Photo Gallery: Trans Ecuador Mountain Bike Route – Southern Section

Enjoy my months’ photos from the Trans Ecuador Mountain Bike Route with crazy mud, hike-a-bike, river crossings, insane hills, loose af descents and navigation woes!

MY BIKE: Koga WorldTraveller-S
MY 24KG GEAR LIST: Here
MY ROUTE: Here
MY CAMERAS: Panasonic G9 + GoPro Hero 6

When you go on a multi-year adventure, the things you’re interested in will constantly change. Sometimes I’m fixated on history, other times its nature, culture or people. Sometimes I like writing, other times I prefer to film or take photos. Sometimes I like to explore cities, other times I prefer to explore small villages or remote areas. Sometimes I read a few books a month, other times I prefer to listen to podcasts or binge-watch YouTube. Variety is the spice of life, amirite?

Today it’s Christmas and I’ve honestly been given the greatest gift – I’ve got my wheels back on the road! For five weeks I stared at a pile of folded and snapped metal in the corner of my room. Unlike an accidentally dropped glass, this broken bike is an extension of me – it’s a core part of my identity. My bike is always there to help create the best memories. It’s also my golden ticket to freedom. As long as it looked hopeless, I felt the effects of this hopelessness too. It was a huge weight off my shoulders to see it in a rolling state, and it felt even better again to have the dynamo cabling re-wired, the steerer cut and the frame polished to perfection. My bike has survived and will now thrive as I roll to Ecuador (on one wheel 😂).

Not gonna lie, I’m quite nervous about getting out into the wilds tomorrow! That’s because I’ve now adjusted to the comforts and predictability of city life. For weeks I’ve had good food, a comfortable bed and a fast internet connection, but now it’s time to let all that go. Sure, it’s easier for me to make the first step than most, but trust me, there’s always a hurdle that I have to jump over too. I hope you didn’t think it was just you that needed to break down the comfort barrier — I take a deep breath and do it ALL THE TIME!

The ancient city of Chan Chan was constructed over 1000 years ago and is the biggest mud-brick city in the Americas, spanning 20 square kilometres. The Chimú people were conquered by the Inca in the 1400s and one hundred years later the Spanish swooped in and emptied their coffers entirely, including $5 million in gold.

Couldn’t have asked for a better New Years! I pitched my tent in a sandy canyon in the middle of nowhere but it turned out it was actually a 555 star hotel! I obviously watched all the shooting stars but I also listened to the insect musical ensemble, ate tropical fruit, and I even had a little owl friend swoop all around me, later landing on the roof of my tent! 🦉 I hope 2019 brings you all the adventures!

What’s your relationship with time? How do you spend it? Who do you spend your time with? I think about time regularly because I’m always trying to squeeze the most out my precious moments and opportunities. The best way to use time has got to be living a dynamic life where you try new things, go to new places and meet new people – it’s always the moments outside your routine that solidify into the best memories. If you’re into adventures, I can recommend scheduling them in at a regular interval – lock those dates away into your diary! Taking an overnight trip every month with family, friends or by yourself (solo trips are underrated 🤗) will tick a lot of boxes here and result in 120 new memories over a decade!

You know how I said I’d take it easy for a while? Turns out that was a lie. I’ve been getting rowdy in the cloud forests of the Trans-Ecuador instead. 🤘🏼

Ecuador! Delivering!!! I’m actually quite surprised how different it is here to Peru. There seems to be a much bigger middle class, measured by houses that are more refined, very well-kept gardens and people exercising in the parks. The Ecuadorians are more reserved in nature too, a bit more softly spoken and less likely to ask you questions from across the street. Interestingly, people are more interested in where I’m FROM rather than where I’m GOING (it’s normally the other way around). Also, the country must have got a nice discount on barbed wire fencing — every metre of every road is lined with the stuff, making it harder for me to wild camp where I *technically* should not. I don’t think Ecuador was prepared for this giraffes arrival though!

Almost everyone who has cycled Ecuador has warned me about the ultra STEEP hills. And boy, are they right!! I actually changed the gear ratios on my bike in anticipation for these gnarly gradients. The topography of Ecuador is extra undulating, and the roads definitely don’t follow the contours like Peru. Check out my body position trying to get some body weight on the front wheel – if I don’t do this I’m literally climbing while doing a wheelie!!!

How does this rich white tourist navigate the ethics of travelling through developing areas of the world? As a highly privileged human who spends time around people who have so much less wealth and opportunity, my initial feeling is always that of guilt. But over time I’ve realised that perhaps feeling guilty isn’t necessarily justified given it was really just dumb luck that made me who I am. I think, at a minimum, there are a few actions we can take to ethically justify travel. I believe we have an obligation to be interested in the local cultures, customs and people, even if it makes us feel uncomfortable. I think we need to treat local people how we’d like to be treated ourselves. And finally, I don’t think we can complain if one of our western comforts isn’t met. Essentially, it all about being a respectful human. Travelling on a bike typically requires these actions by default, and that’s one of the many reasons why I think bike travel is the ultimate way to see the world. I have overwhelming positive interactions with every person I meet, which seems to be mutually beneficial based on the size of the emanating smiles. To help frame my perspective, let me present the antithesis to my preferred style of travel – staying exclusively in resorts. What this signals to me is that you’re wanting to enjoy the resources of an ‘exotic’ place without having to confront life in that country. I don’t think I can find an ethical case for this.

