Ecuadorian experiences

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Catching the bus on the move from the roadside

In Ecuador, having a car is a luxury. If not possible by foot, main journeys will be by bus. Alongside the road, there are usually people waiting the “collectivo” to reach the closest city.

In Cayambe, we went with Fernando and Leydi in the supermarket. This one is 10 kms away. We went on the main road and waited 3 mins before to wave at the first bus coming towards us. This bus of 53 seats was going to Ibarra, 150kms away. But it didn’t hesitate to stop in the hill, 10kms away from Cayambe in the middle of nowhere, to help us reaching the city in exchange of a few centimes of American dollars per person.

Catching the bus on the move is not a relaxing time. The bus doesn’t stop more than 20 seconds and as soon the foot of the last passager is on the bus step, it goes straight back on the road. So you need to find a free seat quickly, like a true high-wire walker! To help you finding your way, there are fluorescent neons lighting up the alley and the seats. Decoration appreciated by drivers, these neon lights up as well the windscreen and the driver’s cabin.

To go down this is the same process, after Leydi waved at the driver we went quickly through the exit door to avoid going back to Ibarra!

Watching a Ecua-volley game

The ecua-volley is a sport inspired by volleyball with slightly different rules. The net is indeed a bit higher than a volley net and the teams are composed by only three players.

Ecua-volley is played everywhere and is probably as famous as football with the hope to be the most played sport in the country.

An evening while riding our sidecars, after some food shopping, we stopped at a traffic light. A few metres away, there was a big crowd gathering and screaming loudly. Intrigued, we went closer. On this uncharismatic square, there were playing Ecua-volley. The game is passionated. On the side of the pitch, the crowd is pretty big and doesn’t hesitate to bet some money on the winner which increases the enthusiasm of the fans.


 Eating guinea pig

There are some traditional specialities that we taste without a second thought but there are some others that we need a second thought… While walking in the town centre in Baños, we passed close by the market and noticed 2 local restaurants. In front of each one, there was a BBQ to grill one of the specialities of Ecuador: the guinea pig.

When we passed by the second time, we finally couldn’t resist and took a seat in a corner of this big dining room next to the families came to share a friendly time.

Served in whole in a plate with fries and a Colada Morada, a drink made with black corn, the “Cuy” has a taste similar to chicken with small bones like a rabbit. We finished it before to pay the “cuenta” (bill) which is 3 dollars per person. We said thank you to the Chef and left for a digestive walk.

Ecuadorian encounters

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Juan et son combi Volkswagen

Upon our arrival at the Summerwind campsite in Ibarra, we set up the tents next to the nice Volkswagen camper-van of Juan. 

The timidity plus the separation between our camps didn’t help to communicate. Only some friendly “hello” and “enjoy your meal”. But after a week spent in the campsite, sharing the kitchen and the terrace, we finally properly met. Juan is from Medellin in Colombia. He decided to continue his work while travelling in the world. He drives many kilometres before to stop a few days when he crosses a nice campsite to be able to work on the programmation of websites. 

An evening after a mechanical day, we shared with him a “cervezita” while playing “Perudo”. This is at this moment that we noticed it was not easy to explain the rules of this game in Spanish ! Once started, we play a game after another, bluff succeed each other, smiles are on all the faces.

After a week of cohabitation, the side-cars are ready to hit the road again. We left Juan and his camper van to carry on the adventure towards the Equator line. 

Leydi, Fernando et Valentin

Arrived by chance in the campsite of Mitad del Mundo, we have been welcomed by Valentin, his son Fernando and Leydi, after riding all the day. The campsite is nothing compared to a traditional campsite. There are no more big spaces under the pines like in the South-West of France but a small garden in this family campsite. After setting up our camp, Fernando presented his project to us. He would like to create a Spanish class and sharing the culture of his ancestors to the travelers by the astronomy, beliefs and cooking culture. After going around the property, we continue chatting with bizcochos (local biscuits) and “Queso de hoja” (a fresh cheese served in a leaf). 

