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Guayaquil Explorations

Guayaquil: A day as a tourist rather than a working resident.

On Sunday I decided to explore a bit more of the city and be more of a tourist than I have been so far. I've been meaning to do this for ages but never seemed to have the time until now. My plan was to get off the bus halfway along the Malecon 2000 (a riverside 2km-long gated walkway with monuments, trees, childrens' playgrounds, snack stalls, lookout towers, a little shopping mall and a couple of other things) and walk along it to the top end, where there's the Cultural Centre. This includes the Museum of Anthropology and Contemporary Art, which has an excellent reputation. I love anthropology museums and also wanted to see all the art. After going to the museum, my plan was to carry on past the top end of the Malecon into the colonial district of Las Peñas, explore that and then climb Cerro Santa Ana. Las Peñas is at the foot of the hill.

Before I left the flat I watched Andy Murray win the first two sets of the Wimbledon final, but had to leave after that because the guidebooks said the museum was only open until 3.30, I didn't want to rush walking along the Malecon beforehand, and I knew the bus journey would be quite long to begin with.

I had to change buses here, opposite the regional government building. This is where I had to go to register my visa within 30 days of arrival in Ecuador.

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I'd noticed on the map that there's a botanical garden on the Malecon, but when I walked past it I saw it was taped off and inside it someone was doing some gardening. Hopefully when I go back next Friday or Saturday it will be open again.

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Unfortunately, once I got to the museum I realised my guidebooks had let me down - the doors were locked, yet Lonely Planet and Rough Guides had assured me that the museum was open on Sundays between 11 am - 3.30 pm. Typical. I could have stayed to watch the rest of the Wimbledon final after all, instead of rushing out of the door after two sets!

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I didn't dwell on my misfortune for long, however, because I was really keen to see Las Peñas and Santa Ana. The sun came out every now and then and was really hot, about 30 degrees I reckon, which I've heard is the same in some parts of the UK at present! Las Peñas is tiny, just one street in fact, but is filled with artists' studios and shops.

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It was very picturesque and colourful, like I imagined. (Most of Guayaquil was destroyed by fire and earthquakes on two or three occasions over the centuries, so has few colonial buildings left. Las Peñas is the exception. Santa Ana also has lots of colonial style buildings but these were recreated as part of a regeneration project.) There were lots of local tourists about.

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After I'd wandered along the street and back again, I climbed up the hill next to it, Cerro Santa Ana. There are over 400 steps to the top, and on each side there are houses and little shops and restaurants and side streets.

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At the top there is a plaza with cannons, a little chapel and a lighthouse, and directly below that there are the foundations of the fortress of San Carlos, built in 1629 to defend the city from pirate attacks. Next to it is a recreation of a pirate ship, half of which is a bar. I got incredibly hot and sweaty on my way to the top. I was glad I'd brought water!

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The lighthouse was closed for maintenance purposes so I couldn't climb up it, but there was still a brilliant view from the terrace - I could see over nearly all of Guayaquil and beyond. I took several photos and also a video. I also had a look inside the little chapel and ate my second tuna mayonnaise and iceberg lettuce roll sitting on a bench outside (I'd had the first one at the Malecon before I got to the museum).

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After coming back down again and walking back along the Malecon for a bit I briefly considered going to say hello to the iguanas again in the centre of town, but I decided I was too tired for that and caught the bus back instead.

Despite the museum being closed, which meant my day out was shorter than I'd planned, I still had a great time. Las Peñas is very picturesque and the view from the top of Cerro Santa Ana is well worth seeing. I'm definitely going to go back to the museum as soon as possible, and several people have said I must go to Las Peñas after dark because the bars are really good fun, unique in atmosphere due to the amount of artists who live in the district. The bar in the pirate ship reconstruction near to the top of Cerro Santa Ana has also been recommended to me. I think a teachers' outing to the pirate ship and Las Peñas will not be too long in coming!

Posted by 3Traveller 01:45 Archived in Ecuador Tagged art buses ecuador guayaquil explorations cerro_santa_ana las_peñas malecon_2000 Comments (0)

Update from Guayaquil

Guayaquil

Well, I have been in Guayaquil for a month and have only now been able to update this blog! I've been really busy, as I expected, not only with teaching but the lesson planning and writing assignment & test marking that goes with it.

I'm sharing an apartment with one of the other new teachers; it's very nice for the price we're paying for it, but it doesn't have an oven, grill, toaster or kettle! There's no washing machine either so I've done my laundry so far by hand in the stone sink in the semi-outdoors part of the flat. In my bedroom window there's no glass pane; there's just some iron bars on the outside, then a heavy plastic/glass blind that's fixed to the wall, and then on the inside there's metal mosquito netting. A lot of the windows in Guayaquil generally don't have glass panes; even a fair amount of the smaller shops (outside of the malls) mostly consist of a barred counter with most of the stock behind it. Restaurants don't have walls between the eating area and the street; instead they just have a shutter that they pull down at closing time.

