Ecuador: Journey to Middle Earth

Ecuador: Journey to Middle Earth
Ecuador is a small country on the northwestern side of South America, sandwiched between Colombia to the north and Peru to the south. Earth’s dividing line runs through the northern part of Ecuador, which is Spanish for “equator.” The Galapagos Islands lay about 560 miles to the west. But we came to ride motorcycles, not to write another book like The Origin of Species. We’re looking for curves, coastal views, volcanoes, and a deep immersion in the culture.

My brother, Manuel, and I had other plans. We were supposed to explore Montana’s backcountry. When the trip fell through, we scrambled to come up with an alternative. Knowing my brother’s affection for Latin culture, and our openness to adventure and unforeseen on-road and off-road excursions, we decided on Ecuador, a climate perfect for year-round riding. A four-hour flight from Miami, it’s one of the more advanced South American countries, and tourism is well established since they use the U.S. dollar as currency. The final deciding point came when we found Ecuador Freedom Bike Rental, a local company that rents motorcycles and leads tours.

The Perfect Ride

The tour operators, Court and Sylvain, pick us up from the airport and shuttle us to the hotel. After such a long flight, we need refreshment. Like most South American countries, the beer here is good but not great. We quickly notice the availability of craft brews, however, which pleasantly surprises us. Quito is located above 9,000 feet, but as two Austrian mountain goats, my brother and I quickly adapt to the thin air. We’re just ready to get rolling. Best part of the rental process at Freedom? We get to choose in-person. Looking at the options, Manu and I bypass the V-Strom, the F 800 GS, and the Tiger, until we see something orange glistening in the sunlight streaming through the window. Two KTMs! They practically have our names on them. I pick the nearly-new 1050 Adventure with just 13 clicks on the odometer, while my brother saddles up the 690 Enduro R.

The next morning, the rest of the tour participants meet at the rental shop. Marisa and Caleb from Tennessee, and Bert and Mike from Australia, complete our group. Sylvain is our guide on two wheels, and Court’s got our backs, and luggage, in the pick-up truck.

Climbing Cloud Forest

One of my favorite things to do in South America is match local drivers and follow their traffic system. Usually it’s a mad scramble weaving in and out of lanes, but Quito is orderly. We sheepishly follow the two-lane highway to the edge of Ecuador’s capital, making our first stop at a museum that sits right on the equator. The young guide gives an insightful tour about the people who have called this land home, the varied climate zones, and how they survived in each.