Friday, March 19, 2010

Guayaquil - Ayampe - Manta - Quito

Although there are countless exceptions - it's safe to say that Peru (overall) did not thoroughly enchant us.. I was really thankful for our time with Antti and Laura, but Máncora was more or less a complete bust and the horror stories that were floating in about the border were making me all the more anxious to leave, but also anxious about getting to Guayaquil.

Essentially, the border at Tumbes has a pretty poor reputation, considered "the worst in SA" by some..which is saying a lot considering all of the shady, unstable places you can go on this continent.
Of course, these were all just ramblings on the internet - gringos strolling into places where they should be better prepared. Assuming that their passport will magically get them anywhere and everywhere they want - no hassle.
Then we heard from Antti and Laura that they had been conned out of $75 during their crossing three days prior.


So we tramped it up and down the hill from our hostel to the travel agency (posed as our bus company) and changed our border crossing to "direct" from Máncora to Guayaquil (meaning it would only stop for border procedure) - rather than the commuter we were originally signed up for (which would involve us changing buses somewhere in Tumbes).

Long story short, though we had to wait around for the bus in the middle of the night..border procedures went off without a hitch (though there were men outside of the migrations office asking us for our passports [HA!]) - after checking into Ecuador it was deep sleep and leaving Peru behind.


Ecuador began in the early morning hours as green. Nothing but green. Stark contrast to the endless dunes, rock, and chaparral-like "vegetation" we had experienced along the Peruvian coast. No, Ecuador has been banana trees and jungle junk from start to finish.

We arrived around 10am in Guayaquil at what is easily the most impressive bus terminal I have witnessed. Nicer than most malls and as nice as any airport in the US, it was such a welcome change from the usual chaos that is stepping off the bus with your pack.

From the terminal we called our couchsurfing host, Geovanny. About thirty minutes later we were packed into his two door Rav4 and heading out into the suburbs of Guayaquil.

After a shower and some lunch we let Geovanny take the reigns and show us his city. We started at Parque Bolivar, also known as, The Iguana Park. Literally, iguanas everywhere. We spent a good while with these creatures dangling banana peels hoping they wouldn't take a little bit of our fingers as they scrambled over one another for a morsel. It's hard to say when to leave a place like that (especially since there was a very interesting church in the square), but Kaitlin being urinated on by an iguana in the tree above was as good a sign as any!

So from the Iguana Park we made our way to the Malecon 2000. The Malecon is a boardwalk with an impressive garden, IMAX, restaurants, monuments, and tons of other attractions. From the Malecon, Geovanny led us into a compound (maybe a school?) where there were Galapagos turtles foraging in a square - again, more photos. From that square it was not far to a refurbished part of town with over 400 steps leading up a hill to the lighthouse at the top. Reminded me a lot of a place in San Fran, just toss in about a hundred places to grab a beer, all of them blaring cumbia. Muy bien.

From the top of the hill there was a great view of more or less all of Guayaquil. Ecuador's largest city seems to have it right. Not too big, fairly modern, definitely felt secure, modest but with lots to boast. Only a few hours in and Ecuador was feeling pretty good.

From the hill we made our way back to Geovanny's car. Then it was time for something I didn't even realize how much I missed...

"Feminine" iced coffee drinks.

Geovanny took us to Juan Valdez Cafe (Starbucks) where I had a Nevado con Amaretto, actual liqueur. I'd like to say I sipped it in pleasure, but I slurped and gulped and licked the inside of the cup. While I was still hyperventilating, Kaitlin and Geovanny discussed dinner and it was decided that we would meet up with some of Geovanny's mountain biking friends at a Colombian place.

Our party turned out to be over fifteen people, a mix of locals and US ex-pats in country teaching English. One guy was from Atlanta (UGA) and was pretty happy to see me and talk about Aiken and hoop and holler in a genuine southern accent that you could tell he had been repressing for some months..

With quite a full day (and full bellies) under our belts it was time for a good nights sleep and another day in Guayaquil.

The next day Geovanny was off to a mountain biking trip with his friends. Leaving Kaitlin and I to our own devices we did some laundry, got caught up on internet necessities, and eventually made our way via bus to the city center.

We bumbled around a bit - picking up an Emelec jersey for myself and having ice cream and having another go at the Malecon and government buildings. Well into the afternoon we met up with Geovanny and made our way to a grocery store to pick up supplies for what was supposed to be "Meditteranean Night."

Dinner was good, but not quite as Mediterranean as I had hoped. However, we did well considering the difficulty in finding certain spices and such down here.

The next day Geovanny was nice enough to put us in a cab before work and have us on our way back to the terminal. From there we would catch a four hour bus west, to the coast!


The bus ride to Ayampe was a mixture of drifting in and out of sleep, sweating, and refusing the hordes of people swarming our bus at every turn attempting to sell anything.

Eventually, we arrived in Jipijapa (Hipi-Hapa) which I for once enjoyed the redundant yelling of the destination by the driver's assistant. From there we changed buses to our local commuter bus which made it's way to the water and eventually dropped us off in the middle-of-nowhere, aka Ayampe.

Ayampe came as a recommendation from a friend in SC, Karly, who had spent some time at Finca Punta Ayampe. We asked the way and were pointed down a dirt road. The heat was getting to me a bit with the pack weighing more than ever..and the ocean so close - torture.
But we did indeed arrive and from there it was heaven.

We were welcomed by an incredibly friendly and relaxed staff that made us feel instantly comfortable. The next three days we did little exploring (aside from a trip up the road to Puerto Lopez for some money and grub) - most of our time was spent happily in hammocks or on the deserted beach. The deserted, warm, incredible beach. It's the kind of place that even if we had pictures, it wouldn't do it justice. So much of the experience was in the way that we were served breakfast (more than just smiles) or in the breezes that kept reminding us of our fortune.

Guayaquil had been fun, but this was a different level of satisfaction. And somehow we only had three days...

With our flights out of Quito purchased and our curiosity of that great city and still our need to head north to Manta - we could only wish we had cut out a few days somewhere earlier in the trip. Ayampe had more for us..

But we left, yesterday morning we hopped on a commuter, through Puerto Lopez, to Jipijapa, from there switched to probably the worst/loudest bus we have experienced so far, but only had about an hour to go before arriving in Manta.

In Manta we purchased our overnight bus to Quito (making sure to procure the nicest coach in town [only $8 per person]) and then we killed some time in the area doing covert gift shopping.

The bus ride last night was less than amazing. However, knowing that we have only three bus rides left before we return (and only one really long ride: Cartagena to Medellin) we bore it.


I have been in Quito for about four hours now (arriving around 6am). Though I have seen little of the city so far, I am excited to do some exploring. Our immaculately clean and comfy hostel (Hostel Revolution) is situated more or less in the center of the historic district. The weather is cooler here (due to the altitude) which should make for some comfortable strolls around the museums and churches.

My last adventure should be a football match on Sunday, but before it is set in stone I need to find a companion (preferably a local) to keep me out of trouble. We fly out for Cartagena on the 22nd (Monday?) - so until then it is museums, churches, and markets!

1 comment:

  1. Jack

    Do you still have any contact with anyone English teachers you met in Guayaquil? I know i'm a few years behind on reading your blog but I'm looking to find people who have taught english in guayaquil becuase I"m hoping to do the same. Thanks! Kurtis (