Thursday, January 23, 2014

First Stop: Guayaquil


First Stop: Guayaquil

My flight arrives in Guayaquil by way of Miami after a 9 hour total trip.  There will be an hour and a half layover in Miami.
I have reserved my hotel   Boutique Hotel Orilla del Rio  Click link and see the hotel, read the interesting history on this former home!
Facts and demographics about Guayaquil. 

Guayaquil is the largest city in Ecuador with a populataion of over 2.3 million.  It is also the largest South American port city located on The Pacific for both freight and cruises.  Guayaquil has been called “dirty and dangerous”, but now is rising up to be quite a tourist destination in its own right, and  is now the commercial heart of the country.  Over half of Ecuador's companies are based here. 
From everything I have researched, this is still a crime ridden city.  Every reference warns of muggings, car jackings, and even violent crimes.  Sources consistently warn tourists to take only marked cabs, not to  wander aimlessly, even during the day, and to stay on main streets in the middle.  Sounds scary.  Hint taken.
Unlike central Ecuador, which enjoys springlike climates in The Andes, Guayaquil is hot and humid.  It is located on the western banks of the Rio Daule and the Rio Babahoyo.  January to April are the hottest months (90’s to 100 d F) with high humidity, and lots of rain.  The dry and cool months are June to December when tends to be  overcast as well. For the most part, the city is only a few meters above sea level, so in the rainy season, flooding is very common.

The city proper has about a dozen high rise buildings, and on the hillsides, it has barrios.  Although crime can be (er, is?) a problem, the city is reportedly safe in the refurbished areas located in the city center and Malecon 2000 (promenade along the water front) along the Rio Guayas.
Guayaquil is  building a burgeoning cultural center in.  An Imax theater is here. There are many theaters, museums, arts venues, parks, squares, and lively bars are here.  A number of universities fuel academic interests, and a youthful curiosity.  Virtually all flights to or from the Gallapagos either originate or stop here.
There are many interesting things to see and do in Guayaquil that make it worth a visit for at least a few days.  What I plan to see for sure is the Parque Bolivar or Parque  de las Iguanas. This park may be the only place in the world  where inland iguanas are found.  These iguanas certainly are a species unique from those found in the Galapagos, which is owned by Ecuador.
Sites on my agenda at this time, subject to change: 
Malecon 2000
This is the pride and joy and symbol of redevelopment of the city.  It is a promenade by the Guayas river spanning 3 km.  Along the walk, many attractions abound- sculptures, museums, gardens, etc.  Many security guards are present supposedly, making this a "safe" and relaxing place.  I will report on this shortly.
Parque de las Iguanas, aka Parque Bolivar
Located in Guayaquil’s city center is a park with dozens of iguanas measuring up to about a meter in length.  Reportedly they are tame and spend their time between the trees and the ground thermoregulating.  Reportedly, there is a red squirrel that is entertaining to visitors and tourists (though I can’t determine why), and a fish pond that contains turtles as well as fish.  I will find out what is going on here.  You can bet that I will get to the bottom of it and give you the skinny.  Pics to follow.

I visited Costa Rica in the late 1990’s when I went on an "adventure" vacation/tour.  I didn't know what that meant at the time, but being older, and hopefully wiser, I think it means doing bone headed things that risk life and limb.  Anyway, I saw iguanas living in trees.  Locals called them “tree chickens”.  The reason the critters had this moniker was because they lived in the trees, and they tasted, well, like everything else, like chicken.  Anyway, after that, I double checked the meat content of all meals.  Will do same in Ecuador.
Las Penas and Cerro Santa Ana.  This is the arts district, bars and restaurants.  I plan to check out this vibrant scene. I will give you a full report on the food, beverage, and art scene, well, at least the first two, and maybe some art.

After Guayaquil, I head to Salinas on the coast for a few days, and will look forward to an exciting trip to "The Poor Man's Galapagos"
More to follow.
References:
Moon Handbooks
Ecuador & the Galapagos Islands
Ben Westwood