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Goodbye to Guayaquil

Guayaquil


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Monday 28th

Today I went back to my now-former-workplace to do a few final things and say goodbye to everyone. These things included: paying a visit to Western Union to transfer most of the money from my Ecuadorian bank account to the UK, making use of the printer to print off my flight e-tickets and my Madrid hostel reservation email, collecting a parcel from Emma from the post office using a slip that had arrived at work while I was away, going up onto the flat roof of the building to take photos of the view on each side, going out for lunch (seco de pollo) at the booths round the corner for the last time, and having an exit interview with the Director of Studies.

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It was relatively late in the afternoon by the time I got back, so I didn't do much else apart from go out for dinner. I had a churrasco (at this place, a thin steak with ratatouille-type vegetables and two fried eggs on top, with chips and rice) and then a cup of morocho for pudding.

Tuesday 29th

In the morning I got a bus into Guayaquil city centre for a last look-around. I visited the Central Market for the first time - as soon as I entered I really wished I'd discovered it much sooner. It was filled with fruit, vegetable and herb stalls, stalls of sausages hanging up, stalls selling sacks of flour, beans, pulses etc., and stalls selling tins and packets of food as well as more general non-edible household goods. It was very much like the Daily Market in Otavalo and the general market in Banos, only without the café-stands selling guinea pig, other typical Ecuadorian dishes and slices taken from whole roasted pigs.

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Then I walked past the hotel where I stayed with Mum in February, so on an impulse I went into its café and had a cup of their wonderful hot chocolate. Then I said goodbye to the iguanas in Iguana Square and carried on straight ahead to the Malecón.

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I climbed up one of the viewing towers next to the River Guayas, which is what I'd done on my first visit to the city centre on my second full day in Ecuador. It was perfectly sunny, without a cloud in the sky.

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My next stop was the Artisan Market, another place I had never been inside before for some reason. On the way there I walked past La Barca Azul, the lunch restaurant where I ate several times and took most of my visitors to, but I didn't feel hungry enough for lunch yet so I didn't go in. At the market I had a quick look round and then took a bus back to Urdesa.

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As soon as I'd dumped my stuff I went straight out again, this time to the Banco Pichincha cash machine to take out the rest of the money I had left in my account. I'd left enough in there to change into Euros once I got to Madrid, so I wouldn't need to use my HSBC card there at all, and hopefully have some left over as well. Before I took the bus back to my street corner, first of all I bought a sandwich and a carton of coffee milk from Oki Doki (a convenience store... I remember finding the name very amusing when I first got here) and then I did a little bit of shopping at Mi Comisariato supermarket. Amongst other things, I bought a bottle of Ecuadorian créme de cacao to take back to the UK.

Two minutes before I had to get off the bus, 'Vivir mi Vida' by Marc Antony came onto the radio. I've heard this played so often on the buses (and elsewhere) ever since I arrived in Ecuador that I've come to consider it my Ecuadorian anthem; it felt very appropriate and right that it was playing on my last bus journey here. It played on my arrival and now it was accompanying me on my way out.

Then I packed everything and at 4pm I somehow managed to get my big and incredibly heavy case down four flights of stairs and out onto the pavement, along with my rucksack, laptop case and a couple of bags of rubbish to put out.

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Then I flagged down a taxi to the airport. The fare was $4, so since all the change I had left came to just above that, I just gave the driver all of it.

Posted by 3Traveller 03:53 Archived in Ecuador Tagged hotel market airport cathedral buses iguanas ecuador guayaquil english_teaching malecon_2000 guayaquil_metropolitan_cathedra ecuadorian_cuisine river_guayas Comments (0)

Galápagos Islands: Volcano trek, snorkelling and a proposal!

Sierra Negra & Chico Volcanoes and Puerto Villamil


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Breakfast was at 7 today and after that finished we all had to make our sandwiches for lunch - a packed lunch we'd be eating at our trekking destination, the craters of Volcanoes Sierra Negro & Chico! Tuna mayo or cheese with tomato or cucumber slices, plus apples if you wanted them.

At 7.45 we set off with Miguel, the same naturalist guide we had yesterday. We drove for about 20 - 30 minutes before we reached the start of the trek. As well as us, Bud & Gale, there were the two German girls, three Australian girls and a Chilean couple. We began the trek in a light drizzle; I had guessed this might happen so I was in my bikini under my main clothes. This consisted of a rather peculiar-looking combination of a strappy top, board shorts (because I didn't want to get my only pair of trousers muddy), hiking boots and Dave's wide-brimmed hat from Portugal.

