Category Archives: Ecuador

ECUADOR: LAND OF OPPORTUNITY (for poor adventurers)

MONKEYS, MOUNTAINS, MUD, AND MORE! IT SEEMED AS THOUGH FOR EVERY HOUR ON THE ROAD WE’D GO THROUGH A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT LANDSCAPE POLAR OPPOSITE TO THE LAST. THE SCENERY IN THIS COUNTRY HAS BEEN MIND-BLOWING! ALMOST AS MIND-BLOWING AS THE $1.48/GALLON GAS PRICES AND THE $2 FULL COURSE MEALS.

FRIDAY, JULY 26th – DAY 51 – IPIALES, COLOMBIA – QUITO, ECUADOR

Up to this point, everything we had done on this journey I knew was feasible and legal. When Mac bought a Swiss registered motorcycle that was legally supposed to be out of Colombia 4 months earlier (and now subject to “legal penalties”), we found ourselves in a precarious situation. Upon leaving Colombia, the police might have a couple different questions for Mac that could have led to imminent fines or seizure of the motorcycle…

Where is the owner of the bike (according to this title)?

Are you aware that you are no longer legally allowed to have this bike in Colombia?

Why have you allowed the bike to stay in the country 7 months instead of 3?

We prepared for as many scenarios as possible with fake owner permission forms and titles and explanations for the motorcycle’s delay leaving the country. But for the first time in our border crossing history, there was no machine-gun toting police officer there to check our vehicle permits. So… we stamped our passports out of Colombia and rode into Ecuador. So far so good! Arriving in Ecuador we stamped in and then used Mac’s photoshopped Swiss title (now with his name on it) to buy $5 insurance and get our Ecuadorian vehicle permits. Everything went perfect! Mac’s bike wasn’t seized, no one asked any questions, and from here on out he’d just use the fake title in his name. Success!

Leaving the border we headed through extremely diverse terrain once more. We went from cold/wet conditions to hot desert and then to extremely high mountains once more. We arrived in Quito(9,500 feet), the capital of Ecuador, which sits right on the equator, just after it got dark. We’d already passed the Tropic of Cancer back in Mexico and I was semi-looking forward to going from “summer” to “winter” in a split second as we crossed the line.

When we arrived at our hostel we asked where the equator was. The guy responded, “oh ya, you passed it about 20 minutes ago.” Oh. Cool.

Packing up our stuff for the last time in Colombia.
Packing up our stuff for the last time in Colombia.
Mac Daddy Robertson, officially accepted into Ecuador with a photoshopped swiss title.
Mac Daddy Robertson, officially accepted into Ecuador with a photoshopped swiss title.
Arriving in Ecuador, the first town. Tulcan.
Arriving in Ecuador, the first town. Tulcan.
More Tulcan.
More Tulcan.
tons of green farmland on all sides.
tons of green farmland on all sides.
Dippin down into lower elevations again.
Dippin down into lower elevations again.
On our way down
On our way down
RIding through a random HOT desert at the bottom of the valley
RIding through a random HOT desert at the bottom of the valley
came around a corner and saw mount imbabura (15,000 feet)
came around a corner and saw mount imbabura (15,000 feet)
Ibarra is the city just at the foot of the mountain
Ibarra is the city just at the foot of the mountain
We ended up doing a full loop basically around the mountain and then up into higher elevations once more.
We ended up doing a full loop basically around the mountain and then up into higher elevations once more.
The view of Cotopaxi (a dormant volcano) from the highway.
The view of Cotopaxi (a dormant volcano) from the highway.
Cayambe, another dormant volcano that loomed over us throughout half the day.
Cayambe, another dormant volcano that loomed over us throughout half the day.
Arriving in Quito at night, we ended up staying in a hostel 15 feet to the right from where this was taken.
Arriving in Quito at night, we ended up staying in a hostel 15 feet to the right from where this was taken.

SATURDAY, JULY 27th – DAY 52 – QUITO, ECUADOR

The entire day was spent taking care of our last major motorcycle adjustments of the trip. Chase and I put our new front tires on we’d been hauling around. I got a new off-road oriented back tire as well. We had a shop put new brake material on Chase’s front brakes for $6 (finding new originals has been impossible every time we’ve looked). We also made a crappy improvisation to Chase’s choke lever that had snapped off when he fell in Baja California. Until now he hadn’t really needed it, but when we entered the Andes he had to hold the choke cable with his hand every morning until the engine was warm. Finally, we did a valve adjustment on Mac’s bike and checked the KLR 650s as well. All good. From here on out, hopefully just oil changes and chain maintenance.

New tires, new brakes. Ready for action!
New tires, new brakes. Ready for action!
Valve adjustments on the Honda
Valve adjustments on the Honda

SUNDAY, JULY 28th – DAY 53 – QUITO, ECUADOR – TENA, ECUADOR

While putting Mac’s valve covers on the day before, an important (and warped) bolt snapped in half. We managed to get it out of the engine block but it was a chore Sunday morning finding/cutting the right size replacement bolt. We got everything sorted early though and got on our way headed towards the Amazon Rainforest. To get there we’d have to cross completely over Andes Mountains. From Quito (9,500 feet) we went up, and up and up and up and up until finally reaching the top of the pass at 13,500 feet. With the lack of oxygen, the motorcycles felt as powerful as a moped.

