Crossing Borders with Ecuador MotoDreamer Part 1. Have you, as a Motorcycle Adventure Touring Warrior, got this experience on your bucket list?
Does crossing borders with Ecuador sound like your idea of good, fun life-changing travel?
Like Colombia, Ecuador’s road map is one of the zig-zagging mountain highways and scenic country backroads. Split in half by the Andes Ranges, with the mighty Amazon Rainforest flanking its foothills. Ecuador’s sweeping high altitude highways and rarely-ridden jungle tracks are adventure motorcycle touring heaven.
When they’re not crisscrossing all over Colombia, MotoDreamer regularly heads out on guided multi-country expeditions. Several times a year, kicking off from Cali, the crew lead their leather-clad convoy into wildest South America. Always in search of some of the awe-inspiring riding routes on earth.
Of course, you’d need months, probably years, to honestly say you “rode” this colossal continent. But if you’re short on time, MotoDreamer runs a 14 day South American Express, focusing on the lands directly beyond Colombia’s southern border.
Despite probably having more EPIC RIDES than any country of a comparable size Ecuador is still a little under the radar when it comes to touring. So, with this blog’s first foray into foreign territory. We hope to give you an idea about where to go and what to expect riding in Ecuador.
Colombia-Ecuador makes a great combo trip since Ecuador is the only country crossing over Colombia’s southern border. Thus making it a relatively easy place to access by bike. Also, it doesn´t matter whether you’re riding independently or joining one of our guided tours.
What is it like to Motorcycle Adventure Tour in Ecuador?
Ecuador is one of the smallest South American countries, but Ecuador’s diversity is almost unrivaled in terms of its geography and ecology. Ride 20 minutes in any direction, and the landscape shifts dramatically.
All your senses will enjoy the rugged canyons, snow-capped peaks, mist-shrouded cloud forest, steamy lowland jungle, and dry, desert-like coastline.
Despite its extraordinary natural beauty, mass tourism is yet to make major inroads in Ecuador. Once you’re out of the main cities, you’re already very much off the beaten track – wild, remote, and relatively traffic-free.
Imagine starting your day blasting up the 4,776m summit of an active volcano. In contrast, you are eating barbecued prawns by the sea at sundown in a rustic Pacific fishing village.
That’s all in a day’s ride when Crossing Borders with Ecuador.
Author´s Note: Expect to come across a fair number of these wandering anywhere. I choose Mountain llamas, especially in the Cajas National Park.
Why is Ecuador such a fantastic Motorcycle adventure touring paradise?
1. It’s full of insane mountain roads with “is this real” scenery.
Cutting through the country from north to south is the Andean Cordillera, a chain of snow-capped volcanoes and glaciated peaks that form the backbone of Ecuador. Numerous highways (many of them paved) traverse the slopes and passes of this formidable mountain range. Each offers continuous days of exhilarating high elevation riding.
One of the loftiest is the highway snaking through Las Cajas National Park, which crests the Mirador Tres Cruces mountain pass at a breathtaking 4,100m altitude.
2. You are beneath the shadows of giants at the Avenue of Volcanoes
Ecuador is a land of fire-breathing giants. Over 30 volcanoes, many highly active, tower above a valley forming the 200 km long Avenue of Volcanoes.
One of the most jaw-droppingly scenic routes on the continent, it winds its way past seven volcanoes over 5,000m high. On a clear day, you can see the perfectly conical summit of Cotopaxi, one of the tallest volcanoes in the world at 5,896m.
3. You can get down and dirty on miles of endless backroads
Off-road warriors will find themselves in dust-kicking heaven, with a vast network of unsealed roads. All are winding their way through rural, remote, and extremely rugged parts of the country.
It’s possible to hit the dirt within a couple of hours outside the capital of Quito. Just a hundred kilometers north of the city toward the Colonial town of Otavalo.
You can find yourself navigating twisty mountain trails, climbing steeply above the clouds, before a dizzying descent into lush green forest and farmland.
A typical day of dirt riding will present plenty of technical and physical challenges. But the extraordinary views and the chance to see a side of Ecuador few tourists witness is well worth enduring the long days.
4. You can ride from the remotest Andean reaches to the beach in a day.
Start your morning descending through the freeze and the fog of the western Andes. Stop and imagine. One minute, you are at the highest point of the longest mountain range in the world. Next, you are heading to the edge of the ocean. That’s the sort of mind-blowing variety this compact country can offer in a single day’s ride.
Later, arrive in a balmy, tropical seaside town just in time to watch the sunset over the Pacific. Ecuador has 2,200 km of coastline to explore. From tranquil low tropical bays to worthy surf beaches and stretches of empty sand for days.
5. Crossing borders with Ecuador will astound you with Its unique culture, cuisine, heritage, and history.
Ecuador has a mixed cultural make-up, drawing from various ethnicities and traditions, both ancient and modern. The country has ten spoken languages, with Spanish and the native Quechua tongue being the most common. Ecuador has the highest representations of indigenous cultures in South America. As well as a sizeable Afro-Ecuadorian population with their own traditions, food, and music.
