Thursday, February 6, 2014

Parque de las Iguanas (aka Parque Bolivar)

Parque de las Iguanas, aka Parque Bolivar

I am behind in the writing and posting, understandably, however, I want to post important tips in real time even though they may not synch with the actual experience.
When getting into a cab, always try to get an English speaker- I mentioned this previously.  Get the price BEFORE entering cab.  They will whisk you bags in and it will be a hassle to get them out.  So be warned.  Get the price before you let them touch your bags.
In going from Salinas to Guayaquil a bus will cost about $14/person.  A cab ride ranges from $45- $60.
Be prepared- a cab ride can be a family affair.  Your cabbie may bring the wife and kid.  If that is fine with you, go for it.  If not, hail another cab.
Some cabs may only go to the outskirts of Salinas and then hand off to a second cab.  There definitely is a good old boy system here that I don’t understand, but it worked out for me.  I was en-route to Cuenca (Southern Sierra).  The second cabbie tried to take me to Cuenca and offered to do so for $200 USD, and came down to $120.  I declined, in favor of bus for $12.00 USD.
Here is where I got hustled.  On arrival to Guayaquil, I was handed off not to the terminal where I requested, but rather a strip mall with a bunch of private cab services to Cuenca- $14.00 USD each.  I went for it with the promise that there would only be 2 people total. Did I say three, or did I say 5?  Don’t believe it.
Final tip.  Though I have had no problems so far, I suggest that you consider a suit case lock or a Kensington type lock for bags containing all valuables.  Valuables= anything you don’t want stolen.  My valuables basically include my camera gear, and I take it with me at all times.  The rest I can replace.

Before I talk about the park, I do want to reiterate that I have had no problems, and this country so far is lovely.  The people are very friendly and eager to help. They are hospitable.

Of course documenting the trip is major goal of this blog.  Another major goal is to communicate the textures, sights, smells, and experiences, so that the reader, as much as possible cans a real connection through my writings and photos.  It is a tall order since I am not a writer, nor am I a professional photographer.  I do have a passion for both and a passion for meeting new people and learning about them.  If at any time you the reader want to learn more while I am here, please ask or leave comments, and I will do my best to find out.

The Parque is actually a treasure that most people don’t truly understand.  To begin with, the park has at least dozens of land iguanas.  Pardon me while I go zoologist/evolutionist on you.  In my opinion this is the treasure.  This may be the only, or if not the only, then one of only a handful of places in the world where land iguanas exist.  Interestingly, the park can get very crowded and the children and adults are more entertained by a solitary red squirrel that doesn’t fail to entertain.  This squirrel is notorious if not famous, as I read about him in a travel book.  Sadly, small children harassed him to the point that he took refuge up a tree before I could get his picture.

The iguana picture gets a bit interesting from a zoological point of view.  The question is, “how did they get there?”  The answer is…speculation.  My favorite theory is called the raft theory and goes like this.  The Galapagos Islands, has unique iguana species and lies about 600 miles to the west of Guayaquil. It is impossible for iguanas to swim this distance.  If one were to look at the Guayas River at any given time, one would be struck by the amount of bio-debris floating downstream.  It is entirely possible that viable eggs or a few iguanas could have hitched a ride on one of these rafts and survived the journey.  The rest is history.

One last thing on the topic of zoology, and hopefully you haven’t fallen asleep on your keyboards. It is important to understand what the definition of a species is.  The most basic and functional definition of species is that two individuals, no matter how much alike they look, and given that they are fertile, cannot breed together and produce a viable offspring.  Therefore, the land iguanas in Guayaquil according to evolutionary principles separated from the Galapagos iguanas many years ago, likely thousands of years ago, the environment acted on them “weeding out” the less and selecting the genetically superior specimens (natural selection by definition).  In the wild, the males tend to be larger and more colorful to attract the females, who in turn are attracted to the males whom they feel will have superior genetics to pass to the next generation.  Ahhh ain’t it great. 

Charles Darwin’s sailed to the Galapagos in his boat, the Beagle.  He was so struck by the biodiversity that it was a backbone of his famous book “On The Origin Of Species’, published November 24, 1859”.  Actually, his book never explained it.

The Park was AWESOME, and well worth spending a couple of hours or more if you are amused and entertained by large pre-historic appearing critters that are docile.  The square is immaculate, and safe.  Many guards are present and visible.  Families and people of all ages are present and enjoying themselves.  The children were fascinated by my silver hair, and camera, but mainly my camera.  The children loved to have their pics taken. 

Let the pics however will speak for themselves:

Officer showing baby iguana.  Many are pilfered.  Some have died recently due to visitors feeding them "bad" things.  

baby iguana, waiting to play with the big boys

Local children, always eager to pose.  Also, very beautiful!

And now, iguanas, the stars of the show!

female left, male right
proud, handsome, male- Note that each iguana has beautiful and individual colors and markings.

The next photos are admittedly very POOR pics.  I wouldn't usually show them, however, I was extremely lucky to witness this, let alone get any pic at all. I was not set up for an action shot, no excuses.  So here is what happened.  The iguana decided to actually walk (really run) on water using just his hind legs.  It was amazing.

On your mark


 Avid tree climbers
Avid tree climbers

Literally hundreds of iguanas.  A word to the wise, do not stand directly beneath them.  Enough said.

They are docile and sweet

Some will even hand feed

Interestingly, the "famous red squirrel" was present at east the end of the square opposite the church, and had a huge crowd of kids and adults.  The squirrel evidently was used to being hand fed as it was comfortable with people.  The crowds preferred the squirrel to the iguanas, obviously not knowing what a unique treasure they have.

The iguanas were wonderful critters and would make a great "pet" for those inclined.  For me, they belong in the wild.  A great experience to be up close and personal with a reptile that hasn't changed much since pre-historic days.  I was also totally shocked at how fast and agile they are considering they are cold blooded animals, but that is another didactic lecture, and I have waxed boring already.

Two other points of interest that I photographed:

Statue of Simon Bolivar with cathedral in background.  For extra points, does anyone know the meaning of the positioning of the horses hooves?  Does one up = wounded, two up= killed in action?  Does it mean anything at all?  is it a local custom?

Inside the cathedral.  This was a long exposure photograph taken on tripod.  The cathedral was originally build in 1500's  (the best that I can tell), and reconstructed in 1936 after being destroyed by a fire.  It is beautiful, and Neo-Gothic in design and dominates the west end of the park.

More on Guayaquil on next post, so keep an eye out!
*if you discover any errors, or would like to suggest anything to be covered, please indicate in comments.