Tuesday, March 10, 2015

By the Guyas River in Guayaquil

After a four-hour shuttle ride, we arrived in Guayaquil, almost able to walk a straight line. This is the largest city in Ecuador with close to three million people as well as a major port for South America. The city sits on the Guayas River. This is a hop-off point for many of the cruises to the Galapagos. Other cruise lines port here for one to three days.

Here we rented an apartment in a modern high rise right on
the river, though our view overlooks the hills of Las Peñas. Our host left the keys at the security desk in the lobby, but there was some confusion as to our presence, but it was finally resolved. With a living room/kitchen combination, a short hallway leads into the single bedroom. The entire wall is glass windows that open in sections, which is great when the air conditioning is off. 

Our key card only allows the elevator to go to the ground floor and the ninth floor where the apartment is located. On the thirteenth floor is a swimming pool, exercise room, and sauna, but unfortunately we realized the entire floor is being remodeled, so there is nothing of use for us there. 

Las Peñas is the founding area of the city in the sixteenth century. There are markers declaring it an historic landmark.
Since the founding of the city, the area after rebuilding the houses, painted them bright colors. This area has the majority of Guayaquil's colonial buildings. It is located on the slopes of Cerro Santa Ana, a steep rocky hill. The Las Peñas neighborhood was home to eleven Ecuadorian ex-presidents, four Ecuadorian writers and Ernest Hemingway, 2 Ecuadorian painters and several others of note.

I love this meter on the Malecon, showing the rays of the sun
at any given time. We were out during the worst time. A true
need for heavy sunblock and shade.

One tourist challenge is to climb the 444 steps where there are green areas for relaxing or finding restaurants, cafes, art galleries, and craft shops at different levels along the way. Starting from the street level, the numbered steps aid you in knowing your progress. No, we have not done this this time.

When we leave the building by the back door, we pass other similar modern high rises as the one where we are. What is interesting is all of them have business space available on the ground floor, but 90% of this space is empty. I am curious to know how many of the apartment complexes are also empty. We are in River Front II with River Front I on one side and the Wyndham Hotel on the other.

One of the things that I loved about Guayaquil the last time we were here was the Malecon Simón Bolivar. This is a riverside esplanade that extends for miles as it borders the
Guayas River
. On one end of the Malecon, closest to us, is the Museo Antropológico y de Arte Contemporáneo. Actually, as a huge complex, it houses contemporary art exhibits; there are currently two different artists have work on display. Another section has the anthropology exhibits from this particular area as well as some pieces from other parts of the country. However upstairs is a giant cinema hall and a separate auditorium.

Continuing down the Malecon, we discovered it is even more beautiful than it was the last time we were here. Additional
gardens blossomed in the diverse landscaping. Added new fountains send sprays of cooling mist into the air; there are areas that are playful for children and adults alike. Various
paths will give entirely different views and experiences of fauna. At the opposite end from where we are located, a number of cheap eateries cater to those less economically successful. This is an area of caution, but the entire Malecon has security guards and CCTV.

Integrated in the Malecon are shopping arcades for those that need retail therapy. Commemorating the famous meeting of Simon Bolivar and Jose de San Martin, the "Rotonda" monument is an everlasting reminder of this historic event that took place here. The last time we were here, a Christmas village with giant toy soldiers dominated the area. It was quite festive, even being in the 85-degree range.

Once off the Malecon, we hunted for the tourism office. Ron had his mind set on a mangrove forest tour with or without dolphins. Regardless of all the searching online, the address of the tourism office in Guayaquil remains elusive. After much hunting, I did find a listing on a TripAdvisor forum. It turned out to be old information with the office having moved. We did discover what looked like a tourism office in the same building as the Religion Art Museum Nahim Isaias Barquet.

We went in and the lovely lady did not speak a word of English. As hard as we tried explaining we did not want the book on Cuenca, we did not need tours for the Amazon, we wanted to know about local things. Ron left more frustrated than satisfied, but ASSumed that there had to be yet another tourism office. 

Before his wild goose got loose, we toured the Religion Art Museum Nahim Isaias Barquet. It was interesting and diverse, but all Catholic art. Then we spent close to two hours
looking for what Ron believed had to be another tourism office. All those questioned, directed us back to the one that left us dissatisfied. What is really intriguing is that Ecuador is the first foreign country to advertise during the Super Bowl, yet they don't have their tourism offices manned with multilingual speakers. The Cuenca office has a man who is fluent in English and Guayaquil is such a transition point for other parts of the country. We finally settled on a travel agency.

There, due to the infrastructure, we spent another 1 ½ hours getting tour tickets. Though a bona fide English speaker navigated our needs, she needed to climb under a desk to plug in a phone line, do something on the computer, unplug the phone line, make a call, rustle up some papers, and so it went. We finally walked out a whole lot poorer and a voucher for the tour. Ron has a line he loves to us “This is a once in a life time opportunity.” So is landing in the poorhouse, but still I give in most of the time.

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