All of our surroundings changed rapidly during the course of an hour. It was freezing and windy at the top but the descent into the Amazon warmed up quickly. The mountains went from pale brown vegetation to green and then thicker and thicker vegetation. The descent only took about a couple hours but by the time we reached the Upper Amazon Rainforest we had already dropped to below 2,000 feet.

After some annoying tire issues, we arrived in Tena around 5:00pm. We had just enough light to go for a jungle ride. After securing our hostel we bolted for the nearest remote dirt road. Two hours later we were back in Tena for dinner and bed.

Peace out Quito.
Peace out Quito.
On our gusty climb up to 13,500 feet and over the Andes mountain range
On our gusty climb up to 13,500 feet and over the Andes mountain range
Finally on our way down and the scenery immediately turned green.
Finally on our way down and the scenery immediately turned green.
and greener. and more and more beautiful
and greener. and more and more beautiful
My poor baby awaiting a new inner tube on the side of the road after getting my first flat.
My poor baby awaiting a new inner tube on the side of the road after getting my first flat.
Inner tube repair. A half hour of labor - $1.50.
Inner tube repair. A half hour of labor – $1.50.
Coming back from the tire place
Coming back from the tire place
Another angle of our roadside maintenance location.
Another angle of our roadside maintenance location.
The view from the last hill before the landscape turns completely flat. Only like 2000 miles to the Atlantic..
The view from the last hill before the landscape turns completely flat. Only like 2000 miles to the Atlantic..
Dropping down from said hill
Dropping down from said hill
Chase gettin creative with his photography skills.
Chase gettin creative with his photography skills.
Finally reached the bottom. Pretty much flat from here on out.
Finally reached the bottom. Pretty much flat from here on out.
A quick pit stop during our evening jungle ride.
A quick pit stop during our evening jungle ride.
A view of the dirt road we found.
A view of the dirt road we found.
Sightseeing at the headwaters of the Amazon river
Sightseeing at the headwaters of the Amazon river
It got dark, as we had kind of hoped. And we ended up riding 30 minutes through the rainforest like this.
It got dark, as we had kind of hoped. And we ended up riding 30 minutes through the rainforest like this.

MONDAY, JULY 29th – DAY 54 – TENA, ECUADOR – BANOS, ECUADOR

We woke up the next morning with one thing on our minds. Monkeys.

The night before, the owner of the hotel mentioned a little town down the river that was full of monkeys. We were immediately sold. We rode about 30 minutes further east into the Amazon rainforest to a little town called Misahualli. It was the same as any other Ecuadorian jungle town BUT with monkeys running around! After more than 30 minutes of monkey-play-time, we hopped on a little skinny canoe and went for a 45-minute boat cruise on the mighty Napo River (one of the headwaters of the Amazon River). The boat cruise was not complete without a quick dip.

Side note: we were at an elevation of about 1300 feet here. The water we were swimming in eventually becomes part of the Amazon River and drains out in the Atlantic more than 2500 miles downstream. That’s about half a foot of elevation drop for every mile. It’s crazy to think that for so many miles the Earth is so flat.

After our Jungle cruise we backtracked towards Tena and then headed for Banos (a tiny turisty city at the base of one of the most active volcanoes in South America, Tungurahua). For the most part we stayed on curvy jungle roads before meeting up with the Pastaza River and following it through a gorge to the town of Banos. I’ve run out of clever adjectives to describe the scenery so you’ll have to just check out the photos.

Arriving in Banos, we immediately set out to find a road that could take us closest to top of the volcano. From Banos we could only see clouds blocking the top of the volcano where according to locals, it was bellowing tons of ash.

The road started out paved, then turned into rocks, then turned into mud. Mac was having a fun time with his semi-worn street tires. Although we never were able to see the top of the volcano, the road had a gorgeous view of the valley below and it was well worth it to see Mac fall in the mud 10 times.

Arriving in Misahualli. MONKEYS! I really like the monkey pics so I'm putting a bunch of them up...
Arriving in Misahualli. MONKEYS! I really like the monkey pics so I’m putting a bunch of them up…

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A lady told us that if we tear up onions and lay them out on our laps the monkeys would flock to us. And they did! something about the onions makes them go nuts. they would sit on our laps and just start scratching themselves and rubbing themselves down all over. ..and peeing all over us.
A lady told us that if we tear up onions and lay them out on our laps the monkeys would flock to us. And they did! something about the onions makes them go nuts. they would sit on our laps and just start scratching themselves and rubbing themselves down all over. ..and peeing all over us.
I'm pretty sure I've got 5 monkeys on my lap here.
I’m pretty sure I’ve got 5 monkeys on my lap here.