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We walked for about an hour before we reached our first lookout point. I was really glad I only had a sleeveless top on because the others soon got boiling hot and had to take off their jackets/jumpers.

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Unfortunately it was too misty for us to see anything of the crater (we were trekking along the rim, with vegetation on both sides of the path) but we hoped that it would have cleared a bit by the time we got to the next one. An hour later, when we reached it, a lot of the mist was still there but then it cleared a little, just enough to see a little bit of the black lava opposite us.

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Then we began our descent along the side of Sierra Negra and Chico (I'm still not sure where one ends and the other begins). Miguel showed us one of many camomile bushes and we also saw an orange land iguana on a rock.

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After a while the vegetation changed to a surface that looked moonlike... lots of both old and new(ish) lava flows of different colours, lava vents where the lava comes out in eruptions, sinkholes, cacti.

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The views were stunning in a rather surreal manner. Eventually we reached a lookout point where we ate our sandwiches; this was the end of the trail. We got an even more spectacular view from here, over the western side of Isabela Island, the sea and other islands. (The photos really don't do it justice.)

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On the way back at first there was still a very fine drizzle, but then it stopped and once or twice the sun came out briefly. We still couldn't see anything at the first lookout point we came across; however, a little bit further on the clouds parted a bit so we managed to get a good view of the black lava of the crater meeting the bright green vegetation of the rim, even though we couldn't see the whole crater. I was really glad I'd seen what we did.

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A bit later it started raining again, harder than before, and this time it did not stop. Our fronts got soaked.

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The others had set off back after lunch a bit earlier than us so Dave and I were the last of our group to arrive back at the truck, though then it turned out that Bud and Gale had got a bit lost on their way back and only actually arrived at the truck two minutes before us. The sun came out on our drive back to Puerto Villamil.

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We had an hour's free time to rest and then we went on our last excursion; a snorkelling trip in the harbour at Puerto Villamil. The aim of this was to snorkel with sea lions, but unfortunately they didn't play ball with us and appear, apart from one which appeared for about a minute right at the very start. Also unfortunately, because we were in the harbour (they weren't allowed to take us beyond the boats apparently) the water visibility was very poor. However, there were still lots of tropical fish around which were great to see, especially when they came right up very close to the surface and we could float only a few centimetres over them.

Once back at the hotel we had hot showers and then rested for a couple of hours until dinner. Dinner was a lovely thick creamy yellow vegetable soup as a starter, a delicious tuna steak with vegetable sauce, yellow rice with maize mixed in and some chopped lettuce and tomato for the main and fruit with condensed milk for pudding. After dinner Dave and I had a chilled glass bottle of Coke each whilst playing 10-card rummy and some whist for half an hour in the hotel courtyard.

After we finished playing cards we went back to our hotel room... Dave had another shower and then proposed to me!!! - as I sat in bed, having just started to copy photos from today onto my laptop. I accepted, of course! We're going to look for an engagement ring for me when we're in Quito for the last week of our holiday. I'm so happy!

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Posted by 3Traveller 01:53 Archived in Ecuador Tagged coast volcanoes hotel dave iguanas ecuador sealions galapagos_islands unesco_world_heritage_site tropical_fish Comments (0)

Galápagos Islands: So much wonderful wildlife!

Islote Tintoreras, Puerto Villamil, Arnaldo Tupiza Chamaidan Giant Tortoise Centre and the Wall of Tears


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This day was our first full day on Isabela Island (formerly known as Abermarle). The night before, at dinner, we'd been told to get ready to go out on our first excursion at 8.50am, so we went down for breakfast at 8. Bud and Gale, the lovely American couple I mentioned yesterday, were already there. Breakfast was lovely - I had black coffee with sugar and hot chocolate powder mixed in, two flattish oblong rolls (one with scrambled egg in and the other with cheese) and a bowl of deliciously sweet and juicy fresh pineapple chunks.

At 8.40, a bit earlier than we expected, we were taken to the port and then put on a panga (water taxi), with some other people from different hotels.

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I found a Galápagos sealion under a boat.

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This took us to Islote Tintoreras, very close to Isabela. This is very small, uninhabited by humans and lacking any trees apart from a mangrove along one side. Before we were taken ashore, however, our guide took us round the coastline for a bit. We saw a big male Gálapagos sea lion that had been driven away from the group (herd?) by a younger male and could no longer return, a couple of penguins - the only type that can live in such relatively hot conditions so close to the equator - and a blue-footed booby.