Perfect trails for panniers in the Ecuadorian highlands! It might surprise you that I’ve only had a handful of occasions in South America where my front panniers have been in the way. The vast majority of trails are perfectly wide for my bike.

I love poring over topographic maps to visualise the terrain I’m cycling over. But it’s even better when I can climb a ladder into the sky and visualise it with my own eyes!

“There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing choices”. I subscribe to this 100%. I’ve found that as long as you’re warm, you can have a pleasant day on your bike! My favourite wet weather item is my waterproof pants. I keep them in an accessible place and when the first drop hits I throw them on over whatever I’m wearing. They keep my legs toasty warm, but more importantly, my clothes DRY – even after the heaviest downpour. Plus they’re only 167 grams and about $20! Best investment ever!

giant tortoise

I made my first Attenborough-style documentary about the Galápagos Islands!! Found HERE. In this doco, you’ll learn about how these islands came to be, and find out about the really weird adaptations made by the wildlife to suit the otherworldly conditions. It was so much fun exploring the islands with my new camera, finding all these crazy animals! I’d love to know whether you think I should do more doco style films, or just stick to my cross-continental bike adventures?

I got sick for the first time in South America! Nothing major, just a chest infection, but how good was that run of 14 months?! Other travellers seem to get sick ALL the time here. I think my secret is that I prepare 99% of my own food, which is normally cleaned thoroughly. I also filter my water, eat super healthy and rest my body as soon as it starts feeling fatigued.

A few people are a bit perplexed why I prepare so much of my own food. It’s mostly through necessity! A lot of the routes I travel are away from people and restaurants. I also tend to snack all day rather than have a meal, and by the time dinner comes, I’m tucked up in my tent! So yeah, I don’t intentionally avoid local food, it just kinda works out like that currently. But I suspect this will also change as I get less remote in Central America. Also, I take EVERY invite to share meals and drinks with local people because food is undoubtedly the perfect way to socialise.

I’m super psyched on my new camera! I’m now using a Panasonic G9 which is pretty much taking the nice photos for me. Hopefully you’ll notice the extra crispness, nicer colours and if you watch my films, the extra stabilisation of my handheld videos! And if you were wondering, every shot I take is from a tripod. And yes, I have to ride back and collect my camera every time!

Who knew Ecuador could look this dry and baron? Before I arrived here, I pictured Ecuador to be super lush! But it’s definitely a mixed bag of terrain, even with the heavy rains of the wet season.

I camp anywhere. As long as the site is protected from the wind, is away from people, and is far from barking dogs and crowing roosters. As long as it provides shade in the morning if it’s hot, or sun in the morning if it’s cold. As long as the land is flat and dry and not prone to getting waterlogged by rainfall. As long as the ground cover is smooth and without any thorny bits to puncture my sleeping mat… ok, so maybe I won’t camp anywhere. 😂

Trans Ecuador Mountain Bike Route

Australia, is that you? It’s strange how all it takes is some red dirt and eucalyptus trees to make me feel at home. Despite how familiar the surroundings are, it’s probably the scent that launches me deep into Australia dreaming.

Trans Ecuador Mountain Bike Route

Insane road gradients and ultra red earth. This is Ecuador! Can’t wait to circumnavigate some conical volcanoes in the coming weeks.

Trans Ecuador Mountain Bike Route

It’s been pretty wild out here! I hiked my bike into a beautiful national park but then it rained and rained and rained. After a night of camping the mud was up to my knees! In fact, the mud was so thick that every time I tried to pull my feet up, it tried to steal my shoes!!

Trans Ecuador Mountain Bike Route

There are really some nice sections of Ecuador, but so far I’ve found it really hard to achieve the feeling of ‘remoteness’ which was so easy to tap into in Peru. There seems to be a very even spread of farms across the mountains, the people tending to livestock which is best suited to mostly cleared land. Even the national parks have had free-roaming cows! Don’t get me wrong, I still love cycling through the countryside, but I’m currently on the hunt for untouched nature and some long distances to the nearest human!

Trans Ecuador Mountain Bike Route

I got a new rain jacket! My previous jacket had the waterproof membrane separate from the fabric after six years of heavy use. This time I’m testing something ultralight (under 200g/7oz) to see if it can provide anywhere near the same daily use/abuse. The model I ended up with is a North Face Verto Storm. I like the compact size, deep pockets, high collar and hood fit under my helmet. The breathability of the fabric is poor though, but I don’t know any ultralight 2.5-layer jackets that perform well in this regard (apparently the Gore R7 Shakedry is a game changer for €299). I think this is compounded by the fact that the fabric is so shapeable – it sticks to your skin when wet, unlike heavier-duty fabrics which tend to ‘hang’. I’ve also noticed I need to wear an extra warmth layer underneath to get the same insulation as my heavier jacket – possibly making the weight savings negligible. This jacket is discontinued, so if you’re looking for something similar, check out the Montbell Versalite.

