Salinas, Ecuador

Salinas, Ecuador

July 01, 2015 1 Comment


Narrated Audio Blog

Told in the collective first person, jointly from Stu and Janell Clarke's perspective.

From the mountains of Cuenca we traveled a few hours to Salinas on the coast of Ecuador. The distance wasn't far, 350km, but the journey took most of the day. From Cuenca we climbed up further in to the mountains on a narrow, twisty road through thick cloud cover and very wet, cold conditions. Our visibility was dangerously low, sitting in second gear with hazard lights and high beams on trying to increase our visibility to other drivers as much as possible. The locals power around those mountains, perhaps they know them like the back of their hands, we certainly didn't and often didn't know if the road was curving to the left or the right until we saw a rock wall in front of our tyre. As you could imagine the descent was a welcome change along with a coffee break and the removal of all our layers as we moved in to warmer coastal climates.

Passing around Guayaquil was also slow and traffic was particularly bad because it happened to be the week that the Pope was visiting. Never mind, we made it to Salinas and met up with our new friends Raquel and Mike who accepted our request for accommodation through Adventure Rider's Tent Space site (like Couch Surfing for bikers). Mike and Raquel were from the US and had some really great stories. They had set off on a South American adventure, leaving their jobs and possession behind in the US, ended up in Salinas, loved it and stayed. They run a realestate office on the Malecon and in our minds really are living the dream. They work hard with their business and renovating homes but they have the Pacific ocean, nightlife of Salinas and two gorgeous dogs, Sadie and Gary, to keep them occupied outside of work. The pace of life is just a little slower and noticeably more relaxed, it's easy to understand why they made the move and haven't looked back.

Mike and Raquel put us up in a house they had been renovating and were in the process of putting on the market. We were 200m from the beach and 1km from town. The motorbikes were parked up in the yard and it was nice to stretch our legs walking everywhere in the lovely warmth. Stu set himself up every afternoon on a hammock on the front porch. His intention was to do some blogging and other administration tasks on the Mac but more often than not ended up taking a relaxing siesta. Janell and Weeti took every opportunity to head down to the beach. Weeti would tear up and down the sand; it was so lovely to see her happy and running freely. Janell felt at home dipping in the Pacific Ocean, the cleansing cool water washing over skin while looking out to sea and admiring the Pelicans and seagulls soaring over the waters surface.

A small ex-pat community of US and Canadians live in Salinas. They've fought the 'norm' long enough and moved to Ecuador for a different life away from the hustle and bustle, the grind of work and seeking fortune. No, in Salinas you won't find stressed, grumpy workaholics. Instead you'll find friendly, welcoming people who appreciate a good conversation and time to enjoy life. We felt right at home in Salinas, could even be somewhere we end up living one day.

To say we enjoyed our time in Salinas would be an understatement. We let loose and partied, something we really hadn't done so far on the journey. The thing is we never set out to go around the world getting drunk. That's something you do when you're 18 to 25 years old and the body can cope with the abuse, 3 hours sleep and then bike or whatever the next day. We've moved out of that demographic and appreciate a decent night sleep so we can make the most of our days. But its still good to party when you find some friends to party with and Mike and Raquel invited us to a couple of parties including Independence Day, a first for both of us and lots of fun.

10 days in Salinas and it was time to keep moving. We needed to get to Colombia, which was a couple of days ride, stopping at some places on our way to the border which Mike and Raquel recommended. Ecuador is not a big country compared to its neighbours and it has good roads. You could plan a good riding holiday just travelling around Ecuador and get a taste of everything South America has to offer from mountains to beaches, from highways to gravel roads and cities to villages with fascinating culture. An advantage of Ecuador for travellers is that their currency is the US Dollar so there is no confusing currency changes and exchange rate to deal with.

We passed through Quito, the capital of Ecuador to have lunch and at least see it but continued on. We have met other riders you took the mountain route through Ecuador. From Quito you head to a town called Banos and then it's some challenging riding, particularly on the wet gravel. In Cuenca we had met up with a couple riding on two bikes with their Chihuahua. Shannon and Mike met us through Facebook, they were heading south to Lima and we only had one night to meet up back in Cuenca so found a place for dinner and chatted for a few hours. They talked about taking the mountain route from Quito and it sounded amazing. Obviously the best situation is to have time to travel around the whole country but if you don't, then either the coast or mountain is going to be enjoyable, just in very different ways. I guess it's important to remember that we'd been on the road for 18 months by this stage and seen a fair share of gravel road and mountains so the coast and warmth was really appealing to us.

