After cheating death in Colombia, it was time to head into Ecuador. My first two hours in the country was a whirlwind of excitement. Crossing the border seemed to be a breeze but it was shortly after this when the sky started to turn a moody grey and the atmosphere had a sombre feel to it. As the border became a distant blur in my wing mirror, I could see the virga fast approaching. Mentally preparing myself to become a drowned rat I throttled on into what was starting to look like a scene from a disaster movie. Hail stones the size of golf balls were pelting down towards me, the sound of ice pellets striking my helmet was terrifying and the sensation of these crystal rocks striking my body was agonising. (Two days later I still had red blotches all over my legs!) Pulling over at the nearest road side café we waited until it stopped and an hour later all I could see was a sheet of white. Continuing the journey, I dodged mud slides that had flooded the highway and giant rocks that were once the mountain side I was supposed to ride next to. Thinking the excitement was over, I was confused to see people walking into the road and refusing to move, coming across the beginnings of a protest. A line of boulders and very angry women was starting to form. My friend who wasn’t standing for any of it wheelied straight over the boulders leaving me to sort myself out. Every time I found a gap, a group of people would rush to stop me. Panicking that I would be stuck there for however long and part of a protest that I had no idea was about, a sympathetic man kindly let me through. Getting out of there as fast as I could my only thought was ‘Welcome to Ecuador!’
Having recovered from the traumatic entrance to this country it was time to explore. First stop was the breath-taking Laguna Cuicocha. Wanting to stretch my legs I took the short hike up to the viewpoint. I was taken aback by the stunning views Ecuador had to offer, and this was only the beginning! I could feel the smile across my face beam as I took a moment to appreciate the calmness of the water below, the beautiful mountainous backdrop above and a splattering of marshmallow clouds to top it all off. I was at one with nature: one of my favourite places to be, and I didn’t want to leave. Not wanting to stay away from water too long, me and my friend made our way up into the Andes mountains. With my little 125cc struggling with the lack of oxygenated air we decided to make a pit stop. Intrigued by what was on offer for lunch that day we got stuck into eating the local delicacy: Cuy. Warning: be prepared to have nightmares when you google what this is!!! Getting over the shock of eating what was once a favourite pet of mine, we continued to lug our withering engines into the depleting air supply. But watching the sunset over Quilatoa lagoon was worth every breath I was now severely struggling to take in.
Wandering around the Andean village we noticed two Suzuki DR650s parked outside a hotel. Swiftly introducing ourselves we realised these were some seriously cool overlanders. Honoured that I can now call these intrepid travellers my friends, I had my first meeting with Michnus and Elsebie Oliver. Globetrotting since 2010, these two amazing people are taking it slow and soaking up every inch of culture a country they explore has to offer. And even better they write about everything from the places they’ve encountered to helping you prepare for your own round the world trip. Check out their website at https://www.pikipikioverland.com/ and make sure to say hi from me when you guys are on your next epic adventure (currently in Chile).
That night was the coldest I have ever been in my entire life, the kind of cold that goes straight through to your bones. The wood fire in our room was starting to die on us and I could feel my eyelids slowly freezing over, when my friend thought of an ingenious idea. He decided to take some petrol from his bike in a questionable attempt to revive the fire. BANG!!!! Without thinking I leapt under the duvet whilst my friend got thrown into the bathroom. Hoping it was safe to take a peak, my friend and I stared at each other in shock. After a few seconds my first words were ‘OMG! Do I still have eyebrows?????’ I don’t think my friend will be doing that again!
In the centre of Ecuador lies a small quirky town named Baños, which really is a mixed bag of fun. Waterfalls, thermal waters and hiking are all on your doorstep as well as catering to the tourists for some adrenaline rush activities such as jumping off a bridge or my favourite, Casa de Arbol: swing at the end of the world! Getting into what looked like a normal swing you would see in a children’s park hanging from a skinny tree branch with only a flimsy seat belt to hold me in, I prepared to dangle my legs off the edge of the world 2,600 meters high into the clouds. Casting an eye over the nearby active volcano, Mt. Tungurahua I felt like I was flying. A rush of excitement that only lasted a couple of minutes but a memory that will stay with me for a lifetime. If you’re not living life on the edge, you really are taking up too much room!
Picture: Swing at the end of the world
Another great thing about this place is that two of my greatest biker friends: Spencer Conway and Cathy Nel have recently opened their own MOTOCAMP nearby. A Colonia house, riverside cabin and camping for currently up to 36 people with extensions taking place at present, this MOTOCAMP will be a dream for those passing by. Spencer will also lead guided tours locally and deep into the Amazon jungle, this is a sure thing not to miss! Check out these coordinates if you’re in the area ‘1.3973° S, 78.4437° W’ and this website to keep up to date with the latest antics from this crazy pair. They do things only we dream of doing one day. http://www.spencer-conway.com/home.htm
Ecuador in Spanish literally means equator, so a visit to this country meant I just had to stand on the spot of exactly zero degrees of latitude and be able to say I’ve had a foot in each of the (northern and southern) hemispheres at the same time. Traveller tip: don’t be fooled by the tourist trap Equatorial Monument north of Quito, which was placed there in 1936 to mark the 200th anniversary of the first geodesic expedition of the French Academy of sciences, also known as Mitel del Mundo: Middle of the world. The actual equator line lies 240 metres down the road also known as Intiñan Solar Museum. If you’re still confused, then I’d suggest to just visit and take pictures of both. That way you can’t go wrong!