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As a perk of the job we teachers get free Spanish lessons. I'm a complete beginner, but I'm enjoying it so far, although in my first lesson it quickly became apparent that I cannot roll my 'r's! I simply cannot physically do it. Ah well, I suppose I shall have to resign myself to sounding like I have a speech impediment whenever I speak Spanish for at least the immediate future, until/ if I finally get the hang of it...

I've been doing a lot of testing the last couple of weeks because three of the courses I took over when I arrived (Pre-Intermediate 2, FCE Prep 1 and Business English Pre-Intermediate 3) have come to an end. It feels so strange to be the one invigilating written tests and administering speaking tests, when I remember so clearly being the one taking exams!

For the rest of this post I'm going to copy and paste from emails I've sent home, simply because I haven't got time right now to write original material, as it were. They're about my general impressions of Guayaquil. Apologies if it seems a bit disjointed as a result.

The area I'm living in is very untouristy - not many people speak English - and is quite far out from the language school and even further from the city centre. Luckily though there are loads of very cheap buses, so I haven't had any problems getting from place to place so far apart from once in my first week when I'd forgotten exactly where to get off the bus to get to my new apartment. I got off too soon and had to wander around quite a lot after dark (which isn't something you're advised to do here) before giving up and getting a bus back to the language school, where they ordered a taxi for me. On the bus back to the language school, I was knackered and really hot and sweaty, but the bus driver waved me through without asking for the fare. When I got back off he pressed something small and white into my hand as I passed by, and as I stood on the pavement after he'd driven off, I saw it was a folded up note! I unfolded it and saw it had a picture of a heart with an arrow through it, and a phone number and some Spanish writing!

I literally did have to jump off the bus, because buses here don't often actually stop unless there are several people wanting to get on or off; usually they just slow down to let people jump on or off and then speed away as fast as they can. It only costs 25 cents to get anywhere within the city, and they let people get on or off anywhere they want, not just at designated stops. The buses are very ramshackle, but they have sliding windows so a nice breeze comes through. The driving in general here is terrible, however - it certainly always makes for an interesting if rather hair-raising journey whenever I get a bus or taxi!

Traders often jump on the bus, talk loudly and then move up and down the bus with their goods before jumping back off again. They climb around the electronic barrier that logs people as having got on and paid the fare, and the drivers all turn a blind eye to it, sometimes even holding their goods for them as they climb round! The hawkers sell things like grapes, nuts, water, bags of coconut water and ice, CDs (with CDs they take on a CD player and play music before handing copies round, going back to play more music, then going round to collect the money or the CDs if people give them back to him), flags of the local football team, sweets and many other things, though not more than a couple at any one time.

I haven't explored the city centre much so far, but one place I have been to is a square that has some resident iguanas! It was quite surreal to me at first, though they were a bit smaller than I expected. There were ones on the grass in the park in the middle of the square, and there was one on the marble base of the statue in the middle.

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I also walked up and down the Malecon, a riverside walkway with statues, palm trees, playing areas for children, viewing towers, lots of snack stalls and even a mini shopping centre.

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The other day I had a typical Ecuadorian dish for lunch - 'Bollo de Pescado' with rice and salad; this consists of some fish wrapped in mashed up verde (a type of plant) that also has some cheese in it, with a herby peanut sauce on top. Although the rice was a bit too al dente for my liking, the actual Bollo de Pescado was delicious, and the whole plate of food was only $1.75! Apparently the fish was bonito.

Last week I went to a supermarket I hadn't been to before and had a good look round. The cream comes in bags rather than pots or bottles (!), the herbs come tied in big bunches, they have several fruits and vegetables which I haven't tried yet (mamey, taxo, granadilla, pitahaya, geino orito, zapota), and they have ready-to-fry packets of empanadas.

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They have a big coffee section, but not of chocolate (they export a lot but don't really sell that much in shops apart from imported brands). The spice section is quite big too, and the shoe cleaning product section. In the fruit and veg section, the onions come loose already peeled and with the ends cut off, next to the normal bananas they have bunches of mini bananas, and they have sections containing types of loose beans for customers to shovel into bags. I was severely tempted by the yuca roots, because I know you can make lovely chips with them, but decided to leave them for another day. I also saw rolled up palm leaves, and what looked like giant spiky cactus leaves.

I've spent far too long on this post so I will write more about my teaching in my next update. I'll also be able to write about my visit to Montañita, a surfers' town on the west coast. I and the other teachers have been invited to a British Consulate party tomorrow to celebrate the Queen's birthday, so we're going to that and then going on up the coast to Montañita for the rest of the weekend. All I've seen of Ecuador so far is Guayaquil, so I'm looking forward to seeing some countryside and beaches!

Some more photos below of my room in Hostel Nucapacha, where I spent my first night in Ecuador, a statue in front of the Town Hall, and a parcel my sisters sent me.

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Posted by 3Traveller 14:08 Archived in Ecuador Tagged spanish hostel buses sisters iguanas ecuador guayaquil explorations english_teaching malecon_2000 ecuadorian_cuisine river_guayas Comments (0)

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