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Published: July 28th 2017
We didn't plan to come to Guayaquil. I'd heard damning reports about the place, merely a necessary stop before the Galapagos. But after much soul-searching, we're not going to the Galapagos. I know, I know. It's practically obligitory when you visit Ecuador, right? Well, not for us. One reason is that we know the place is over-visited. This is a concern partly as we don't really want to be crammed together with hundreds of other people. But also because we are very aware that this level of mass tourism is damaging all that makes the place special. Plus it's incredibly expensive, and our budget has been hit hard as it is. The main reason for going is the wildlife. But none of the wildlife excited us as much as the animals and birds we saw in the Amazon. I wouldn't dream of telling anyone not to go, and I'm sure we would have loved it. But in the end the advantages just did not quite stack up enough for us personally.
Ok, enough of where we didn't go and back to where we did. Guayaquil was a logical stop-off between Cuenca and Puerto Lopez. I did a
bit of research and there seemed enough to do to justify two nights. So we decided to go anyway and make our own minds up.
The bus journey was uneventful, bar the smashed up car we saw being pulled out of a watery ditch. Do I need to mention the amazing scenery again? Probably not. We did succumb to some bus food. A guy came on selling chicken llapinggachos (stuffed potato fritters). They were bloody delicious. The journey was quicker than expected, at just under four hours.
The bus terminal is way out of town. Luckily David had done his research and knew we could get the Metrovia (bus line with it's own lanes much like Bogota). There were no signs at the terminal but we headed out towards the urban buses and once outside we could see it over the main road. We bought ($2) and charged cards (30c per trip) from the machine, and worked out that we needed line 1 towards Guasmo. It was very cramped, but the trip only took 15 minutes or so. Still, a relief to get off. We alighted at the Boca 9 station, bang next to our hotel, the City
Plaza Hotel. It was a bit pricey, but then that's Guayaquil for you. But it was lovely, a real treat actually.
As we were earlier than expected we decided to head straight out. It was much hotter than we've been used to in recent weeks, but not unbearable.The town was celebrating it's 482nd birthday, and consequently the museum we tried was shut. So we headed to Seminario Park, also known as Iguana Park. We hoped to spot one or two of the little critters. We needn't have worried, they were everywhere! It's a small park, and apparently there are around 250 of them. It was an amazing sight.
On the way back to our hotel we stumbled across a carnival parade, part of the birthday celebrations. It was a very happy accident and we enjoyed watching the floats and dancers very much. My favourite was the more mature ladies. I can so see myself as a mature lady in a parade!
That evening we tried a seafood restaurant, but it was shut. We continued on towards a rock bar we'd read about, hoping to spot somewhere else. We didn't, but when we reached the bar we spoke
to a guy outside who recommended Poly Restaurant around the corner. It was a typical cheap, local, hole-in-the-wall with plastic furniture. But it was friendly and the food was tasty. Best of all the bill was about $10.
Once we'd eaten we went back to Kruger Rock Bar. It was playing Spanish language rock which we didn't recognise but it was enjoyable enough. We got chatting to the guy who recommended Poly. He was called Alfredo, his English was excellent and he was a nice guy. The woman behind the bar persuaded us to order some food to share. We agreed (dinner had not been huge and we'd had no lunch. Yeah, ok, still a bit greedy). Apparently they had only just started serving food and we were the first people ever to order the chicken wings. They even took a photo of them! It was pretty good actually.
We had a great evening, especially once they had put a bunch of Iron Maiden on for us. We really enjoyed ourselves. There was one slightly sour note when at the end of the night they overcharged us. Only by $5, but still. It might have been a genuine
mistake. Or they might have thought we'd drunk too much to notice. If so, they underestimated our drinking capacity. We ARE British after all. David queried it, and Alfredo helped out. They showed us the bill, which said we were $5 in credit. But why charge more than the final bill and give us 'credit'? They did refund us, and maybe there was just some misunderstanding. It was a good enough bar that we'd return. But we would pay as we went next time.
The next day we had the chance to properly look around Guayaquil. We'd read that it has improved over recent years, and certainly a lot of money has been spent on regeneration. Still, even quite recent reviewers had called the place grubby, unattractive and dangerous. Well, I think this is total crap. A few years ago I'm sure it was true. But the money has been well spent, and now it's actually very nice. I can't help but think those who slag it off are spoilt rich pricks on their way to the Galapagos, having a hissy-fit at mixing with normal folk.
First of all we wandered around the town. Small, but some nice
buildings. Then along the harbour, the pride of the town, called the Malecon 2000. It's a lovely area and we spent a while happily wandering until we reached a big wheel. We couldn't resist, so had a go on that enjoying the view.
Next we climbed the hill to barrio Las Penas. Not as hard work as we thought, probably because we are back at sea-level. It's a really cute area, again with great views. Once we'd explored, we went back down and grabbed an empanada each to eat in Plaza Centenario. Then we thought we'd attempt the Municipal Museum again. This time it was open. It's free and had some great stuff. My favourite was the 600 year-old totem pole.
That night the seafood restaurant, Picantaria la Culata, was open. I ordered a fish stew in coconut, David chose a similar dish in garlic. We had a beer and waited. And waited. And waited. An hour passed, and we noticed people who had arrived after us getting their food. We were about to say something when the waiter glanced at us, looked quite stricken, and began to flick through the order pad. Clearly our order had been
overlooked. A moment later an unsolicited beer appeared. Next a lady came over to apologise, with a free bowl of ceviche and some plantain chips. We thought this was a lovely gesture and all was forgiven. Everyone makes mistakes, it's how you handle them that matters. We were more than happy as we'd shamefully never got around to trying ceviche. Wow, it was delicious. We'll be having that again. Once the food arrived, that was delicious too. All for $20.
We were sad to leave Guayaquil, even though two nights was enough to see everything. The return Metrovia stopped a couple of blocks away. This one was not so crowded, and I even got a seat. On the way into the bus station we got stopped by the police, asking for our passports. This is the first time this has ever happened to us. But all was well and they quickly let us go. We bought tickets for the 10.15 am bus to Puerto Lopez (seats 1& 2!) and before we knew it we were on our way.
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