Unbeknownst to us, the road we took after entering Ecuador was into a bit of a “cocaine-up-the-nose” drug cartel area, occupied by shady characters who blackmarket timber from the Amazon. The path was only partially shown on maps, and we thought it would be good to explore there, as it would take us into the Amazonian area of Ecuador, not along the usual well-trodden highways. We soon found out why so few travel there.

We would go as far as we could and hopefully hook up with other roads meandering into the jungle. On the maps, it looked promising. The road hugged the Colombia-Ecuador border heading inland, traversing over the Andes Mountains and down into the Amazon basin. The two British overlanders we’d befriended in Colombia, Kelvin and Suzie, rode with us. It is sensible to travel with a small group into such unknown territory. The first night, we slept in an auto motel about 100 km after the border crossing.

South and Central American “auto motels” are essentially set up for a quick “shag” on the outskirts of towns. They are typically booked by the hour, and often cost less for the whole night than traditional hotels. Most are quite lavish, glittery, and cheaply decorated, exceptionally clean, and well maintained. There are also mirrors on the ceilings, porn channels on TV, and furniture in interesting shapes. High walls and cheesy signage lure in the lusty and loving.

The story goes that since so many families live together in single houses or spaces, there’s no privacy, making the “auto motels” so popular. Privacy is paramount; therefore, these motels have private garages leading directly into the small apartments. This also makes them favorable to bikers. The only drawback is the noise from love makers, and I can attest that Latin Americans are indeed very vocal and steamy lovers.

We took off early the next morning, heading southeast into the Amazon along the border to Colombia on a muddy gravel road, a single-track cut into the side of the mountain. Not far along, the first ugly scars of a landslide made things difficult. Dirt roads disappeared around bends, and the first landslide was an area about 800 meters high and 600 meters wide that had given way and slid down the mountain, destroying the road and everything else in its path. When this happens, Ecuadorians typically just cut a new route through the destruction to restore access to local villages. There are few other options for getting in or out of the valley.

Ecuador is a small, power-packed country with dramatic mountains, the Amazon, volcanos, tropical beaches, and the famous Galapagos Islands. It offers riding second to none. The dirt roads are still challenging stuff, and although the locals use them, they can change in a rainy afternoon from passable to downright “death roads.” We planned to traverse the Amazon part of Ecuador, then back through the Andes to experience the mountains and volcanos, eventually servicing the bikes in the capital, Quito, before heading to the coast for some beach and sun.

Kitu Hotel Veintimilla 464 y Luis Tamayo, 170150 Quito, Ecuador

Set in a charming house with colonial style decor, Hotel Sierra Madre offers rooms with free Wi-Fi and cable TV in central Quito. A restaurant is featured, and breakfast is provided. Massage sessions can be requested. Decorated with wooden floors and gabled roofs, rooms at Hotel Sierra Madre feature large windows, which make them very bright. Some of them feature private balconies.


After two days of wet, cold, muddy mountain roads, we descended from 3,500 meters to 1,000 meters, into the Amazon basin. It was the mountain climate’s opposite; the basin’s heat and humidity had us stopping for cold beers to cool down. The Amazon is an impenetrable, green wall of life continually pushing back against human destruction. The real reason Ecuadorians got into deeper parts of the Amazon was due to oil exploration, with oil companies constructing roads into the previously impenetrable terrain. Temps usually hover around 30–35°C, with 90% humidity during the day, cooling a bit in the evenings, making it a hot, sweat-soaked, and demanding experience for riders.

We traveled deeper into the Amazon forest on our way to Limoncocha, a small, dilapidated outpost on the Napa river banks. It’s part of a nature reserve with incredible and unique birdlife, the kind of environment where sunsets are blood red and rain storms with white lightning strikes cover the landscape like a curtain. Houses are wooden shacks built upon elevated poles with mosquito netting covering the windows. Children play in the rain-soaked streets, often with plastic-container trash. Life is a meager existence living off whatever can be extracted from the forest. And, interestingly, it’s the piranha that the people eat, not the other way around as popularized in movies.

The Amazon’s dirt roads are not all muddy dirt tracks, but they can be skill-taxing for hours on end. We also ate dust for many miles on shock- and wheel rim-destroying cobblestone tracks. Occasionally, tree canopies kindly offered shade and some relief from the relentless heat and sun. We went to stay in another region close to the rain forests where we could day hike, sweating like old, battered boxers in a sweltering stadium. Locals were eager to teach us the way of authentic chocolate making and alternative medicines that create a psychedelic state of euphoria. But we opted not to take them up on the offer to try these potent “medicines.”

