Today was our last day on the Mary Anne. But we still had one more excursion; we woke up at 5:30 am for a 6 am panga ride to Black Turtle Cove to observe young turtles, sharks, and whatever else was there. The morning was calm and reasonably cool as we started out. Once in the lagoon we motored along observing baby sharks, rays, numerous fish, turtles, and even a Striated Heron. It was a lovely way to end our trip.
Back on board we had breakfast then finished packing our luggage. We put it outside our cabin by 8 am, then it was just a matter of waiting for our final panga ride to the dock and the bus ride to the airport. Our flight didn’t leave until noon, so we had quite a bit of time at the airport. We checked out all of the gift shops several times, and in the end we bought a pin for Rosemary’s hat and a small wooded blue-footed booby statue. One of the perks of being on the Mary Anne was access to the VIP lounge. This entitled us to one free drink (non-alcoholic of course) and to the comfort of clean bathrooms and toilet paper, not to mention comfortable seats and huge ceiling fans. The wait was still long but finally at 11:40 am we boarded TAME flight 192 to Guayaquil.
Farewell to the Galapagos
When we arrived in Guayaquil it was 2:40 pm (with the time zone change). We collected our bags, said good-bye to Erik, Richard, Patsy, and Sheila, and then walked to the exit. The Guayaquil airport is very new and fancy with water features at the front, and waiting for us was a driver holding a sign with our name on it. We weren’t quite expecting that, but the chance that somebody else with our surname would be arriving in Guayaquil was basically nil, so off we went in the van to our hotel. The traffic in Guayaquil was like the traffic in Quito, in other words horrendous, but it took about 20 minutes to get from the airport to the Grand Hotel Guayaquil in the centre of the city.
Fishing boat at Baltra
We had booked a semi-private walking tour of the city which was supposed to start at 6 pm, but what we actually got was a private walking tour which started at 4 pm. This actually made more sense, since the tour took place in daylight. So after checking in to the hotel and getting organized, we went back downstairs. Our guide Pilar was waiting for us in the lobby, so off we went. The first stop was the Cathedral, which was right next to our hotel. Inside it was huge, seating up to 2000 people if necessary. There were even television monitors for the benefit of people who didn’t have a view of the altar. Besides being a busy church it is also sometimes used as a concert hall because the acoustics are excellent. The upper windows are stained glass, six on each side representing the twelve apostles. The front window is an ornate rose which was very beautiful with the sun shining through it.
Opposite the church was Parque Seminario. According to local tradition, all churches have an open park in front of them. We negotiated our way across the street and entered the park. There were a lot of people and pigeons, but also a lot of iguanas! These iguanas are protected – they are fed regularly and once a year they are checked over by a vet – and they are very friendly. They also climb trees, so it was fun to watch them scamper up the tall palm trees. The park was originally named after Simon Bolívar, so a lot of people still refer to it by that name, but a lot of people just call it “the iguana park”.
Parque Seminario iguana
Iguanas in a tree
After leaving the park we climbed into the van and headed to one end of the Malecón. Since the docks all relocated down-river and left this waterfront area moribund, it has been refurbished and is now home to small shops, a convention centre, and many benches. We didn’t walk the whole way along it, but rather went in the van and parked a specific spots to see the highlights, such as the very fancy Moorish clock tower. Our walks also included the square which housed the city hall and some other government buildings, along with statues of various revolutionaries of the 1820’s. (Not Bolívar, he only came in and took over the show after J. J. Olmedo did all of the hard work.)
Moorish clock tower
Back in the van we drove to Santa Ana hill, then got out and walked around. The trip to the top of the hill included 444 steps, but we didn’t do that. Originally this area was a slum, inhabited by poor people who had come to the city from elsewhere and just squatted there. The city refurbished the houses and the electric wires and the sewers, then regularized the people’s titles to the property. This all on the condition that the people maintain the area and keep it clean, and not let their children run around naked, and so on. So now the area has become quite fashionable, with small shops and restaurants fronting the steps.
Guayaquil City Hall
Farther along the waterfront there is an artists’ area, once again being refurbished. Also, a new waterfront park is in the process of being completed, which will extend the Malecón another two kilometres. We finished with a driving tour through the city, ending in the restaurant district. We were booked into the Los Nuestros restaurant for a traditional Ecuadorian meal. Our guide went in with us to make sure that everything was organized, then we thanked her and said goodbye. Our meal started with a humita (a corn and cheese concoction cooked in a corn leaf) and also a hayaca (corn flour and chicken cooked in a banana leaf). For the main course we had sea bass with coconut sauce, fried plantains and rice. Absolutely delicious! And dessert was something simple, a dish of ice cream.
Cathedral at night
Our driver was there to pick us up at 7:30 pm. Back at the hotel we turned on CNN to see what was happening in the real world. We knew that the earthquake in Japan had been a bad one, but now were finding out more details. And we found out which rebellions were still under way in North Africa. With the free internet access we checked our e-mail and generally got caught up. It was very nice to sleep in a non-rolling bed for a change. Actually what was the best was the lack of engine noise; even with the air-conditioning on in the room, it was quite in comparison with the ship.
Ceramic iguana at our hotel