So, if you get an invitation to a wedding that is going to take place in Ecuador, tacking on a trip to the Galapagos is kind of inevitable. How could you get that close and not see it? But last year was the first year we paid estimated taxes which was nerve-wracking, so we waited until January when everything was paid and done with and we knew how much money we had left over to start planning our trip.
Eight months in advance turns out to be a bit tight for playing a trip to the Galapagos. I had originally looked in to staying in a hotel, the nicer ones arrange day trips for their guests to see the closer highlights of the islands, but even that far out there were no vacancies over the weekend we had to spend there. There are smaller hotels and even hostels, but I was looking for a package that covered everything rather than having to arrange sightseeing trips ourselves.
So I found Expeditiontrips.com and started looking at cruises. More expensive than the hotels, but they offered more sights to see, being on a boat hitting numerous islands. Alas, they were nearly all full as well. We ended up pretty much asking our agent to find us any cabin on any boat. I recently looked at those original e-mails again, after having made the trip, and I feel really fortunate because we got on the perfect ship for us, but more on that later.
We could pick to fly to the Galapagos from either Quito or Guayaquil, and not knowing at that point when/where we’d be picking up with the wedding party who would be sightseeing mainland Ecuador, I sort of randomly settled on Guayaquil as our home port. In retrospect, Quito would have been more convenient, but I’m really glad it worked out the way it did. Guayaquil was cool.
We had to make three separate flights to get from Minneapolis to Guayaquil, and the last one was delayed by more than an hour, so it was about 2 in the morning when we took the hotel shuttle through downtown to get to our hotel which was on the main street of Guayaquil. At 2 in the morning it was quiet, only a few people wandering around and hardly any cars.
We woke up about 6 in the morning. Even on the 9th floor with the windows closed, Guayaquil traffic is loud. The traffic lights at the ends of our block were happily cycling through their colors, a random fact to the drivers honking and moving around and past each other. The traffic cop with the whistle had some control, but for the most part it was chaos down there.
The buildings across the way had balconies and I initially took them for apartments, but later we could see that some were full of kids in uniforms sitting at desks, and others appeared to be businesses.
We had flown in a day before we were due in the Galapagos, leaving us with a day to ourselves with no tour guides or local family to take us around, so we walked downtown, to the end of la Avenida Nueve de Octubre to the Malecón de Simón Bolívar, a boardwalk/park area along the river. I had just watched a movie in Netflex about Bolívar (a good one called LIBERTADOR) so the statues commemorating his history in Guayaquil were especially interesting for me. There were little parks for kids, an art museum and cultural center, even a movie theater (alas, Mission Impossible wasn’t out for another day yet or I totally would have watched it). We stopped at the end of the boardwalk to take some pictures of two hills that were covered with colorful buildings; they were cool.
As we later learned, those two hills are the site of the original native settlement that became modern Guayaquil, Ecuador’s largest city and so very different from Quito (like NYC is different from DC).
The restaurants closest to the hotel weren’t compelling, though. There was a KFC and a Wendy’s across the street (and at the end of the block a McDonald’s).
Luckily the restaurant in the hotel was very good and had a menu of native dishes to try. For lunch I had moro de lentejas, which is a mix of rice and lentils that was incredibly tasty, but then for dinner I had churrasco and OMG, so good. Churrasco just means steak and there are a lot of variations of it, but the Ecuadorian version involves topping it with an egg or two. I ordered this in a couple of different places and it was always so tasty, I’ve already found a recipe online so I can try to recreate it at home.
So we were having an awesome time and we hadn’t even got to the cool stuff yet. More to come.