Whales and Friends
Tim and I often find ourselves alone on the road with only each other to talk to, but for the past two weeks we have had the pleasure of traveling with fellow motorcyclists. After leaving Quito, Ecuador, we have now spent half a month coming full circle, going in a great loop around the coast and mountains of Ecuador. And we were able to experience it all while being in the company of other travelers, which is a real treat for us.
We left the Horizon's Unlimited Event in tow of two other motorcycle couples, all of them coincidentally from Melbourne, Australia, and also riding two-up on their bikes like us. It was somehow fateful and perfect that we had all met up at in the same country and at the same time.
We went to Mindo, Ecuador which is known as the heart of the cloud forest, and spent our time camping, cooking incredible meals on our little gasoline-run stoves, and hiking to the beautiful waterfalls of the rainforest.
Unfortunately after Mindo, we had to part ways with Dave and Em who were headed north into Colombia, but we continued on with Craig and Michelle to the Pacific coast where we had the opportunity to see humpback whales cresting the waves and slapping their tails and fins against the water.
It was a magical experience to see these gentle giants so up close, majestically blowing their breath into the air like grumbling geysers spurting hot mist into the salty breeze. The boat tour also took us to see Blue-Footed Boobies and Frigatebirds who roost near Puerto Lopez, which is known as the “poor man's Galapagos". Not a bad marine wildlife tour for $20 a person.
After spending a few days exploring the seashore, and even seeing a leatherback turtle prepare to lay her eggs on the beach, we said our goodbyes to the Pacific, and headed into the mountains. Still traveling with Craig and Michelle, we rose in thousands of feet in altitude in a single day, and soon found ourselves in the cold highlands of Ecuador.
Tim and I bought some alpaca sweaters because we realized that after traveling through the sweltering regions of Central America and Colombia, we were now going to be exchanging the heat for the cold, and needed some warmer gear. And it seems that in the Andes, alpaca wool is the way to go for warmth.
After stopping by the volcanic crater of Quilotoa, we headed toward the snow-capped volcano of Cotopaxi, one of the most picturesque conical volcanoes in the world. But motorcyclists face a hurdle there because Cotopaxi National Park does not allow motorcycles to enter (supposedly due to the noise, though other vehicles are allowed). So we tried to get to the mountain from its southern side which is accessible to motorcycles, but that side is often clouded over because of the moisture coming in daily from the Amazon.
Yet we were determined to get a close-up view of the great Cotopaxi. So after spending an evening wild camping in a local farmer's grassy field, we took every back-road on Google in the area and were able to snap this partially clouded shot of the snowy peak of Cotopaxi:
And while we were stopped taking pictures, a van pulled up, and as fortune would have it, these people were local guides of the Cotopaxi park and wondered if we wanted to follow them inside! We told them that we had heard that motorcycles could not enter, and they said it was true, but that we would be alright with them.
Though Cotopaxi remained covered in clouds from that moment onward, for the rest of the day we followed this van on an incredible adventure down the backroads of Cotopaxi National Park, and found ourselves in canyons where condors fly and in flowering fields where wild horses roam. We even ended up in an old Spanish Hacienda which had Incan ruins and temples on its property, which was the first time Tim and I had seen Incan ruins.
It was a fantastic two weeks, but after all that adventuring and dirt roads, Tim and I knew the bike needed a quick check-up before we headed on. So now we are back with our friends Court and Sylvain at Ecuador Freedom Bike Rental in Quito catching up on blogs and bike repairs. So we're back where we started, and have sadly parted ways with Michelle and Craig who are soon headed to Colombia to finish their trip around South America, whereas we are going south. It has been such a wonderful time shared with friends, and we suddenly find ourselves feeling a bit lonely on our own again. Luckily we have Court and Sylvain and all the lovely people here at Ecuador Freedom to keep us company, and we hope to meet up again with some of our other motorcycle friends heading south, such as Phil and Sapna.
Next we'll be facing our wheels towards Ecuador's Amazonia region before heading down toward Peru. Stay tuned.
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