Monday, February 11, 2013

Guayaquil, Ecuador

My adventure began bright and early on Saturday 9 Jan 2013. My flight path was Brisbane-Sydney-Santiago then on to Guayaquil later in the day. I flew Qantas, which is no Emirates, but they were better than last time I flew them to London. Additionally they were far better than Aerolineas, who I flew last time to South America and currently sit in last place for long haul international travel by my standards. I also have to admit Qantas know how to make a tasty vegan meal. Plus they came out ages before all the regular meals. So take that meat eaters.

Generally I try to watch as many movies as possible on planes to make up for the fact that I hate going to the cinema and my preference is for tv shows over dvds. Given I was flying during the Australian daytime, this bode well since I didn’t need to sleep. Although like every other time I’m on a plane, tiredness washes over me and I probably missed a good 10 mins or so of each film. 

Here’s my movie review, which you're probably excited about:

The Bourne Legand: I thought this was excellent. I missed Matt Damon being all sexy, but the new guy was ok, and I really liked Rachel Weisz’s performance.

Argo: Also excellent. Didn't know this really happened.

Taken 2: I very much liked the first one. Didn't know there was a second one. As expected, anything with Liam Neeson  is good. Bonus: Maggie Grace was less annoying in this one.

Arbitrage: Shit. Didn’t get the ending. Did he go to jail or not?

Kath & Kimderella: While I am a fan of Kath & Kim (the Aussie version, not the crap US remake), 1.5 hours of the foxy ladies in one hit is just too much. They should stick to the half hour format.

The Watch: Um. Yeah... I like Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn and that dude from the IT Crowd, but this was just plain weird. Obviously it had its funny moments.

Trollied: Meh. I watched a few episodes. The Poms can, and have done better than this. Everyone just seemed super annoying.

So, that took me up to Santiago where I had a long wait before my flight to Ecuador. This was my own fault really. I booked my flight out of Australia in like September, but didn't organise anything else until early January. The upside was, I was unlikely to miss the connection. However, hanging around Santiago airport for long periods of time isn’t recommended. It’s noisy, and all the rows of seats have arm rests between them so you can’t lie down. Obviously, after travelling for about 14 hours, I was now tired! Anyway, I found a dodgy (but not illegal) part of the airport that was down some stairs and it had some seating with 3 in a row with no arm rests. Hardly anyone else came down so it was relatively quiet. Seriously, I think all international airports should base themselves on Changi in Singapore. That is how you do an airport. I wouldn’t be surprised if a few people wandering around actually live there, you totally could if you could get past immigration.

Next up was the flight to Guayaquil. This was with LAN, who kindly upgraded me to premium economy. There was no business class (it was same as a Qantas domestic plane) so I was in prime position at the front and didn't have anyone next to me. Unlike Qantas, LAN’s vegan meal was nothing special. Still, it’s South America so keeping your meat-free expectations low is generally a good idea. The upside was I actually got a vegan meal. When I rang LAN to book it the guy told me they didn't do vegan meals and I could only book a vegetarian meal. But the sticker said vegan, so he obviously didn't know what he was talking about. Anyway, veggies and cous cous was a meal bonus since I thought I'd be getting something with cheese in it, which I wouldn't be able eat.

I got to my hostel/ B&B (it doesn't really fall distinctly into either) Casa de Romero, had a long overdue shower and went to bed exhausted. The next day, I went for a wander. First stop, the Iguana Park. This place was so cool. And they weren't scary at all, like Aussie lizards that hiss at you and try and bite you if you go near them. 

I like these green ones.

These iguanas are so used to people, you can pat them. That’s my hand. Unsurprisingly, it's like touching snake skin. And those spikey bits aren't really spikey. I think they are more for show than stabbing things with.

Some other dude patting one.

However, I wouldn't like to go up against them for a banana.

Or lettuce. They get nasty when there's food around.

Since I was walking to the south, I went on a mission to find some vegetarian restaurant that is listed on Happycow. This started out fine, I basically walked through some markets selling knock off everything. But then it went kinda dodgy. Not scary dodgy cos it was daytime (I wouldn't have gone looking for it at night), just plain dodgy. Here's an example. 


Not dodgy.

However, I knew where I was going, so didn't feel lost and kept walking despite looking like a total tourist, which generally isn't good in these situations. Seriously, why does everyone here wear jeans? It's really hot. I don't know why South Americans hate shorts so much. They are excellent in tropical locations such as this and you don't have to spend ages peeling them off at the end of the day. Anyway, the restaurant wasn't where it was supposed to be, and so this becomes my first official happycow let down of the trip. This must have have been how Ricky Ponting felt when he got out for a duck at the opening test last November. Disappointed.

