We all have different ways of blowing off steam, or finding ways to relax and center ourselves. Riding motorcycles works for me. I’ll get out of the city, away from all the hustle and loose myself in a long ride upstate. By the time I return home I’ll have a clear head. The pressure of work or whatever may have been weighing heavy will have lifted; life will again be focused and worry free.
I’ve met someone recently whose search for clarity wasn’t that simple. His ride lasted several years, and crossed international borders. Court Rand, found his inner peace, and what he’d later define as freedom on the shores, mountaintops, and jungles of a South American paradise.
After doing so he decided to share his love for this Latin American gem with other adventurous riders, thus Ecuador Freedom Bike Rentals was born.
Ecuador’s roughly the size of Maine and sits on South Americas Pacific coast. It’s divided by the earth’s equator and has the Andes mountain range for a backbone. Climates tend to remain the same year round, with a wet or dry month being the only change. Basically if it’s hot, it’s always hot, if it’s cold, well, you get the idea.
Seasons are determined by altitude, and it’s possible to experience several in one day while on a tour, something unique to Ecuador.
Court’s a native New Englander, but he and the Freedom staff live and play in Ecuador. They’re familiar with the towns they tour, have friendly relationships with local restaurant, hotel, and service station owners, plus speak Spanish fluently. That’s a huge plus when your español is limited to ordering beer and finding a bathroom.
They take these tours, guided or self-guided and their customers very seriously. It’s an aspect of Freedom Bike Rentals that stands far above other moto-tour companies.
My buddy, Jon Langston Executive Editor at TheDrive.com, and I signed up for a week-long tour and booked our flights. We were excited to ride on the equator, find our own peace of mind and explore Ecuador with Court and the Freedom crew.
Way South Of The Border
Had a relaxing flight into Quito, Ecuador’s capital. A beautiful and historic city located on the eastern slopes of an active, yes, active volcano in the Andes. At an elevation of just over 9,000 feet, Quito’s also the world highest capital city, Impressive.
Court, along with his business partner Sylvain, a guy that speaks French, Spanish, Bocce, Clingon and several other languages, were gracious enough to pick us up at the airport.
This isn’t usually included in a tour package, but just about everything else is. Food, lodging, fuel, and bbq guinea pig (we’ll talk more about that later), basically all you’ll have to pay for on these tours are cold beer, and mementoes.
Getting to Know You
Our first morning started out with a quick breakfast, and scooter ride around Quito. Being a fairly busy city, with lots of tour busses and car traffic, scooters seemed like a great way to get around and see the sights.
Did I mention tour busses? Yeah, well in Quito and most of Ecuador for that matter, ya don’t let busses, trucks, or cars slow you down, even if you’re on a 50cc scooter. Just go around, in between, or even over them, whatever works.
Our city tour weaved around modern and historic neighborhoods, down cobblestone streets and past churches built in the 17th century. We enjoyed an amazing view of the entire city atop El Panecillo, a 9,895-foot hill, that’s also home to a 135-foot aluminum monument of the Virgin Mary, a statue that can be seen from almost anywhere in Quito.
I also took a quick blast around town on Harley‘s original Adventure Bike, the Buell Ulysses. This bike was great at absorbing cobblestone streets, and blended in nicely with the pastel buildings, being a mustard yellow. Quito’s centuries-old architecture was picturesque, the old hog looked stunning in this setting. Sadly, the Buell’s no longer in rotation with the other rentals, but I had to give this American classic a rip, and our hosts were kind enough to oblige.
Highs and Lows
Our tour group was small, Jon, Court and I on bikes, Sylvain and Salina, our beautiful canine mascot and brains of the operation in the support truck.
We left Quito heading west, stopping about an hour into the ride for lunch at a roadside Frittata stand. While eating I asked Court, in relation to our present location, where’s the equator? He said, basically the center of the road we’ve been traveling is the equator. We’ve been riding along the center of the earth.
After lunch we ducked into the Intiñan Museum, where we straddled two hemispheres and were shown how gravity affects us differently when on the equator. Yes, water rotates clockwise on one side and counter clockwise on the other while draining or flushed. It’s true, saw it happen with my own two eyes.
We spent the night in a hostel (hotel) inhabited by hummingbirds and exotic plants. Unfortunately, Jon and I found out, beer cannot be served or bought on Sundays in Ecuador. Being from Ct I’ve spent years dealing with this kind of thing, Jon’s a NYC guy; this was a little harder for him. Alas, our hosts came through, serving us cool refreshing cups of coffee that tasted allot like Pilsner, the Latin Budweiser.
The next day we navigated mountain roads thick with clouds and climbed to 14,000 plus feet. The view from this vantage point was unlike anything I’ve seen.
After a brief stop to enjoy the sights, we headed back down the Andes western edge, twisting our way around rocky cliffs on beautifully paved roads, something that surprised me, and will be a constant reminder of Ecuador’s nationwide highway improvement program this entire trip.
As we descended the tempter rose and our surroundings changed. Rocky cliffs turned into sandy dunes, the thin mountain air became salty and robust. Finally, after cresting a soft sandy hill the Pacific Ocean was in view. We’ve traveled through two seasons and dizzying heights to arrive in a beautiful beach town called Canoa.
Check back soon for PART TWO of our two wheeled adventure in Ecuador.