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Published: August 18th 2019
In 2008 I spent a night in Guayaquil before finding a last-minute flight to the Galapagos Islands. My only memory of the city is my bewilderment as I ventured into the raucous, bustling concrete jungle on a Friday night. A friendly local approached me and I had little choice but to let him help me navigate the chaos.
So the only thing I was looking forward to this time around was finding some warmth after the relative cold and rainy Cuenca. I had two days to wait for my homeward flight, so I tried to make the most of it.
It's worth the visit just to get some peace so close to the city itself. There is a walking-biking bridge across the river from near the malecon.
It's free to enter, but take a photo or copy of your passport with you because they do ask for it as you enter.
Some Jehovah Witnesses on bikes were struggling to take a 4-person selfie on the bridge, so I offered to take photos with their old digital cameras. I think they were shocked that I approached them, so they didn't try to convert me.
Break your face on Isla Santay
This bike path is like a video game.
I was disappointed at first, since over half of the trails were closed, and the other ones were mostly along badly damaged platforms (see photo).
But once I got to the town on the other end of the island, I conceded that the area wasn't built primarily for tourists, but for the small community that has lived on the island for generations. The footbridge was apparently built to provide the people with easy access to the city, and to allow people from the city to visit, presumably to integrate the islanders. The houses are on stilts and there is a school, community center, and even a recycling center on the grounds.
It would be a challenge to beautify the city itself, since most of the buildings are ugly concrete structures with no personality. But it must have taken an extraordinary effort to clear out the entire riverfront to build the Malecon. It's nothing like the one in La Habana, which is lined with young couples sitting along a several mile long sofa, as they call it; rather, this is the capitalist version, filled with shops and restaurants, but with a few public spaces to enjoy
Just north of the Malecon the coast rises into Las Peñas. The vibrant buildings and picture-perfect cobblestone don't seem terribly authentic, but it's certainly more charming than the rest of the city. Nearly every other shop is an art gallery, and the street stairways reminded me of Lisbon, or maybe Valparaiso, Chile.
There are more photos below.
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