Last known location: London, England


We only had one full day in Guayaquil, Ecuador’s biggest city, a balmy tropical place on the estuary of the Guayas river. Once a crime ridden port it’s been tarted up in an attempt to improve it’s reputation, and they haven’t done a bad job.

We started our exploring at Parque Bolivar, which, although it’s tiny, is home to dozens of huge Iguanas who roam around eyeing up people’s ice creams! Quite how they got there I don’t know, but the wheelbarrows full of lettuce provided by the council seem to help in keeping them there! There were also a few turtles roaming around, although we couldn’t get as up close and personal with them!  We also went to the modern cathedral on the edge of the square to have a nose around – beginning to lose count of how many we’ve seen now!

After that we wandered down the Malecon 2000, a 2.5km riverfront promenade which was done up as part of the makeover. It was all very pleasant with tropical gardens, fountains, cafes, monuments, a market and a small army of security guards! We did have to stop several times for cold drinks – the middle of the day in muggy tropical heat wasn’t the best time to be walking it!

At the end of the promenade is the small Santa Ana hill, topped by a lighthouse, a tiny church and the ruins of a fort, complete with model pirates! After clambering up the steps in slightly sweaty fashion we were rewarded with great views over the city and the river. The route up to the top of the hill passes through the Las Peñas neighbourhood – recently refurbished and turned into an idealized version of a South American village, with brightly painted houses, colonial mansions and cobbled alleyways.

We then retreated to the hostel for a break from the heat. It just so happened to have an in-house spa upstairs, so Gem treated herself to an Aromatherapy massage while I sat on the balcony overlooking the river with a cold beer – both happy!

That night we headed back to Las Peñas, where we’d spotted a few nice bars and restaurants. After a quick dinner we ended up in La Taberna, a tiny bar full of nick-nacks and memorabilia from the local football team, one of Ecuador’s finest, Barcelona – formed by a native from the real Barcelona and not related at all to the Catalan club! The walls were covered in team photos from the 70’s onwards, and the landlord seemed to be something of a local celebrity so they were joined by a host of newspaper cuttings featuring his picture, and articles about the bar.

From Guayaquil we travelled inland to Cuenca, 3 hours by bus through the cloud covered mountains of the Cajas National Park. Along the way at least a dozen different people boarded the bus selling food and drink of all kinds, so there was no chance of us going hungry! Gem sampled a banana fritter, whilst I stuck to the trusty chicken empanada. Climbing into the rocky, damp, moss covered landscape (more Exmoor than Ecuador) was quite a relief after the sweaty tropical heat and humidity of the coast!

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