Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Day of Living Dangerously

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We're now in Durham, NC enjoying daily life with our new little granddaughter and family. I of course brought my camera but forgot the damn cord that uploads photos to the computer, so I thought that no posts with pics would be possible until we returned to Cuenca. Fortunately my son has an almost identical camera and his cord fits mine. Hooray!

I booked our flight to the States months ago and thought I had done a brilliant job of scheduling a mid-morning departure. Unfortunately I recently learned that neither the earliest flights or vans from Cuenca to Guayaquil arrived soon enough to hit the 3 hour recommended window for international flights (more on that later).

We thus decided to head over the day before and explore Guayaquil, the city of 6 million inhabitants (bigger than any US city except New York--in a country the size of Colorado. Who knew?!?!) that is almost universally described as "dangerous." Truth is the place looks pretty scary along the van route through miles of slum areas, but we'd heard the Malecon, a boardwalk area along the water, was both lovely and safe.

Our friend Juan Heredia of Terra Diversa recommended and booked a room for us at Hotel City Plaza and once again his expertise came through. The rate was quite reasonable (he had explained that Guayaquil has a dearth of mid-range hotels--they are mostly either expensive or cheap) and our room was wonderful--lots of windows, lots of space, BIG bathroom. The front desk staff is bilingual and there is even a courtesy van to the airport. Nice!

I never thought I'd get used to the treacherous drive through the Cajas, but I can only describe the van trip over as "uneventful," so to my amazement I guess it's happened. We quickly settled in our room and went out to explore the Forbidden City.

The Malecon was wonderful.

It's a really long stretch of real estate filled with fountains,

meticulous landscaping,

places to chillax,


unusual bars,

children's play areas,

and interesting art.

All along the way we enjoyed beautiful architecture.

The entire area was filled with families, sweethearts, and working folks on lunch break. Security personnel was always visible but we observed no unruly or inappropriate behavior. Having said all this, we agreed that there is no compelling reason for us to return unless we are in a similar future travel situation. There's a country, continent, and world out there to explore.

We had a really early start to the airport Thursday and the hotel was kind enough to prepare a box meal since we were too early for breakfast. Getting there three hours early turned out to be a bust for two reasons: 1) airline personnel weren't even on duty when we queued up and 2) we were at our gate 2 1/2 hours before takeoff, leaving us to wonder why, as in the US, this recommendation exists.

It was weird how many times we had to show our passports and boarding passes (I'm thinking 5) before actually getting on the plane. I couldn't imagine drug dealers or other nefarious characters possibly dreaming up any shenanigans that would get them past even the third checkpoint, but it turns out this was child's play compared to what TSA had dreamed up in Miami.

Good God. There I had to remove so many personal possessions and articles of clothing to get through security I felt like I had lost a massive bet in strip poker. And the system for retrieving and rechecking your bags was so spread out and convoluted it seemed like visitors were being punished for daring to enter the country.

Anyway, it was all totally worth it to roll in here late that night and meet little Addison Claire for the first time. She was waiting up for us and it's been a lovefest ever since. I unequivocally declare that grandparenthood rocks!!



Hi Ed! Congrats on your new granddaughter...what a shame you forgot your cable, you mean we won't see pics of your new grandbaby?! I asked my hubby, who's Ecuadorian, if Guayaquil has 6 million and he said, no! He said around 3 million, I got into internet and it sure was: Guayaquil has, 3'050,728 inhabitants! Ecuador has 13 million in total. Hope this info helps you. Enjoy your stay at home. Hugs, FABBY

colin said...

Hi Edd,

We also spent the day in Guayaquil prior to boarding a flight. The malecon was wonderful and we ate supper at one of the restaurants. Before that we found an area where vendors sold everything under the sun.A covered market of knock-offs. My wife and I never felt uneasy at either place even though, strolling through the market, we were the only gringo's in sight

Xica said...

Hi, Ecuadorean from Guayaquil here. I just wanted to let you know that no, there aren't 6M people here, but I noticed your friend Fabby already did that. Yes, 3M people is more accurate.
Guayaquil is not more dangerous than either Quito or Cuenca, but both Cuencanos and QuiteƱos will tell you that it is.... Kind of an internal bad joke that has lasted for generations and some now take as truth. Guayaquil is the city that gets the most internal "immigrants" from within Ecuador, and THAT much people coming here can't be wrong :)
Hope you visit us more often and for longer periods, not only when in between travels!