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“If there is one thing I’m proud of that I’ve done in my life, it’s that I’ve played with monkeys!” –Mac Robertson
“If there is one thing I’m proud of that I’ve done in my life, it’s that I’ve played with monkeys!” –Mac Robertson
We found the papa. He was a real gentleman.
We found the papa. He was a real gentleman.
Riding through the Amazon...
Riding through the Amazon…
Floatin' through the Amazon.
Floatin’ through the Amazon.
Coming back to port
Coming back to port
The road leaving the Monkey Kingdom
The road leaving the Monkey Kingdom
The sign says, "Danger, maximum height 2.4 Meters"
The sign says, “Danger, maximum height 2.4 Meters”
A quick pit stop in the river gorge on the way to Banos.
A quick pit stop in the river gorge on the way to Banos.
oooooooo
oooooooo
There were a bunch of tunnels we had to go through to get to Banos. Water was dripping and sometimes spewing from the ceiling.
There were a bunch of tunnels we had to go through to get to Banos. Water was dripping and sometimes spewing from the ceiling.

Mac’s motorcycle crash segment —>

Crash #1
1..

Crash #2
2..
Crash #3
3..
Crash #4
4!
It's hard to tell from the pics but the whole road was at a pretty steep angle.
It’s hard to tell from the pics but the whole road was at a pretty steep angle the entire ride.
Coming down the Volcano without seeing anything..
Coming down the Volcano without seeing the top…bummer.
From this vantage point you are supposed to be able to see the volcano perfectly. bummer.
From this vantage point you are supposed to be able to see the volcano perfectly. not today.
These volcano refuge centers (soccer fields) were all over the place.
These volcano refuge centers (soccer fields) were all over the place.
The Cathedral in Banos
The Cathedral in Banos

TUESDAY JULY 30th – DAY 55 – BANOS, ECUADOR – CUENCA, ECUADOR

Lucky for us, our hostel came equipped with a rooster that liked to caw at 2:00 am, 3:00am, 4:00am, etc. We all slept great..

In the morning we took care of a few maintenance items. Mac got both of his mirrors (which broke off the day before on the volcano road) semi-fixed. Leaving Banos, Tungurahua was still covered in clouds…bummer. Then it was on to Cuenca, Ecuador, “Ecuador’s most beautiful city.” The ride was semi-uneventful. 210 miles, mostly above 10,000 feet. We passed by Chimborazo, a giant dormant volcano and also the farthest point from the center of the earth. We arrived in Cuenca with light to spare and went for a stroll. It seems all the trendy people of Ecuador have found their way to that city. It had a really cool vibe and beautiful city streets.

Our midget hotel room. We all smacked our heads on the light bulbs a bunch. Luckily nothing broke.
Our midget hotel room. We all smacked our heads on the light bulbs a bunch. Luckily nothing broke.
A typical Ecuadorian breakfast. $2. And the soup is half eaten..
A typical Ecuadorian breakfast. $2. And the soup is half eaten..
Leaving Banos and heading for the Ecuadorian highlands. Chimborazo somewhere to our right.
Leaving Banos and heading for the Ecuadorian highlands. Chimborazo somewhere to our right.
The only photo we got of the top of Chimborazo.. The farthest point from the center of the Earth.
The only photo we got of the top of Chimborazo.. The farthest point from the center of the Earth.
The ride to Cuenca
The ride to Cuenca
Looking out over what my map says is the Pacific Ocean and Guayaquil, Ecuador (50 miles away)
Looking out over what my map says is the Pacific Ocean and Guayaquil, Ecuador (50 miles away)
The view from our hostel balcony of Cuenca
The view from our hostel balcony of Cuenca
The famous cathedral in Cuenca
The famous cathedral in Cuenca

WEDNESDAY JULY 31st – DAY 56 – CUENCA, ECUADOR – TUMBES, PERU

After Mac’s muddy volcano experience a couple days before we spent an hour finding mac a new rear tire. At around 10:30 am we left Cuenca and headed for the Ecuador-Peru border near the coast. At some point the scenery changed into a hot mountainous desert. Along the side of the highway we saw a dirt road carving through the mountains and since we were making good time, we opted for the scenic route. The road wasn’t on my GPS but it seemed to go in the right direction-ish. After following the dirt road 30 minutest we stopped to ask a woman whether the road would eventually lead us back to the highway. She just responded, laughing “Ya, but you’re better off turning around!” Eventually we made it back to the highway and then the Peruvian border. Adios, Ecuador! It’s been real.

The ride out of Cuenca. I think our hostel was one of those buildings.
The ride out of Cuenca. I think our hostel was one of those buildings.
Down the mountain and towards the Peruvian/Ecuadorian coastline
Down the mountain and towards the Peruvian/Ecuadorian coastline
DETOUR!
DETOUR!
Cowboy life.
Yeeeehaw!
sketchy bridge crossings on our dirt road detour
sketchy bridge crossings on our dirt road detour
A quick break before we started the descent down the mountain and towards the overcast coastline
A quick break before we started the descent down the mountain and towards the overcast coastline
We literally turned a corner and the mountain went from desert to jungle. typical ecuador.
We literally turned a corner and the mountain went from desert to jungle. typical ecuador.
Back on the main highway we found the banana plantations! This went on for half an hour. Endless.
Back on the main highway we found the banana plantations! This went on for half an hour. Endless.

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Peru. To be continued…