After Cuenca I still had four more places to visit before leaving Ecuador. It was a bit of a whirlwind tour with two days in each place, but it worked out well.
First, I travelled by bus from Cuenca to Guayaquil.
I took a 20-seater minibus (US$12) instead of a regular bus (US$8). It was good advice from tourist information. We left from a small building vs the huge dodgy main terminal. It was a direct 3.5 hours instead of 5. And it felt very comfortable and safe.
Safe felt important when we went over an Andean mountain pass in El Cajas National Park.
There was a altitude readout that showed us going from 2200 m to 4200 m (with snow), and then down to 20.
And not gradually!
As soon as we dropped altitude the temperature and humidity increased.
Cuenca had been 21, a huge reason it attracts tons of ex-pats (including from Canada and the US).
In Guayaquil it was 32 with 90% humidity.
This fellow ran over to my taxi when I arrived. Almost two feet long and moving fast!
I stayed in Las Peñas, an historic neighborhood on a hill. Cerro Santa Ana is on the right. They had survived the big fires of 1896 that destroyed most of the city.
The old houses were mainly shops and restaurants.
Hotels were huge modern buildings along a developed shoreline. Built in 2020, it wasn’t that interesting.
Guayaquil is on a silty delta, so the water is brown.
But it was full of armed guards and electric fence.
Not that they aren’t necessary. Guayaquil has a reputation. I met a FBI bomb tech while in line boarding my plane in Cuesco. He said gangs pay young thugs if they can record themselves killing police.
And since I didn’t find the city that charming, I was happy to only have two nights/one day.
The fortress was on the edge of the old town.
From there I could look across to the museums and malecón.
I took the cable car across to Duran and back. $0.70.
And just one church, because I like Gothic. Catedral Católica Metropolitana de Guayaquil. Original was 1547 but has been reconstructed after fires in 1896.
My hotel was not disappointing though! It was originally a family home from the 1920’s.
It was just between the old town and the new big hotels. With only 11 rooms, it was lovely.
The breakfast room
Egrets from my balcony.
Lunch on the malecón when I arrived. Mixed seafood on mashed plantain base. Too bad about all the cheese on top.
Then a taxi to Ayangue on the coast. US$80 for a 2.5 hour drive, but it was my birthday!
The landscape changed from green to sandy scrubland with cactus.
Ayangue was a small town off the main highway, and I think I was the only Gringo in town.
I had a great penthouse overlooking the beach. But far enough away to be peaceful.
It was so nice to get there early and go down to the beach for lunch.
Just steps down to the beach. Great sand!
Sand in the morning after the tide went out.
Looking back up to my place. I had the whole top floor for less than the taxi ride.
Ceviche de camarón for US$8.
Served with patacones (tostones). These are pieces of green plantain, fried, flattened, and fried again. Hot and crispy with a little soft centre. And, of course, rice.
Showers for the beach people.
And the next day. More ceviche.
Next was Puerto López about 1.5 hours up the coast. Passed through some lush green and very mountainous winding roads.
The street along the beach was solid restaurants, bars and cafes. I don’t know how they all stay in business.
It’s a busy port for whale watching but this isn’t the season. There were tours out to Isla la Plata, the ‘poor man’s Galapagos’ but the weather was misty and windy and I happy just walking along the shore.
There is a large fishing presence at one end of the beach.
Literally running the fish from the boat.
On to the scales.
These two fellows could gut and remove the head of a fish in 10 seconds. Then straight onto the ice.
Busy food stalls next door.
Elections are coming up.
I have a little hotel again. Only four rooms. That’s mine at the front.
Sunset from my balcony.
For breakfast one morning my hotel served botón de verde (mashed fried plantain with a cheese centre) and scrambled eggs. Botons are THE classic breakfast here. They are usually the size of a baseball and just as dense.
Oops. Trouble getting the small bottle of beer. Good thing it was only $2 if you have to leave half.
Then a two hour bus to Manti. US$4.
It had a movie playing. ‘Pacific Rim’ dubbed into Spanish. I got to practice my Spanish listening skills with something that wasn’t ‘Duolingo’ or talking to taxi drivers.
There was a door that closed off the driver, but it opened frequently to get ready to let people on/off. And I got to worry about the young fellow falling out on the fast corners.
Very nice modern terminal in Manta.
Playa Murciélago is a huge beach right downtown. It was very busy with families on a Sunday.
Rows of seafood restaurants.
Encocado de camarón has a coconut milk sauce.
Pescado frito was simply fried fish, but so good and fresh. And a special order with no rice!
Grilled beef as part of my $3 menu of the day.
Started with a bus to myself from Manta to Montecristi but soon people were getting on and off on my 45 minute ride ($0.70).
I went to Montecristi as it’s a well known centre for the toquilla straw hats that people call ‘Panama’ but are really Ecuadorian.
The hat industry really started in Jipijapa, which isn’t far away. Cuenca is also well known, and I bought a hat there ten days ago.
This is what some hats look like when they receive them from the weaver families they work with.
The shop then finishes them to order. They can cost up to $5000 when they are done
They also had hats starting at $10, but I thought $65 was worth it if I was going to haul it all the way home!
I was trying to show the pattern.
So tomorrow is my flight to Quito for a quick night before flying to Bogotá, Columbia.
Less than a month left on this trip. Three months can fly by!