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We also came across a fisherman in his boat - pelicans and frigatebirds were flying above.

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Our guide knew the fisherman and asked what fish he had caught. In reply the guy held up two massively long fish, fish that our guide said were called wahoo. He said that he would be able to get between $100 - $150 for one if he sold it to a restaurant.

Then we landed and walked round the island, keep very closely to the trail. It was an amazing volcanic landscape, black rocks with white lichen on the points that stuck upwards.

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We saw lots of distinctively scarlet Sally Lightfoot crabs, black crabs, black marine iguanas and a couple more sea lions.

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One of these sea lions appeared in a pool between the mangrove and the rocks where we stood. It swam up and down and bellowed in order to let other sea lions in the area know that it was there.

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We also saw a 'nursery' for baby iguanas, where the adults were on the left side of the path and all the babies were on the right side, right next to the sea. The reason why the babies were there was because there were loads of cracks in the rocks on that side that acted as extra protection. Our guide stopped soon afterwards and showed us an empty, rubbery iguana eggshell.

Just after we passed the pool with the sea lion in it we stopped by a crevice in the rocks which was filled with very clear, still water and had some white-tip sharks lying on the bottom.

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Last of all on land, we stopped at the mangrove and our guide told us a little bit about them. One or two leaves on each branch were yellow, apparently due to the way that they 'sacrifice' themselves by absorbing all the salt in the seawater. This way the other leaves survive for longer and stay green.

After this we went snorkelling with giant turtles!! The panga took us to an even smaller island round the corner from Islote Tintoreras - actually on reflection it may just have been part of Isabela island - and we got out onto the rocks with only our swimming stuff and flipflops on, plus snorkels if we'd brought any. If you hadn't then it didn't matter because there was a big bag of snorkels, masks and fins for communal use. There were about 8-10 of us including our guide. After leaving our flipflops on the rocks we got in...

We saw lots of tropical fish, especially lots of black ones with a yellow tail and a white stripe down their body. We also saw lots of small, green, spiny sea anemones, a couple of very big, fat, brownish starfish and last but not least... the turtles! They were huge. They stayed lying on the sea floor, apart from a couple who swam along for a bit. The sight of them was amazing. I'd always wanted to snorkel with turtles! Dave really loved them as well. There wasn't much coral - apart from white sand, there were lots of flat rocks covered in green algae, which was where the tropical fish fed from. It was such a fantastic experience to float over these rocks and see all the fish close up, especially when the rocks were close to the surface, then see bigger, silvery fish swimming near the seabed once the rocks finished. As soon as I got out of the water I saw a large marine iguana swim past.

After this we went back to Puerto Villamil, the main town on Isabela, for lunch. We had it at a different hotel, one that overlooked a small reedy lake. Soup first, then lightly breadcrumbed fresh shrimps, rice, salad and creamy mashed potato for the main, with chopped banana & chocolate syrup for pudding.

After lunch we went on another excursion, this time with several stops at different places. Ricardo was with us, along with a naturalist guide called Miguel. Stop one was at the giant tortoise breeding centre; this was fascinating, as I expected, because I've always wanted to see these creatures in the flesh. We saw a mixture of adults, juveniles and babies, all in separate pens.

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They had different types of giants; ones that come from different parts of Isabela, including some from the slope of Cerro Azul Volcano which are unique in the Galápagos for having flat, squashed-looking shells.

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Stop two was a short walk through cacti and mangrove to a small, black rocky beach where we saw lots of blue-footed boobies.

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Stop three was at a fantastic lookout point. On the way there we saw two giant tortoises in the wild, which I was pleased about - I had hoped I would see at least one in the wild as well as the ones at the breeding centre.

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From the lookout point we could see a lot of the western side of the island as well as some of the eastern and the sea with some of the other islands in it. Miguel showed us lots of trees nearby that he said the locals burn as incense in churches and in their homes and export to the mainland.

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Stop four was a sobering visit to the Wall of Tears (in Spanish, El Muro de las Lágrimas), a wall built by prisoners from a penal colony on the island between 1945 and 1959. Miguel told us that this entirely pointless task was set because the government wanted to kill the prisoners but couldn't because the families back on the mainland would complain, so they had to find a task for them to do instead. Many prisoners died during its construction and there was a lot of cruelty, hence the name since given to it since.

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Our penultimate stop was at a lava tunnel, formed naturally from a volcanic eruption. There was a hole down into it and water at the bottom.

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Our last stop was a walk along the beach at Puerto Villamil.

