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Isla Santay

Half-day trip from Guayaquil

A group of us teachers and other staff went on a trip to Isla Santay today. The River Guayas is so wide next to Guayaquil that there is space for the three-mile-long Isla Santay in the middle of it.

The day started for us at the Malecon, where some of us had some candyfloss before the boat was ready to depart (boat ticket and tour: $8 each).

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Once we arrived we were shown around the only village by a local boy who gave us a commentary in Spanish. There are 56 houses, all built for the occupants two or three years ago as part of a government project. Before they got these wooden houses, raised up on concrete stilts/ columns, the people lived in little huts which got flooded every year in the rainy season. A recycling centre, visitor centre and little building for tourists to sleep in are currently being built.

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After walking through the little village he took us a few minutes further to a small enclosure where there were some crocodiles, the only ones on the island. They were brought over in 2001.

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As we walked through the forest I noticed lots of little holes in the earth - apparently they are made by crabs burrowing down. Once they get big they are widely eaten by the villagers and also by an animal which might be a type of small bear or crab-eating raccoon - we saw some of their footprints in the mud when we went over a bridge.

It felt surreal to be in an environment so different to Guayaquil yet so geographically close. It was a really nice change to go from walking through the bustle and noise and dust of the big city to being in a a forest/mangrove with the smell of grass and damp earth and the sounds of cicadas and birdsong around us.

After coming back from the crocodile enclosure we were taken to the visitors' communal eating room, a separate hut with no walls. The price of our tour ($8) also included lunch. I had 'seco de pollo' or chicken stew; very tasty it was too.

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After lunch everybody else from the boat went back, but our group asked if we could look round more of the island, by ourselves. This request they appeared to find highly unusual, and it turned out we couldn't go by ourselves because the whole island is a Protected Area or something similar, so someone had to be with us in case we did any damage.

We didn't go all that far in the end - our guide took us to the local school, which involved a trek of about 15-20 minutes. We all got our shoes extremely muddy.

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When we emerged from the trees we were in a clearing with a path of wooden planks leading to the edge of the river at one end and the school building at the other.

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The classrooms were all locked (it's a school holiday at present) but we had a look around the communal areas. On one wall there was a display of children's work about the national flag, and on the front wall of the school there were hanging flowerpots made from plastic bottle halves. The playground was an area of grass with some tyres half-buried into the ground and a tyre swing. We all got bitten a lot by mosquitoes.

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After looking round the school, instead of walking back through the forest we walked to the river edge and our guide shouted until the people working on the jetty further around the coast heard him. He got one of them to come round in a motorised wooden kayak to pick us up and take us round to the main boat! We were quite precariously balanced to say the least - with six of us in there the sides tilted back and forth a lot and at one point the whole thing nearly overturned. It was fun though!

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Once we got back to the Malecon some of us went into a nearby Sweet & Coffee branch for a cold drink and pudding. Sweet & Coffee is an Ecuadorian version of Starbucks or Costa. I had a mocha frappelatte and a delicious 'queso de leche', which is quite a lot like creme caramel, only the texture is slightly more solid and the sauce is based on honey rather than caramel. Despite the name, it didn't taste of cheese to me at all. I've had this in Brazil as well.

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At one point while we were eating and drinking, I turned my head and noticed a clown trying to get in though the glass entrance! She had the full wig, makeup and clothes on and was pleading with the employee at the door to let her in. He gently refused though and the clown disappeared. I think her intention had been to beg from us and the door employee had realised this - either that or clown discrimination is alive and well in Guayaquil...! I think she must have wandered up from the Malecon, because there are often children's entertainers there at weekends.

Posted by 3Traveller 03:15 Archived in Ecuador Tagged guayaquil malecon_2000 isla_santay ecuadorian_cuisine river_trip river_guayas Comments (0)

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