Our days in the Galapagos were intense, so full of activity and almost too much exposure to new things. It feels shocking to be back in civilization again. We are in Guayaquil, another unexplored city for me. It is so very different from Quito. It has a much larger population and the city is more compact and has a European feel to it. Clearly tourists are not a usual sight here, and our walk through the 'Malecón' was an occasion for stares and awe. It was a surprise to see the Seminario Park in front of the neo-Gothic cathedral full of iguanas. They were wandering around, climbing up trees, arguing with squirrels, grouped in large numbers. They have been here for years, and are fed by the locals and don't leave he park. It was their habitat before the park was built and they chose to stand their ground and remain the main inhabitants of the park. It was a bizarre sight.
The Malecón was built in 2000, and runs along the river. At one end it has an anthropological museum, a garden with local flowers and trees and shrubs, followed by a children's section, many statues of former leaders from Guayaquil, a large sailing ship anchored on the river, many ice cream vendors and shoe-shine boys. There was a demonstration by the shoe shine boys and their supporters protesting the limitations imposed on the shoe shine boys. It was not very big and the police and security guards outnumbered the protesters. The Ecuadorians like to protest, I am told, and will take advantage of any demonstration. We did not see the outcome of the event.
Our walk down the Malecón was short. I would have liked to see more, but the tour leader wanted us back for a reception. I found myself so surprised with the city. It is not at all what I expected, which was perhaps a version of Quito, but its is instead modern, packed with people wearing western clothing rather than the local costume that is so often worn in the highlands. The faces are different, not at all Andean faces. I know that Guayaquil inhabitants call the Quieteños 'Serranos' and the Quiteños call the Guayaquil people 'monos' or monkeys or other worse names. The Serranos are also called 'potato worms' but I am not sure how that is said in Spanish.
Leaving Galapagos was difficult. I wanted to stay for another several days and see the islands on the other side. Four days is too short, and I feel once again that I have only gotten a taste of the islands and have to return for another visit and finish my exploration. Eric and I have decided that the best itinerary is on the Isabella2, which does an eleven day program and includes all the islands and all the different flora and fauna of the islands. When my sisters come to visit next year, I will plan to return and do a more complete version of the Galapagos.
We also said good-bye to all our travel companions today. I have enjoyed meeting each of them and learning about their lives. I wish the trip had been longer for them too, although the pace on the boat was exhausting and many are very tired and ready for a quieter time. Some are flying to Lima tomorrow and will visit Macchu Picchu and Cuzco--I wish I could go with them. I have wanted to go to Macchu Picchu for years and years, and there was a similar extension to the trip to the Peruvian Amazon two years ago which we also did not do.I am determined to hike the Inca trail with Maya and Tara next year and will begin to research the possibilities. I do not want to live so close to the place and not visit when we are in Quito.
Guayaquil is also a must-see. The people here are so very different form those in the highlands and the city looks and feels so different from Quito. It is not at all a Spanish colonial city. It has been burned to the ground and rebuilt in the 1800's using Italian architects and what they consider to be a French style. The cathedral is neogothic and many public buildings are neoclassic in style. The city is located on a wide river with hyacinths floating near the banks. The streets are full of families and children walking and exploring the Malecón.
When we live in Quito there will be many new places to explore.
One fellow on the boat was a defense attache for the American embassy and he scared us with stories about crime in Quito and how it is increasing significantly and that we must be very very careful. I am not sure what that means.... and how scared I ought to be. Eric is quite dismissive about such comments, but I am apprehensive.