Ecuadorian cuisine varies from region to region, from the seafood-heavy dishes of the Pacific. Think fresh ceviche and tropical fruit. To warm, filling highland dishes made of pork. Try cuy (guinea pig) and staples like rice, potatoes, and quinoa if you get the chance.
Ecuador is also littered with incredible archaeological sites and Incan ruins. In contrast, none are as impressive as Peru’s Machu Picchu. Surprisingly they’re also almost devoid of crowds and commercialism. Ecuador’s ancient cities remain ghostly, mysterious, and almost entirely swallowed by the jungle.
6. Crossing borders with Ecuador is the gateway to the Galapagos.
If there’s one good reason mainland Ecuador doesn’t get enough glory, it’s probably because of that bunch of rock islands around 1,200 km off its west coast.
Ecuador is, of course, the administrator of the incomparable Galapagos National Park. The famous isolated volcanic archipelago is renowned as one of the greatest wildlife-watching destinations on earth.
You won’t be taking your motorbike to Galapagos; you’d run out of road pretty quickly anyway. But from mainland Ecuador, there are daily flights from Quito and Guayaquil.
Crossing borders with Ecuador & Colombia by motorcycle.
If you’re entering Ecuador from southern Colombia, you’ll use the Ipiales-Tulcan crossing on the Pan American Highway. If you’re crossing with an organized tour, all your paperwork will be sorted out at the start of your trip.
Be ready at migracion (immigration) in Ipiales with your passport, vehicle registration, and driver’s license if you’re traveling independently. The name on your passport should match the name of the person your bike is registered to.
If you’ve rented a motorbike from MotoDreamer, with advanced notice, a special permit can be arranged to allow you to cross borders with Ecuador (but no other country.)
When you arrive at Ipiales. You’ll complete the standard paperwork at migracion and then head to Aduana (customs) to process the temporary vehicle import permit. Once that´s done. You’ll ride over the Rumichaca Bridge into Tulcan, where your papers will be checked and stamped into Ecuador.
TIPS AND ADVICE FOR RIDING IN ECUADOR
- Hazards and Road Conditions: Unpredictable and occasionally reckless drivers, vehicles overtaking on blind corners, and unfenced farm animals.
- Furthermore, watch out for the extremely variable road surface conditions that are significant issues when riding in Ecuador. So are the unexpected long delays caused by landslips, roadworks, and broken-down trucks and buses.
- Route Planning: When planning your route, be sure to consider the shape and curvature of the roads. Remember the fact that road conditions can change from silky smooth to a pothole-dodging nightmare, even on major highways.
- Don’t plan your days based on distance alone. Instead, plan for strenuous riding and unexpected delays. A 400km ride may be a breeze where you’re from. But in much of Ecuador, it may well be dawn to dusk endeavor.
- Dealing with Altitude: Motorcycle touring in Ecuador almost invariably involves riding at high altitudes, sometimes well above 3,000m. These elevations can have pronounced effects on both you and your bike. The best way to prevent altitude sickness is to acclimatize at a slightly lower altitude first.
Plan your stops in towns below 2,500m in altitude before you embark on those high mountain roads. Quito sits at 2,850m – and so is actually a good base for acclimatizing. Despite being high enough itself to induce altitude sickness in some folk for a day or two.
If your route has quite a rapid elevation gain, take frequent rest stops. Rember, most importantly, stay hydrated!
Dehydration will compound the effects of altitude sickness and can lead to things becoming more serious.
Unless you’re planning on mountain-climbing any 5000m peaks, the altitudes you hit while riding Ecuador generally shouldn’t cause any severe health problems.
Suppose you feel the symptoms of altitude sickness coming on. For example, headache, shortness of breath, dizziness, lethargy, and loss of appetite.
Then, get yourself to the nearest town or village and rest up. Don’t go any higher until you’ve fully recovered – this often takes a day or two.
Modern fuel-injected bikes don’t suffer like older carbureted bikes from lack of oxygen at altitude, causing an overly rich fuel mix due. However, you can still expect the thin air to be a slight drain on performance. Expect a loss of about 10% power for every 1000m gained.
Marvel at the thought of majestic scenery from jagged mountain chains to deep blue volcanic lakes. Now Mix in lush valleys, arid plains, dense tropical rainforest, and miles of deserted coastline.
In conclusion to this article titled Crossing borders with Ecuador, our last piece of riding advice to you Adventure Touring Warriors:
Ecuador is a hidden paradise for Adventurous Two-wheeled Touring Warriors. Almost all the highs are well-off on the beaten track. Relish the fact; it will be well worth taking extra time to explore its most remote, dramatic reaches.
Written by: Fiona Davies (extreme pillion rider and adventure travel writer)
Edited for SEO optimization by Mike Bowley at www.mikedbowley.com
The original question at the start of this article, Crossing Borders with Ecuador MotoDreamer Part 1. Have you, as a Motorcycle Adventure Touring Warrior, got this experience on your bucket list? We think, once you have read Part 2 and these amazing articles below, you will be itching to get to the booking page.