening roaming the shops and enjoying ice cream.
We wake up early and head back to the canoe for a ride up the river. We stop at a trail where a guide shows us local wildlife during our hike to a large waterfall. We float on tubes back down the river, and enjoy our last lunch with the group. I’m glad to climb back on board the Tiger which has reliably carried me through this stunning country. We get an afternoon start, riding back up to Quito along roads that follow the contour of the valleys. Breathtaking views have been perpetual since day one of the tour and they continue as we come off of the mountain filtering back through the Quito traffic towards the shop - where our journey comes to an unwelcome end.
The nine day tour has flown by, riding over beautiful mountain passes, by towering waterfalls, and down long corridors of banana plants. Ecuador has not disappointed. Nine weeks wouldn’t even be enough time to see all the places worth seeing in this exceedingly diverse country. Court and Sylvan, our knowledgeable guides, did an excellent job showing the group around the country with the limited time they had. Ecuador Freedom Bike Rental offers guided tours, self-guided tours, as well as rentals. For someone with limited time, the guided tour is the most “bang for your buck”. You will find yourself traveling places you possibly would not go, trying restaurants you would have never known about, and riding scenic roads you may have never discovered. I have to say, it is nice to just get on the bike and ride. You don’t worry about finding the best places to go, or the things to do when you get there. All you have to do is ride your bike and soak in the beautiful country and the Ecuadorian culture. We can’t wait to go back.
View our full photo album here: https://motoduoadventures.smugmug.com/Adventures-in-Ecuador-2015/