The next day, we are invited to follow Selinda on the top of the hills to collect the sap of agave which after fermentation will be a Guarango, an alcoholic drink with an unusual taste.

Initially, we were supposed to leave the village after this, but we have finally found better occupations by staying here. 

With Fernando, Julien went to find a washer with a specific thickness for one of the rocker arms of a sidecar.  In the meantime we are cooking a quiche and a tarte tatin to make our hosts  discovering a bit of the French cuisine. While Valentin, Fernando and Leydi are making te surprise to prepare a Pachamanca chicken. For this recipe, from their ancestors, the chicken is slowly cooked with vegetables in a dish placed in a hole covered of lava stones incandescent. This hole is covered by a sheet metal, also covered by ground to keep the heat. An hour later, it’s time to enjoy. A three-course menu worthy of Franco-Ecuadorian families. We are sharing again a great time with all the family. The next morning, Letri told us all her secrets to make the true “Empanadas con Queso”. The most important is to keep in mind that “the most important is the decoration”! We are again having a great friendly time with everyone around the outside table in the sunshine.

But everything has an end, it’s time to say goodbye when Fernando needs to leave to give an English class in the Cayambe’s college. The last photos are taken before to jump on the sidecars and leaving their path with horn blasts.

On the Ecuadorian roads

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Crossing the bridge separating Colombia to Ecuador, we ride our sidecars for the first time on the Ecuadorian roads. From the first kilometres to the South of the country, the motorbikes will enjoy this perfectly smooth asphalte. We can note this road surface is actually the same all along the Panamerican highway plus on the secondary roads reaching the different volcanos.

Unlike Colombia, the Ecuadorian highways are not managed by private companies but by the government. For each toll, we pay the small amount of $0,20 (USD).

In comparaison with Colombia, the waste management is one of the biggest preoccupations for the country. From the first kilometres, we can notice there are less waste on the roadsides. There are much more bins at the tolls and service stations where there are sometimes recycling bins looking like the ones we can see in Europe.

The government has also made a large campaign by displaying, on the side of the road, many signs promoting the protection of the nature with slogans such as “Trees are the lungs of our earth: protect them!”.

For the petrol, we haven’t had any specific issues. We got use to have someone serving us at the pump and continued to convert the galons in litres to estimate prices. The petrol is a bit more expensive than in Colombia but we do not pay more than 1,20€/L.

However after crossing the city of Puyo, by going alongside the Amazonian rainforest and before to reach Sucua, we needed to use one of our additional petrol tanks. We have been caught by surprise for not seeing a drop of petrol on the 100 kilometres of straight lines alongside the forest.

In Ecuador, we have also been surprised by the number of people wearing daily traditional clothing. As they do not have the budget for a car, we can regularly see locals with a bundle waiting a bus on the side of the road which will take them to the next city. On some secondary roads, and particularly on the ones alongside the Amazonian rainforest, we can see them in the middle of nowhere at 10 kilometres away from the next city.

Crossing the Equator line marks the entry in the Southern Hemisphere. According to our calculations, we should be quite close to the Summer and the heat. But after 100 kilometres further near the Cotopaxi volcano, we have been welcomed by temperatures next to zero degrees and rain. Without a second thought, we wore our inner coat of motorbike jackets for the first time of the travel.

Riding it’s also sometimes mechanical issues. When we arrived in Ecuador, in Ibarra, we needed to do some maintenance on the sidecars including the adjustment of a valve. After enjoying to remove the side, taking out a cylinder, checking the camshaft, the crankshaft and the cam cogs before to fix the defaults, we needed to put all the parts back together. This means to screw some nuts with a specific force. For this, we need a torque wrench that we didn’t have in our toolboxes.


Without a second thought, we used the sidecar still working to go in the street of mechanics to find this tool.