Call us crazy but it doesn't matter how perfect a place is, we want to get back on our motorbikes and see more. Many people have suggested to us in conversation that the world must feel like such a small place now that we have seen quite a bit of it. We'd have to strongly disagree, if anything you get a much better perspective on how big it really is and how much there is to see. Everywhere you go, you meet different people and see different things. Some experiences are wonderful and relaxing, others a difficult and stressful but that's what's so exciting and interesting about travelling. The 'not knowing' is so addictive. And at the end of the day its fun to reflect on how you ended up where you are, sometimes it makes sense and other times its just mind-blowing.

Speaking of mind-blowing, every traveler should do the Tulcan-Ipiales border crossing between Ecuador and Colombia. At around 3,000 m in elevation, we had returned to the Andes mountain range. The mountains were very steep with large rivers flowing through this region. The border crossing, however, isn't the interest in this locality, its Santuario de las Lajas or Las Laja Sanctuary. This church is constructed on a bridge spanning a gorge and it looks like something out of a fairy tale. It certainly doesn't look like something you'd see in the mountains of South America, definitely in Europe but not Colombia. The grey and white brick and mortar facade is striking against the natural green backdrop and it's kept in pristine condition. Markets line the walk down to the entrance of the bridge so the site is obviously a great tourist attraction and boost for the local economy but you have to wonder why it was necessary to go to such lengths to build a church in such a challenging topography. You can ponder this as you take your time strolling around the site and pausing to admire the surrounding view and Gothic architecture.



1 Response

Chris Mathias
Chris Mathias

June 01, 2016

Thanx for the great reminder of times there! I spent 6 weeks alone in Ecuador! Loved every day (except for the ones I didn’t)
Just got my new Africa twin! Yep sold the 950 and went for it! In the midst of a ride now, hitting hot Springs in the southwest US.
Love to you both/all❤️???⚡️❗️

Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.

Are you a Dog Person?
Do you Love to Ride?

Click below for more information on how you can take your best friend along on your next biking adventure

Also in Dog Blog

Bongo in the Congo
Bongo in the Congo

April 24, 2017

We arrived at the Gabon Immigation in Ndende nice and early to check out. Nobody was around so we opened the gate ourselves, this certainly drew attention and some military staff appeared and called us over. They were friendly enough, recorded our passport and motorbike details then we stamped out of Gabon. We left the sealed roads in Ndende, it was then 50km off-road riding to reach the Republic of the Congo Customs and Immigration. So far the road wasn't too bad, we only saw a couple of big puddles. Surely this would have to be the worst of the road. Countries often maintain their roads up to the border post pretty well but don't want to spend money beyond this point. How wrong we would be. Stamping in to the Republic of the Congo was fairly straightforward. We supplied a photocopy of our passports and visa for immigrations and then on to customs to import the bikes. The customs official checked all our papers against the bikes VIN's and produced the Temporary Import Permit. Befor...

Read More

Shadow enters the Southern Hemisphere
Shadow enters the Southern Hemisphere

April 13, 2017

We passed through Cameroon rather quickly. The wet season was imminent (April through June is the heavy rain) and we needed to get at least to southern Angola soon to avoid the heavy rains. We crossed into Cameroon at Ekok and spent one night at the Azi Motel on route to the capital Yaounde where we needed to purchase our visa for Gabon. The Azi Motel (4.629379,9.441828) was a great find. We paid 11,000cfa for an airconditioned room, no negotiation required the staff simply stated the price and were fine with the dogs in the room with us. The quality of air conditioning can seriously range from excellent to terrible, with terrible being hardly any cooling effects, loud noises and intermittent power issues. The a/c here was weak to start with but only due to the power supply, once businesses closed at around 9pm there was more power available and the a/c worked well. The staff explained to us that the internet was down in the region due to political problems. Next day we rode through...

Read More

Kidnapped in Nigeria
Kidnapped in Nigeria

March 29, 2017 2 Comments

A few days before leaving Benin we ran into a biker who told us about the motorcycle clubs in Nigeria and gave us the contact details of Queen, a prominent female biker. We contacted Queen to get some information about the border crossing into Nigeria and tried and organise a meetup. Queen was very responsive, but being located in the capital Abuja was well off the main route through Nigeria. However, she asked a friend and the president of the Lagos club, Paul, to reach out to us. Paul messaged us straight away and told us that he was unable to meet us at the border but would make sure we were taken care of by his friend Blessing. Once through the border we were to head to our accommodation and Paul would meet up with us after work. The exit from Benin was pretty straight forward, apart from the immigration officers asking for a €10 exit fee each. We normally know when a fee is simply made up because the legitimate fees are easy to find online and the fake fees are also commonly me...

Read More