After spending the past few weeks riding through the hot desert landscape of coastal Peru, the crossing into Ecuador was like crossing into a lush green parallel Universe. The contrast couldn’t have been any greater and the other thing we immediately noticed was how clean and litter free the roadsides were.
We went through the usual customs conniptions and given this was our 11th border crossing in just a few months we were getting pretty good at it. Even communicating via hand signals (or rather a set of fingers that tapped commands) through a small slit in a mirror glass window which constituted the aduana office didn’t phase us.
We had met a group of fun Ecuadorian guys in northern Peru and caught up with them again at the border. We chatted and laughed together, making the time go super fast. We promised to meet up with them in their home town of Guayaquil after we had explored a bit more of Ecuador. And then we were off…riding through the lush green forests and smiling at the signs stating “Protect Our Environment”, “Water is Life” and “Trees are our Breath”- signs we certainly hadn’t seen anywhere else in South America.
There are three routes you can take through Ecuador – the western route to the coast, the central route through the highlands and the eastern route along the edge of the sprawling amazon basin. We chose the latter and were soon to experience our first real wet-season rainfall. Man did it come down! We sought shelter in a small village, found a room in a cheap hostel and ate greasy street food from a local vendor. From there we headed north up Ruta 45, stopping at the gorgeous colonial town of Loja before continuing to Puerto Mishualli to spend a few days in the beautiful rainforest there. We tubed down the river, hiked to waterfalls, learned about the local culture, met the cheeky local monkeys and made amazing chocolate from raw cacao pods. What a great introduction to Ecuador!