In Ecuador, like in Colombia, the shops selling the same products are all in a same street. Therefore there is the street of televisions, the one for fridges, the one for travel agencies and therefore the one for mechanics. To find the torque wrench, we tried every shop and every corner of the street. The Ecuadorians, being sorry for not having the tool we are looking for, were recommending us to try in the competitor shop in front of them. In the second-to-last shop of the street, the person recommended us another shop but for agricultural tools this time. That was 3 blocks away in the street of strimmers, spades and hoes. Indeed, after looking during 3 hours, we finally found the precious tool!

Even finding a tool in an unknown country and unknown city, it’s like an adventure!

Mission accomplished, we managed to reassemble the engine and go back safely on the road towards South.


Baños, Cuenca and the Peruvian border – 5 days – 1820 metres above sea level

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The volcanos are behind us. We continued our journey towards South-East and therefore getting closer to the Amazonian rainforest and its secrets. 

The first stop was in Baños, a city in a valley which is famous by all the Ecuadorians and the backpackers for the thermal baths and the vertiginous swings. 

We arrived in Baños on the All Saints Day. For this special day, Ecuadorians are meeting each other to celebrate the deaths. Next to the cemeteries of the city, there is a special atmosphere during this day. Many stalls have been built for the opportunity to get flowers or a Guagua de Pan (a traditional bread shared in family specifically this day). This bread has a similar shape of the Gingerbread Man character in the movie Shrek (but not looking as good). This sweet bread is usually accompanied with Colada Morada, a drink also prepared specifically for these celebrations. When the night is falling, the cemeteries offer beautiful colours with warm blue and yellow lights.

The next day, we followed the advice of an adventurer traveling for a while – we are not sure anymore if he has a Dutch or South American nationality. We went on the top of a mountain to reach the “Casa del Arbol” and its famous swings. The ascent was steep, 1000m of difference in height during a 8-km hike. This effort allowed us to enjoy the view over the city and the surrounded mountains, but also to understand the high touristic frequentation of this place. For an adrenaline touch, we tried the swings which are famous for swinging in thin air with a beautiful mountainside landscape in the background. 

After a hiking day, we left Baños by going alongside the gorges of Rio Pastaza. The narrow path between the mountains is getting wider, the atmosphere is changing, here we are at the entry of the Amazonian rainforest. 

First, we stopped next to Puyo to visit “El refugio  de Los Monos”. A place taking in monkeys who where in captivity or victims of illegal traffic. For the first time, we were walking in the jungle surrounded by many cute monkeys. Even if this place has built spaces, there is still a nice Indian Jones’ atmosphere.  

We carried on our road towards Cuenca, alongside the forest. There are about 10 kilometres between each village. Around, the trees are the kings. Only a straight line has been created to build the road. Our stop in Sucua marked the end of our passage in the Amazonian rainforest. We crossed a col with roadworks from the bottom to the top, to reach Cuenca. 

This student city has a remarkable colonial architecture. Its main square is welcoming and the Immaculada Conception cathedral is one of the most impressive cathedrals that we saw until today. It’s very enjoyable to walk in the town-centre. The traffic is very low (that’s rare enough to mention it!). It’s very pleasant to go discovering the several churches with different designs and each one being nicer than the previous one. The little squares are also very numerous and the Rio Tomebamba, in the South offer a great surrounding for walking along. 

After 2 days spent in the white city, we went back towards the Peruvian border. After crossing massive banana tree fields, we stopped in Santa Rosa to spend the night before to cross the border the next day. 

The road was still very enjoyable to reach the border in Arenillas, but surprisingly it was also deserted. Five kilometres before to reach Peru, we stopped in the Ecuadorian custom desk to let them know that we were going out of the country.

