What’s it like to be riding South America now, as the entire world is still figuring out the pandemic? Having just flown to Quito, Ecuador, from Europe, I’m about to hit the road on a borrowed bike and explore this small Andean country once more. But is it a good idea, and what is it really like to be riding Ecuador right now?

Getting Into Ecuador

Having stored the bikes and booked the Amsterdam-Madrid-Quito flights, my friend and I finally boarded the plane and completed our first leg to Spain. I admit, spending three hours at Madrid airport was spooky: face masks mandatory everywhere, all shops and restaurants, even in the duty-free zone, completely shut (oh the joy of living off vending-machine sandwiches), and very few souls in sight. At the Madrid arrivals, in addition to immigration booths, there was one more barrier this time: a health checkpoint where our temperature was taken by a heat scanner; other than that, however, the Madrid airport simply felt deserted.

The flight itself was weird, too: intercontinental flights are seldom a fun experience, intercontinental flights with cheap airlines (looking at you, Air Europa) are a form of torture, but an intercontinental flight with cheap airlines during the COVID times?.. The plane was packed full, face masks mandatory throughout, flight attendants exhausted and irritable, and foodservice non-existent apart from a lasagna-flavored cardboard meal at midnight. The entire flight was mostly an act of trying to stay very still while not suffocating under the mask and pretending to sleep despite a cheerful chorus of screaming babies and annoyed flight attendants.

All is well that ends well, though: at the Quito airport, the entry procedure was relatively painless. After going through the health checkpoint and presenting our negative Corona tests, we cleared customs, went through the immigration, picked up our bags, and got a cab to town – all within forty minutes or so. Ecuadorians seem happy to see travelers returning, and although they are very strict with wearing masks in public and only allowing entry to supermarkets and other public spaces if your temperature is normal, Quito feels a lot freer and more welcoming than Madrid.

Having picked out our bikes – two trusty DR650’s equipped with Mosko luggage – we’re to set off this Thursday and do a loop along the Pacific Coast, across the Andes, and into the Amazon.

What’s it like to get out there and ride Ecuador right now? Read the next installment to find out!

Riding South America Now: Getting There // ADV Rider

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