Roads leading back to the Andes are the stuff of motorcycling heaven. We were spoiled with the choice to ride single-lane dirt roads or eye-popping asphalt roads, some on the edge of vertigo-inducing mountainsides snaking up into the clouds, only to drop down the other side into spaghetti-twisting turns. And not a single moment without a beautiful mind-altering view of the dramatic landscape. Any 200-kilometer section could turn into an eight-hour riding day. There was no way one could go home without a mile-wide smile on their face; it’s that hand-quivering, heart-racing kind of exciting.Ecuadorians love their festivals, and they have some of the best. We were fortunate to attend one called “Mama Negra,” the oldest festival in Latacunga, combining the city’s vibrant past and varied cultural influences from its Spanish, Aymaran, Incan, Mayan, and African ancestors. The town was filled with parade watchers as the legendary characters passed by, bestowing blessings, candy, and homemade brew to the crowd. By afternoon, everyone was in high spirits, staggering, singing, and partying their way along the route. We left late in the evening smelling like old bar floors, but it was one of the funnest and wildest festivals we ever attended.

Part of the loop in Ecuador took us to Mount Chimborazo, which is an inactive volcano. The top of Chimborazo is as far as you can get from the center of the earth. This is interesting because there are many mountains higher than Chimborazo. However, the earth bulges at the equator, making Mount Chimborazo technically 1.5 miles higher than Mount Everest at an elevation of 6,263 m (20,548 ft.). And it’s bloody cold riding at that elevation–our carbureted bikes struggled. From there back to the coast, it’s possible to ride above the clouds at 3,500–4,200 m for hours on end, looking out over a sea of white clouds as far as the eye can see.

Amongst the landscapes are scatterings of small villages, with farmers and cattle herders living a life of romantic simplicity. There are still people near Mount Chimborazo cutting blocks of old glacier ice every day to sell to villages for various uses. Except for the main cities, Ecuador is a quiet, relaxed, and laidback country. Things happen at their own pace. Even more so on the coast. Nothing and no one is in much of a hurry. And, as they say, when in Rome… we slowed down like an old donkey pulling a cart, sipping self-made cocktails out of tin cups every afternoon while soaking up sunsets on the beaches.

Great fish dishes, cold beers, warm waters, and the Galapagos Islands, to which in the end we had to say “no thank you” due to the high cost of getting there. Instead, we opted to visit the Darwinian island with its freaky animals. The cost of visiting the Galapagos is stratospheric and only affordable to the rich, and backpacking hippies on trust funds. Our poverty-spec experience visiting Isla de la Plata, also known as the Poor Man’s Galapagos, gave us some consolation. It is a bumpy two-hour boat trip to the island, home to blue-footed boobies (birds) and animals that are also only otherwise found on the Galapagos Islands, but none of the larger mammals. And snorkeling gave us a glimpse into the extraordinary marine life there.

Cruising down the coast, eventually we ended up in a surfer village where a young American dude built a B&B overlooking the ocean; there, we kicked off our shoes for a couple of weeks. Every morning before dawn, local fishermen passed the house in their dilapidated pick-ups carrying fresh fish, shrimp, homemade peanut butter, and vegetables on offer. Ecuador’s coast is best explored as slowly as possible, taking time to drink the beer and other local beverages at tin roofed, wooden-clad shacks.

Our last stop was at the Alausí, a sleepy nexus between the Andes and the coast. Alausí is an old colonial town that might never have existed if not for the unique railway system. It was founded in 1905 as a “train town” because of the decision to bring the tracks up from the coast via the daring Devil’s Nose switchbacks. The town was a significant link to the large populations of the coastal plains, making trade possible in hours instead of the otherwise near-impassable and dangerous journeys over the mountains. When it was constructed, it was considered the most dangerous railroad in the world. Sheer cliffs and landslides mixed with heart-stopping descents made this track a death rail. Today it’s a tourist train that transports people up and down the switchback tracks to the river and valley below and back to the small town of Aluasí.

Nothing could have prepared us for the overwhelming number of sights, sounds, variety of dramatic landscapes, and culture that Ecuador showed us. We debated whether Ecuador could be named as one of the top five countries that offer the most mind-blowing experiences for the time spent in one country. Add to that the fact that Ecuador is a safe and easy country to travel; it’s one heck of an attractive motorcycling destination.


Source: adventuremotorcycle.com