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Miguel showed us a tiny white crab which he said people from the Galápagos cook in bulk and eat as a snack like popcorn when they sit down to watch films. At the end of the beach Miguel left us to go back to his family - Ricardo had left a bit earlier - and Bud, Gale, Dave and I went back along the beach a bit until we got to an outdoors bar, where we had a couple of drinks. I ordered Dave and I two daiquiris for $6 and a fruit milkshake.

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We were joined by a group of Australians; almost straight after we'd all ordered, two of them and I played a game of volleyball against two local guys and a Chilean girl from the hostel to which the bar was attached. When it ended none of us had any idea of which team had actually won, but it was very good fun nonetheless.

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As well as a volleyball net, the bar had a very long, stretchy piece of material set a metre from the ground between two posts; Ricardo reappeared and with other locals he walked along it like a stretchy, bouncy tightrope - he told us later that is a growing pastime in the Galápagos. Once the volleyball had finished I watched them take turns on it, but neither Dave or I were tempted to have a go ourselves! Bud then ordered two Cuba Libres but only wanted one of them (two for the price of one) so I bought one off him. By now the place was crowded and the sun had gone down. The atmosphere of the whole place was very convivial.

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After another half an hour or so the bar staff lit a small bonfire, but before it could get going properly Bud, Gale, Dave and I had to go back to our hotel for dinner. Soup, chicken, rice, salad and a delicious chocolate brownie-like pudding with nuts in and a meringue topping drizzled with chocolate sauce.

After dinner we were too tired to do anything apart from load our photos from today onto my laptop and Dave's USB pen and then go to sleep.

Posted by 3Traveller 00:21 Archived in Ecuador Tagged birds night turtles pelicans coast beach hotel dave penguins cocktails iguanas ecuador sealions galapagos_islands blue_footed_boobies frigatebirds unesco_world_heritage_site ecuadorian_cuisine sally_lightfoot_crabs white_tip_sharks giant_tortoises tropical_fish Comments (0)

Dave's here!

Guayaquil


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Dave arrived late yesterday afternoon. He's here with me in Ecuador for three weeks of holiday... tomorrow we head off to the Galápagos Islands and once we return from there on Friday, we carry on to Cuenca, Baños and finally Quito. In Quito we're going to go on a couple of day trips to Otavalo Market and the hot springs at Papallacta.

I met Dave at the airport. I'd been following his flight on flightaware.com ever since I'd got back from my five-hour Saturday teaching stint in the morning. I knew his connection time in Amsterdam was tight so I did worry that he'd miss the plane to Guayaquil, but he made it thank goodness! We took a taxi to my new flat, rested for a bit and then joined in the barbecue that I and my flatmates and colleagues 'A' & 'T' had decided to put on. Many bottles of beer, pieces of chicken, sausages and steak & vegetable skewers were consumed, though neither Dave or I had any beer (Dave didn't feel like it due to feeling the jetlag a bit; I'm not keen on beer at any time).

This morning we had a lie-in. After getting up at about 10.30 we had some breakfast and took a bus two minutes down the road to the bank so that I could get out my rent money and also money for the Galápagos Islands; we could have walked, but it would have taken at least twenty minutes in the heat each way and I wanted us to preserve energy for later.

On our way to the bus stop I took this photo of Dave next to graffiti near my condo block - tribute to a photo I took of Dave in front of a similar wall in Santiago, Chile, on the day we arrived in South America on our round-the-world trip 5 years ago.

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An ice cream man passed us on our way down.

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Before we got another bus back again I bought Dave a bottle of chilled water from a bakery because he really needed one - he's finding the heat and humidity of Guayaquil quite hard to deal with so far.

We left the flat again at around midday and took a bus into town. We went to Iguana Square first, then a walk along half of the Malecón (including the botanical garden and a trip up one of the viewing towers over the river) to Las Peñas and Cerro Santa Ana.

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Dave has brought his DSLR camera with him to Ecuador and took it with him into town today, so he got some really good pictures of the iguanas, amongst other things.

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In Iguana Square the turtles had arranged themselves in a pile, which we both thought looked quite funny.

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At the Malecón I noticed that they have recently installed drinks vending machines, so I bought myself a Pepsi and Dave a bottle of water. Due to today being a Sunday, the Malecón was absolutely packed.

It was cloudy by now so it wasn't as hot as it could have been, but it was still pretty humid. We both got extremely hot and sweaty climbing up Cerro Santa Ana. Before climbing the hill I made sure to get a photo of Dave underneath the 'Barrio Las Peñas' plaque.