Trans Ecuador Mountain Bike Route

Elizabeth, Alex and their two-year-old brother discovered my tent shortly after 6am. I thought I was hidden well, but they know their farm like the back of their hand. They watched me make coffee, eat breakfast, pack up my sleeping gear and then helped me roll up my tent! My mother recently sent across some Australian souvenirs, so these curious humans ended up with a pretty sweet swag o’ gear! Next time I pass by, I’ll make sure to knock on the door and meet them as adults.

Trans Ecuador Mountain Bike Route

It was 8pm, dark and I was sitting under a flickering street lamp in a town the size of a large extended family. Out of the distance comes a man with two tiny puppies in tow. I offered him some biscuits while he asked the usual ‘where are you going’ type questions. The man had a long piercing stare and a really odd way of breathing. It was definitely creepy. Even when we ran out of things to say he stared at me in a really unusual way. I used the puppies as a distraction, giving them 100% of my attention, hoping that he’d get the message that we were done. He then took a step closer, made a strange comment about my legs, touched the material of my shorts and abruptly left. I camped about 1km out of town on the top of a ridge. It was pretty hard to hide in these endless farming fields. I was woken by tapping on my tent. It was the same man as the night before, wearing a traditional poncho and big gumboots, obviously off to work. He opened the fly and again awkwardly stared at me straight through the mesh of the tent. I gave him a brief tour of how I live in my tent and he kept going on about how it must be so cold sleeping inside there. He then came around to the other side of my tent. I opened the zipper so that I wasn’t being totally rude. He squatted right next to me and then started touching my mat, sleeping bag and clothes, exclaiming that I cannot possibly be warm with these items. While I was still in my sleeping bag, he asked if I wear trousers while I sleep, but before I could answer he started digging into my sleeping bag with his hand and took a big grab of my genitals!! He was laughing in a pretty manic way as I pulled his arm away. He then took off, after finally getting what he wanted out of me. Normally you’d feel anger in this situation, but it never came. I instantly felt really sorry for this man who obviously had homosexual tendencies but could never truly be himself in this tiny community. I still don’t really know what to think; I guess I didn’t ever imagine I’d have a farmers hand down my pants. 🤷🏻‍♂️

Trans Ecuador Mountain Bike Route

Sometimes you’ve just gotta take a leap of faith! This is over one of the many 2m/7ft deep ruts found up in the mountains of Ecuador in the wet season.

Trans Ecuador Mountain Bike Route

The wilderness areas of Ecuador. I found them. xx

Trans Ecuador Mountain Bike Route

What happens when you descend with slick tyres straight off the side of a volcano? Absolute chaos. Can’t wait to drop my next film with its dramatic-as-hell riding scenes!

Trans Ecuador Mountain Bike Route

You thought that Mt Everest was the closest point to space, didn’t you? Actually, it’s here! Because the planet bulges at the equator, Chimborazo volcano is technically the highest point on Earth… and I did a cooking show up there with my favourite touring recipe! Stay tuned for my next film…

Trans Ecuador Mountain Bike Route

Woahhh…. natural colour gradients! It was super nice to have had this view and road to myself as I took on the tourist-free backside of Chimborazo. (Lots of frolicking vicuñas, though.)

Trans Ecuador Mountain Bike Route

If you’ve been following my photos the last few days, you’ll have noticed how different the environments appear. The crazy thing is that these photos were all taken within 10km/6mi of each other. Chimborazo volcano creates all kinds of unique microclimates, making it a wonder to behold and definitely my highlight of Ecuador so far!

Trans Ecuador Mountain Bike Route

NEW VIDEO! Watch me fight the wet season in Ecuador HERE. 🥊 It’s truly adventure packed with crazy mud, hike-a-bike, river crossings, insane hills, loose descents, navigation woes, a cooking segment and the reason why I don’t use a mountain bike on mountain bike trails. Please let me know what you think – I love being able to use your feedback to improve these films.

Trans Ecuador Mountain Bike Route

Here’s some of my backstory. I’ve been travelling by bike for over a decade, but have been to over 80 countries since 2012, covering more than 100,000km. I started out with month-long tours, but it was always my dream to cross overland from Europe to Australia to experience the slow evolution of people and culture from the western to eastern worlds. I saved up heaps of money and sold everything I owned to ride a tandem bike on this 2.5-year journey with my ex-girlfriend. And it was the best thing I ever did – I was hooked on the adventure, fascinated by the learning experiences and I revelled in the randomness of nomadic life! Skip forward a few years and I’m still on the road, cycling up to Alaska. While the first big trip was all about understanding the people of the world, this trip is so much more about understanding myself and the natural world. I don’t really know what will happen when I finish this trip… but can you really cycle across five continents and then not visit the sixth? One thing is for sure: wherever the tailwinds lead me, you’ll be coming too.

Alee is a bike and travel addict who has cycled through 80+ countries and doesn't really have any plans of stopping. Along the way, he creates technical resources, in-depth reviews, inspirational videos, how-to guides and more. If you've learned something from him, you can support his mission to create the best bike travel content HERE.

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