With a blazing sun and in a deserted area, alone in the middle of nowhere, we crossed a bridge above a river marking the natural border between both countries. A few kilometres after, we reached the Peruvian border. Surprisingly, nobody there. We got in less than half an hour, our stamp to certify that we were leaving Ecuador, another one with our 90-day visa for Peru and the paperwork for the importation of the side-cars in this new country. The longest was to find a cash machine to pay the SOAT – an insurance allowing us to drive in the country. 

After a return trip in Thumbes, we can enjoy Peru! 


Where to eat?  

Arepas To Go
Oriente, Baños

Arriving at the end of the afternoon in Baños with an empty stomach, there is nothing better than delicious Venezuelan areapas to feel better. Well garnished with a reasonable price, this is definitely a good address without pretention. 


Where to have a drink? 

 Microbrewery La Compania
Presidente Borrero 4-62 y Honorato Vasquez, Cuenca

A microbrewery well located with a warm atmosphere. Wooden walls and tables, a wide selection of drag beers. We could almost feel like in an Irish Pub. 

Stray Dog BewPub
Rocafuerte y Maldonado, Baños

After climbing up to reach the Casa del Arbol, you deserve a chilled beer. For this, there is nothing better than a drink in the Stray Dog Pub which is brewing their own beers. The price of the pint is a bit expensive but the flavours and the originality of the place will help you to forget of this expenditure! 

Ecuador, land of volcanos – Cotopaxi – 4 days – 2886 metres above sea level

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Ecuador is a land of volcanos! On a territory twice smaller than France, there are over one hundred of craters in the country. 

During our crossing of Ecuador, we privileged landscapes of the Andes Mountains rather than the coast to go exploring the volcanos of Cotopaxi and Quilotoa. 

After the horrendous traffic in Quito, a capital that we crossed without a glance as we couldn’t wait to go back in the tranquility of the nature; we arrived un Lasso, on the bottom of the impressive Cotopaxi. Air became fresher! We set up our camp in the Hacienda San Joaquin at 2886 above sea level. In the background, we saw the eternal snow on the summit of this massive mountain. His summit is at 5890m above sea level. This is the highest volcano still in activity in the world. 

After a night with a temperature reaching the symbolic 0°C, we headed towards the National Park for hiking. We noticed a nice track on Internet the previous day. But sadly, the park entry is not possible with motorbikes. The guard explained to us that we need to go with a guide for any tracks we wish hiking. A bit surprised by all of this, we have no other choice than paying a guide to explore the lagoon at the bottom of the mountain covered of eternal snow. The sun shining over the summit of the volcano and the horses in total freedom drinking in the lagoon offer beautiful surroundings helping us to forget our first disappointment. 

The next day, we are continuing our journey towards East, to discover the Quilotoa volcano. 3 914 metres of height, its crater is today flooded by a lagoon with a nice blue tint. 

After riding a winding road with our sidecars, we are going all the way around the crater with our hiking shoes and backpacks. A four-hour walk on a sandy path with many steep hills to climb up and down. Half way through, during a break, clouds arrived and became sufficiently deep to leave us in a mantle of fog. 

The experience was amazing. An hour before to reach the arrival, while we where getting closer to the sunset time, the sun was back to offer us a beautiful view over the lagoon with a festival of colours. 

The Quilotoa gave us physically a hard time. But it offered us an incredible moment as well with many different atmospheres. 

This part with the Ecuadorian volcanos is ending, we now carry on our journey towards the Amazonian forest. 


Where to sleep?  

Hacienda San Joaquin
Lasso, ingreso principal al Parque Nacional Cotopaxi

At the bottom of the Cotopaxi, this is a good address to set up your tent. The place is nice, well built for campers and offers a nice view over the volcano. The night after a hiking day, we enjoyed their restaurant. Good food with a reasonable price and a tasty homemade dessert: flambé bananas. 



From Ibarra to the Equator – 7 days – 2225m above sea level

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Once the border crossed without any issue (only passport, driving licence and documents of the vehicles are required) we did a quick lunch break in the Tulcan village. We took the opportunity to withdraw some American dollars.

