Actually it was a ticket from Guayaquil that we needed – but in our habit of awarding nicknames to odd sounding places Guayaquil became Guacamole. This busy port city on the huge Guaya River is one of the biggest cities in Ecuador and is also the gateway to the Galapagos Islands. It sounded interesting and in any event having an overnight stop at the end of our cruise in Ecuador sounded much more attractive than, say, an overnight in Dallas.
Well – where do I start? Poverty, slums, crazy traffic and semi-derilect industrial buildings. Once we got to our hotel – the Hilton Colon – we received written advice suggesting that we remove valuables such as jewellery and keep this with our passports
in the safe. Mmm. We had arranged a private transfer with Seabourn and our guide, Maybell, gave us great advice on where to go and what to see. She reassured us that the river walk, The Malecon, was very safe but it was wise to take precautions (which makes sense no matter where you travel). She also advised us not to take a taxi from the street but to arrange for our cab driver from the hotel to come back and meet us at a pre-arranged time on the river walk. This all sounded sensible.
Our first stop was Parque de Las Iguanas, just a couple of blocks from the river walk. For some strange reason the iguanas do not stray from this rather small park and some of them are just huge.
They seemed quite tame and taking my lead from a toddler, I did manage to pat one on the head. There are so many of them they slither over each other and their long claws make clacking noises on the pavement. Ugh – even now I can’t suppress a shiver. Maybe it’s just as well I didn’t have time to do the Galapagos. OK – enough of creepy crawlies and off to the Malecon.
Well …. what can I say? Not much actually. It’s a fairly long walk with not much in between. Quite a nice place for locals with a kids playground and a quite lovely wooded area but would I leave home for this? Unlikely. To be fair, however, I think that the best of Ecuador is probably in the mountains in places like Cuenca and Quito and if I do ever get to the Galapagos I will definitely make sure to do a side trip to one or both of these cities.
Why would I do that? Simply – the people. Despite the poverty and a minimum monthly wage of only US $240 a month, they are just charming. I am embarrassed to say that I had not taken the time to brush up on a few phrases in Spanish but in the restaurants and shops we were met with smiles and an eagerness to show off English phrases.
While waiting for our taxi we sat on the side of the road and just people-watched. My favourite occupation – especially in a new country. Office workers in smart suits, stockings and heels – and all this in high humidity and over 30 degrees C. Motorbikes and scooters are a popular form of transportation. We saw a whole family on one, Mom, Dad a toddler and a newborn. But right on the dot of 4.30 pm there was our trusty cab driver, Hernandez. He couldn’t speak a word of English …. we couldn’t speak a word of Spanish. So we smiled and nodded at each other…. and then smiled and nodded a bit more…..