I was following the stranger on a bicycle with a machete into the Ecuadorian jungle, thinking about what on Earth am I doing here and what are my survival chances. And here’s what brought me to the country I never expected to visit.
In June I got a message on Instagram. We are searching for an influencer, told Davo. Davo sleeps around 3 hours a day, but he’s full of energy and is shining as he talks about his child, bike rental and tour company Ecuador Bike Rental Having worked for 16 years in the oil business left the ex-racer with a feeling that life goes by. He decided to change it and started the company with just two rental motorcycles that he bought. That now grew into a business with 6 employees, a nice 2-store office in Quito, over 20 bikes, and cool clients coming from all over the world for guided or self-guided tours.
At that time I was in Georgia dealing with my driving license, and Ecuador seemed too far away. Also, I’ve worked with sponsors as I was racing, and I know how to deliver good content and meet their expectations, but never thought of myself as an influencer. But as I arrived in Mexico, Ecuador seemed much closer. And you don’t say no if someone invites you to a new country to ride a bike.
Once again, permanently bewildered about what was going on, I packed my stuff and left from Tijuana to Quito. Davos met me at the office, and on the fly, we designed an adventure of 3 acts – Coast, North, and Amazon. – You never tried surfing? We’ll send you surfing, he said, quickly drawing another line on the wall map, while I could only listen open-mounted, trying to follow. They gave me Suzuki DR 650, side bags for all my stuff, a GPX track for maps.me, and waved goodbye.
I set off in the afternoon towards some hotel near the Quilotoa crater. I followed some gravel road in the mountains in the middle of nowhere. First, it was warm, then foggy and miserably cold, then it got dark, and the road wouldn’t end. I arrived at the hotel half-alive and half-sick from cold and altitude, but the next day felt better and after several failed attempts even managed to find an off-road way to the other side of the crater to avoid tourists. I will not describe everything here, there’ll be a separate article about the trip, but some memorable moments following.
Pepino Gigante. On the way to the Coast driving through some remote forest, I saw a plate with the inscription “Pepino Gigante” (Giant Cucumber). I drove by, but curiosity turned me back. The man with a machete came out as I stopped by the house. How big is your cucumber, I asked, can I take one? No problem, he said, but we need to harvest that. So he on a bicycle, me on a moto, we were making our way into the jungle behind the house, where he cut a huuuuge 8-kilo green vegetable I’d never seen before. That was obviously too big for me to take on a bike, but I helped him to drive the cucumber to the main road for sale.The Coast. As I arrived in Canoa, the guys told me to search for Kiki, the surf instructor. Search how? I went to the beach and in my broken Spanish tried to explain what I need to every single person. Having met probably everyone in the village, I found someone who called the instructor to come. A crazy self-made vehicle arrived at the beach with sliding and over throttling, and somehow I knew it was my ride. Kiki was teaching me patiently all day, while I was swallowing salty water and falling from the board again and again. Then we had a swim to see some caves, and then the high tide started and I almost died between the rocks getting out. As we had a dinner of some amazing seafood Ecuadorian coast can offer and cocada – a dessert made of coconut with dulce de leche, a man in a hat with a bottle of whiskey on a dancing (!) horse jumped into the restaurant. That’s how I discovered it was a City Festival. I can drive you around, the instructor said, but you will need to push the car to jumpstart it.