Monday, February 3, 2014

Welcome to Ecuador- The Adventure begins.

It is now Monday, February 3, 2014, and things aren't perfect.  Is that a big deal or a little deal, or in fact a deal?  Nope.  Why is that?  Because it is to be assumed what when one goes abroad to a third world country, things will not be perfect.  When I planned the trip in fact, I intentionally left "holes" in the itinerary with lots of extra time for things to fall apart.  As an experienced traveler, I am not upset at all, and look at it as part of the adventure.  Working around the road bumps in fact is a bit fun, and with the internet, more opportunities are available than I knew about from home.  Before I get into any of that, and now that I am "on the ground" here in sunny Ecuador, I want to slightly modify the format of my blog posts.

So from this point forward, when I encounter problems, or discover something important that someone following in my footsteps will find helpful, I will post at the top a section called "Factoids".  I will keep it brief as possible.  So here goes...


*get plane tickets and check in electronically beforehand, get preferred tickets- avoid customs inspection
*be sure to get licensed, clearly marked taxis, preferably have one called by hotel or official person as kidnappings/robberies have occurred- especially Guayaquil
*If possible, only get in a cab with English speaking cabbie- or you may wind up in Montana.
*If possible, get a native to dicker prices downward- it is their custom.  Currently, per capita monthly income is about $600.00- so you look rich, enough said.
*"Botique" hotels in my experience are in small places, and may be in residential neighborhoods.  Guayaquil is known for partying.  That means LOUD disco until all hours, dogs barking.  Travel books understate this.  I recommend 4 star hotels for about $130.00/night.  My botique was about same price, and I left due to noise.
*Be careful walking at night.
*some areas it might be wise to hire a security officer to escort you.  I hired 3 for $30 USD for the night- I was carrying my camera gear worth $$$. Aside from not wanting to lose the gear, I didn't want to get mugged.
*Consider getting a bilingual guide
*Before you get any guide, or any service, agree on price, find out if there will be a tip.  Agree that the TOTAL price will be in advance, and that means no add ons, or you will get an add on.  You don't argue in a foreign country when you don't speak the language- unless you like the idea of going to a foreign jail.
*Be sure to have wi-fi in hotel room so you can make real time plans and changes to plans, and if needed, get a new hotel.
*Not many people speak English here, however, the people are very sweet and kind, and helpful, and fun.  If you can find an app that translates in real time, download it.  If you can get Rosetta Stone, use it.
*My Spanish is spotty so say the very least.  I have found the Ecuadorians very accommodating and  people and I am getting by nicely.  However, knowing Spanish will be very helpful.
*Very helpful, even a lifesaver.  Take letterhead or something with your destination on it to hand to a cabbie.
*Buses run regularly and may be fine, but I personally would not take them.  I will post some pics sometime so you can decide for yourself.
*The sun on the equator is even more brutal than you may think.  Even with clouds, you will get burned.  Even in shade, you will get burned.  Mosquitoes are a problem (malaria carrying Mosquitoes are present only in the jungle) so get highest sun block and insect repellent possible.
*Panama hats are also very helpful to block sun and protect.  They are sold in hotels for about $60.00 USD.  I recommend you go to a local market, which is a fun adventure, and a great photo-op, and purchase one for $14.00.  Also a great place to get all kinds of stuff.  Plan to spend a few fun hours exploring, but have a guide and a travel buddy.
*Keep an eye out for pick pockets (good luck with that, they are that good).  I keep my wallet in front pants pocket with only a small amount of money.  Important stuff in my necklace pouch with passport, or better, copy of passport- all the time.  In case robbed, don't resist, robber gets a little money, and doesn't feel need to search you.  Same in USA,
*Finally, perhaps I was paranoid from all the reading and preparation I did going into Guayaquil.  However, the same points were reinforced to me during my time there, and as a result, my situational awareness and vigilance was up, and I didn't feel totally secure.  Nothing happened, I didn't venture out at night.

The following will be a pictorial account of my first day in Guayaquil.  Actually, it wasn't really in  Guayaquil, but rather a suburb that required a short trip over a causeway.  It was a few blocks away from Parque Historico. Guayaquil  The neighborhood is shown above.

 I stayed one night at the Hotel Boique Orilla Del Rio, located on a residential middle class street as

pictured below.

One thing to point out other than the obvious.  Things really look different, but that is because we are not used to them.  After a very short while, and it is amazing how short, the scenery starts to look very familiar.  

More to follow.