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Dave took some photos from the terraces at the top with his DSLR.

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Before we descended the hill I bought us another cold drink each from one of the metal-grilled shops that are so common in Ecuador.

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On the way back to the flat we stopped at a supermarket and I got a 5-litre bottle of water for Dave for 82 cents and a litre of Fanta Naranja for myself. Whatever we don't drink today we'll save for when we get back from the Galápagos Islands on Friday.

After a rest for a couple of hours we headed out and had some dinner at one of the Lebanese shawarma places nearby, before going on to a morocho café. Morocho is a delicious Ecuadorian pudding that I only discovered a couple of weeks ago - it's a lot like rice pudding but made with a certain type of white corn, broken up, instead of rice. The taste and texture is a lot like rice though. They even add a little bit of cinnamon to it. It's amazing! I can't believe I never came across it before. Dave loved it, like I guessed he would.

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Posted by 3Traveller 13:31 Archived in Ecuador Tagged airport buses botanical_gardens dave iguanas barbecue ecuador guayaquil explorations cerro_santa_ana las_peñas malecon_2000 ecuadorian_cuisine river_guayas Comments (0)

Visitors!

Guayaquil

Today was very exciting for me because my sisters and brothers-in-law arrived in Guayaquil! They had arrived in Ecuador on Tuesday the 8th in Quito and had spent the rest of that day and all of the 9th resting in the hostel and exploring the city before catching a local flight to Guayaquil this morning. I met them at the airport and we took a taxi to Urdesa, where their hostel is. (Credit to Kate for the following photos of me.)

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It felt so surreal, but lovely, for me to have them with me!

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After they had dumped their stuff and we'd cooled off in front of the fans for a bit, we caught a bus into town. This was a novel experience for them because the Selectivo buses in Guayaquil are very different to any bus in the UK. Mostly very ramshackle both on the outside and inside; streetsellers hop on and off with all kinds of goods; the fare is only 25 cents; the doors are nearly always kept open while the bus is moving; the aisle is usually very narrow; and the bus will stop anywhere (apart from on bridges/overpasses) for people to get on or off. The destinations are usually written on stickers stuck on the front windscreen.

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Our first destination was 'La Barca Azul', a restaurant I've been to a few times that sells a lot of 'Platos Tipicos' (traditional dishes) and is very untouristy. Emma, Kate and I had seco de chivo (goat stew), Mark had Ecuadorian ceviche and Andrew had seafood rice.

Then we walked down part of the Malecón, the rejuvenated waterfront by the River Guayas. Some of us climbed up one of the lookout towers next to the river and we also passed by the Moorish Tower.

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Then we turned right and carried on to Iguana Square, a park within the square in front of the cathedral. Even though I have seen iguanas many times now, they still look quite a novelty to me. They look so prehistoric that their presence in the city centre seems incongruous. We enjoyed wandering round spotting iguanas on the grass, on the paths and in the branches of one of the trees.

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After iguana- and turtle-watching for a while we carried on into the cathedral. Due to Lent, nearly all of the statues and paintings were covered with purple drapes. One of the only ones that wasn't was a big statue of Jesus carrying the cross and wearing the crown of thorns. Most of the cathedral was quite dark, with the exception of a spectacular, tiny chapel with beautiful stained glass and natural light, which we looked into but didn't actually enter because lots of people were inside it praying.

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After this we needed to get another bus, this time to my workplace. On our way to the right place to get it from we spotted a couple of parrots sitting on a ledge at the top of the front of the Town Hall!

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The bus took us back along the Malecón and past Cerro Santa Ana.

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There were only a couple of hours until my evening class. I really enjoyed showing them round the place, introducing them to my colleagues (both teaching and admin) and then introducing them to some of my students and including them in the first part of my lesson! We were working on past simple & past continuous within the context of childhood memories.

They took a taxi at 7.30 (that I had asked reception to order for them) back to their hostel. The plan is for them to come back to the language school tomorrow morning at 11.30 am, just as I get back from my Spanish lesson. Then we'll go straight on to the bus terminal together so I can help them get their tickets to Playas, where they're going for the day. I wish I could come too, because I've never been to Playas, but I have a conversation class between 7-9am, my Spanish lesson between 9.30-11am and an upper-intermediate class between 4-8pm.

Posted by 3Traveller 04:55 Archived in Ecuador Tagged airport cathedral buses sisters iguanas ceviche ecuador guayaquil explorations english_teaching malecon_2000 guayaquil_metropolitan_cathedra ecuadorian_cuisine Comments (0)

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