Upside, I found a supermarket with loads of fresh produce near the hostel and bought everything I need for lunch and dinner today and tomorrow. Hooray, fresh fruit and veg. Like last time I am ignoring all guidebook warnings and eating whatever looks good and is in season. I washed my salad veggies under the tap (after checking with staff) and no waterborne pathogens have struck me down yet. Although I am using my steripen to treat the water I'm drinking to limit my exposure. I love this thing. I bought it for Asia and have travelled with it ever since.

After lunch, I headed across to the Malecon, which is a bit like Southbank in Brisbane - a pedestrianised area along the river, with parks, restaurants, play areas, etc.

I got quite a gay vibe off these statues. However, since I'm in a Catholic country, I'm guessing that kind of behaviour is generally frowned upon, and it's actually just two historically important dudes shaking hands over some deal.

There is an IMAX cinema here too. If I hadn't seen the Hobbit a fortnight ago (I will make a cinema exception for Peter Jackson films), I could have watched "el Hobbit" in 3D and probably in Spanish (not ideal yet). That said, I did watch Vantage Point on tv last night. It was in English but with Spanish subtitles and seeing the translation and sentence structure was very useful. More useful than watching Spanish with English translations at the moment, since I still can't "hear" a lot of the words. I remember this happening with French too, until one day you just get it.

Mmm, fancy a swim? All this crap (being plants) floating down reminds me of the Brisbane floods!

Up the northern end is a gentrified suburb called Barrio Las Peñas. It was very nice. Lots of bars, restaurants and art places mixed in with houses. 

This is the view of Las Peñas from the Malecon (where all the tourists are). Nice and colourful.

This is the other side which looks less inviting. I'm guessing the tourists don't come in from this way.

It is pretty much all pedestrianised and contains steps, which makes me wonder how you would move. Where would the truck park? And that must cost a shitload (relatively speaking) if the movers are paid by the hour. You'd also need a guy to stay with the truck the whole time so people wouldn't nick your stuff.

This is convenient. Would stop arguments about the number of steps anyway. I've seen this in a couple of places.

The views from the top of Las Peñas looking out over Guayaquil.


This is the river. It's so wide I couldn't even get it all in the one photo properly.

Apparently there were pirates in Guayaquil. It is unclear from the sign if they were hot Johnny Depp pirates.

This used to be a boat, which was a gift to the Spanish King in sixteen something. 

I’m guessing that now that it is lodged on hill, that the King of Spain gets around by alternative means and/or the previously mentioned, potentially hot, pirates stole it. Either way, it’s now a bar.

I stopped on this street for a drink at some café type place with some outdoor tables. As you can see, it was a very nice view. 

While this was a good idea at the time, two CD players in separate establishments (mine and next door) started to compete with each other. The volumes just went up, and up, and up, which completely ruined the experience. One was playing typical Latin music, which was nice and was totally appropriate for the setting while the other belted out eighties ballads. It was really annoying. I'm glad I wasn't trying to have a conversation with anyone.

The next day I went to the Big Jesus. Even though I hate religion (see my mini rant in the Rio post) I love how South America loves it's big religious statues, I really do!

I tried to get me and Jesus in the same shot, but it was quite hard.

On the walk up, there are some storyboards. Here's my interpretation.

Jesus getting poked with a big stick.

Jesus getting beaten up by an angry mob.

Jesus looking much worse for wear after copping a beating.

Jesus on the cross, which really makes no sense to me, cos I'm pretty sure the weight of your body would just cause your hands and toes to rip and you'd come off. Yep, enjoy that visual.

Jesus rising (when he probably wasn't dead, just unconscious. Hey, they had shit doctors and no medical technology then. As if they'd know).

To get the Big Jesus, you have to pass a hospital. The amount of surgical masks and gloves on the street concerns me. I wonder what other medical waste I was exposed to?

I like that there is this hearse parked out the front. Probably not a good omen though, if you're a patient.

Next up, I just walked around. Not sure what happened to these guys and why they are covered in blue foam. Some kind of Latin American Kids Choice Awards? 

I am very intrigued that you can buy motorbikes and tvs in the same place here. Dave Winterburn, this shop is totally for you! I don't know if they have quad HD though.

Here's three in a row. Nothing like direct competition with your neighbours to get a good price on tvs and motorbikes.

I like this. These paintings appear to be slotted into gaps in the wall. I do not think they are painted onto the building. I'm guessing water gets in when it rains cos the seals do not appear to be tight.

Not sure what all these satellite dishes are for. My guess is for tv or spying on the Americans.

I don't know what this is. Some kind of amoured vehicle perhaps? It looks like it's made out of cardboard.

Anyway, that's it for Guayaquil. Tomorrow I'm off to the Galapagos Islands. Exciting! Thought I'd  better get the most expensive (likely) bit done first while I'm cashed up still.