Indeed, Ecuador is the biggest country in the world which doesn’t have his own currency. Since the 9th January 2000, the American Dollar replaced the “Sucre” which didn’t survived the economics and politics crisis in Ecuador during the 90’s. 

Then, we headed to the South and did 150 kms on a nice asphalt to reach Ibarra.

We spent a week there. Not because the city is beautiful (to be fair, we didn’t take the time to visit the city), but because we needed to work on the sidecars. Therefore, we enjoyed the nice Summerwind campsite to take out the toolbox!

Opening the engine, valve adjustment, … all of this in the grass with midges giving us compagnie. Each one of us got hundreds of bites!

Between a few hours of mechanics, we managed to enjoy the nice view of the Laguna Yahuarcocha. 

From Ibarra, we kept going on the Panamerican Highway up to the Otavalo village. We were there the Saturday, day of the meat fair. The city is buzzing. Inhabitants of the city or the surrounding mountains are meeting on the main square. We are surprised to see as many people wearing traditional clothing. In Otavalo, women are wearing a white shirt embroidered with flowers with two skirts overlaid with the darkest on the top of the other one. Two colourful belts are holding the skirts. Women are also wearing a shawl on their shoulders to carry their babies, objects or food. Mens are wearing a white shirt and a trouser with a poncho. On their heads, they are wearing a black, beige or cream-coloured hat made of felt. We saw similar clothing in the most of the cities crossed. 

The main square, named « Plaza de Los Ponchos », is full of small stalls selling sweatshirts pullovers, ponchos and blankets. This market is a festival of colours where we can enjoy the kindness of Ecuadorian when we are walking in the market aisles. A few streets further, clothing and handcrafted items are replaced by veggies and fruits directly on the pavement. This is a different athmosphere offered to us, even more authentic. Smells of coriander, caramel and roasted chicken are mixing. We finally can’t resist for a sweet burger with figs before to go back on the side-cars. 

For the next step, we stopped at the house of Valentin, Fernando and Leydi in Cayambe, just a couple of steps away from the Equator named here « Mitad del Mundo.”. The true one – someone is asking me to specify. This is not the “Mitad del Mundo” for tourists which is 20kms on the North of Quito (which means 65kms away from here!).

We spent a couple of nice days there, with   lovely sharing moments in this place full of ancestral stories and cooking recipes. We discovered the constellations identified by the ancestors well before the Spanish’s arrival. We enjoyed a chicken « a la pachamanca » which is cooked in a hole on lava stones. We also learnt how to cook the true « empanadas con queso».

This haven of peace is located 200m away from the Equator, towards North. Indeed, once there, the sat nav watch indicates 0°, latitude of the terrestrial Equator. The Equator is symbolised by a large round square with a big cylindrical building in the middle. This empty tower is built to watch the sun at its zenith lightening up the inside of the tower during the equinoxes of March and September

On Earth, the Equator is crossing mainly oceans. Only 20% of its length is crossing emerged lands. The highest point on the Equator is on the southern side of the Cayambe volcano. 

This line gave his name to the country as its the best place to observe the sun positions all along the year. Indeed, there are many mountains around giving good point of references.

As the Equator doesn’t have any more secrets for us, we are going back on our side-cars leaving the North hemisphere to go towards South and more specifically the majestic volcanos of Quilotoa and Cotopaxi. 


Where to sleep?  


Camping Mitad del Mundo

Just a couple of steps away from the Equator, we have been very well welcomed at the Mitad del Mundo campsite. The area for camping is green and sharing time with people they welcome is a key point of the project of our hosts. More information here: –

Camping Summerwind
Autopista Yahuarcocha Km. 8, Ibarra 100150, Ecuador

Hans will do everything he can do for you to have a quite stay in his campsite. The camping area is ideal and the facilities are good. At the end of the week, Hans is cooking. We recommend you to enjoy his German specialities cooked with a Peruvian touch!

More information here: