Weathering a Storm: Ecuador Freedom vs Nationwide Strike
Ecuador is one of the most peaceful nations in South America. According to the World Happiness Index, it’s also one of the most cheerful: Ecuador ranks third in the continent when it comes to happiness.
We’re not surprised. We’ve been living, working, and sharing motorcycle adventures in Ecuador for over a decade. We’ve made lifelong friends among the locals, brought thousands of travelers to experience Ecuador on two wheels, and supported Ecuador through tough times when the country was affected by earthquakes. Our Pack for a Purpose program has been in full swing for several years now: we encourage riders to bring down and distribute school supplies during their motorcycle adventures here in Ecuador. We deeply value the connections we have made here as well as the relationships we continue to cherish across the country. So for the most part, the biggest motorcycle tour disruptions we’ve seen so far were flat tires, small landslides, and a rogue waterfall flooding a road here and there.
Recently, however, we found ourselves amidst an unexpected storm. Ecuador’s president Lenin Moreno has signed a loan deal with the International Monetary Fund, lifting the fuel subsidies that existed here for decades. This resulted in gas prices doubling overnight, deeply affecting every Ecuadorian, and threatening to push the country’s poorest over the edge of extreme poverty. For twelve days following the disastrous move, Ecuador went on a nationwide strike. First started by the people in the public transport sector, the protests were soon joined by the indigenous Ecuadorians who opposed the president’s decision. Within a few days, most main roads were blocked by the protesters, and the whole country entered a long and tumultuous strike hoping to persuade the government to soften the blow.
Nothing like this has happened in Ecuador in the ten years we’ve been living here, and it took us all by surprise. However, it’s times like this when adventures are taken to the next level and when our abilities are taken to the test that strengthens us all. During the days of the strike, the Ecuador Freedom team in Quito worked round the clock to provide support to our riders and tour participants, creating detours on the spot, re-routing riders to safer roads, and calling on our friendships with the locals to help out.
As luck would have it, October also marked our very first all-female motorcycle tour. Five adventurous ladies from the US and Canada, accompanied by our tour guide Hannah and our guest guide Egle, set out to ride the Andes and the Amazon on our motorcycles. However, as the nationwide protests spread, the group had to wait out the storm in a small Andean town of Cotacachi, re-route, ride a little more dirt than they expected, and get to know the Ecuadorian culture first-hand. We’re proud to share that not only our fearless women riders showed no signs of anxiety over the situation but also turned it around and created unforgettable memories. They brought food supplies to the indigenous people of Cotacachi, visited local families, got an audience with the town’s mayor Auki Tituana, and left school supplies for a local orphanage. They had to change course, adapt, make friends, see humanity at its rawest, work as a solid team, and find positives every step of the way. They met local leather tanners, indigenous leaders, cacao growers and chocolate makers, fellow travelers, sugar cane farmers, villagers, and each encounter left us all richer for the experience.
While helping our Ladies on the Loose team navigate the strike, we were also working overtime providing support to other riders and tour participants exploring Ecuador on our bikes. This is where our local knowledge, connections, and friendships played a vital role. Because of our deep roots and experience here in Ecuador, we were able to offer alternative routes and accommodations, provide support, and make sure all our riders were safe during the days of the strike. In addition, we were also providing information and support to independent motorcycle travelers who happened to be in Ecuador during the protests. Our doors are always opened to anyone on two wheels, and we’re thrilled to have been able to help several riders who found themselves in need of a little extra guidance. As Ecuadorian residents, we’re also proud to say the protests were not violent. The local people and the indigenous leaders never threatened our riders or singled them out – they simply asked everyone to respect the strike.
The nationwide protests ended as suddenly as they began, with the country’s president offering a new deal and promising a compromise to the people. Quito has gone back to normal almost overnight, as has the rest of Ecuador. It is perfectly safe to travel the country once again, and we hope that the short period of uncertainty will provide Ecuador with a new vision and a newly found sense of unity. If you are planning to ride Ecuador and have any questions, please feel free to shoot us a message and we’ll do our best to help you pick your routes.
We’re extremely grateful to all our riders and tour participants for trusting us and helping us create the best experiences under extraordinary circumstances. We thank you all for your patience, resilience, and your sense of adventure!
But most of all, we are grateful for all the local Ecuadorians who supported us and offered us assistance during this unusual situation. To all the hoteliers who worked with us to ensure our riders could change accommodations and stay safe, to the local mechanics and support drivers, to the police officers and indigenous community leaders, to the road workers and gas station attendants – a big, heartfelt thank you for your kindness and support.
Together, we have weathered a storm – and redefined the meaning of adventure.