Sunday, August 5, 2007

The Sights and Sounds of Guayaquil

Yesterday, a group of us took an Ecuadorian adventure to downtown Guayaquil to walk the Malecon and check out Las Penas, a historical district of Guayaquil.

Dave and I, Karly, Sarah, and Mark

The day started with a taxi ride, which is better compared to a twenty mile amusement park ride. I can't decide if Ecuadorian drivers are insane or very, very talented. We haven't see a wreck yet, but all the cabs we have been in have run stop lights and stop signs, created their own lanes, and used the horn as the only communication tool to signal turns, lane changes, and speed. I avoid looking out the window for most of the rides...you know, what I can't see can't hurt me.

Once we made it into Guayaquil, the cab driver took us to the Malecon 2000. This is a riverfront walkway that the mayor of Guayaquil had renovated in 2000 in order to boost tourism. The Malecon has a beautiful floral park right in the middle of it, historical monuments, and handicraft markets. There is also a shopping district underneath the boardwalk where you can find pretty much anything you are looking for. Dave and I were even able to buy a couple of new movie releases for $1.50 a piece!

The Malecon is also one of the places in Guayaquil where you are almost certain to hear English. The look on people's faces (my own included) when they hear a language they recognize is priceless. At first there is a little bit of confusion, "has my Spanish improved 100%? Because, I understood everything that person was saying!" Then there is the realization that you were actually hearing English and that your Spanish is still terrible. Relief and heartbreak all at once. :)

At the end of the Malecon is one of Guayaquil's oldest neighborhoods, Las Penas. In order to walk through Las Penas, you have to climb the 444 steps that wind their way through the neighborhood. Bordering the steps are shops, art galleries, and restaurants. At the top of the steps is a beautiful church and lighthouse with an observation deck where you can gain an incredible view of the entire city. We were able to look down on the Malecon, spot an impromptu soccer game, and hear a protest that was taking place in the middle of the city from our spot at the top of the lighthouse. There is also a pirate exhibit in the middle of the neighborhood that I am sure told about the pirate history of Guayaquil. Unfortunately, my Spanish has not reached beyond survival so I still don't know much about that.

Worn out from climbing and descending the 444 steps of Las Penas, we survived another cab ride home and had Sarah and Mark join us for dinner and one of our $1.50 movies. It was a fun day that gave us a chance to be tourists before work starts tomorrow.

Next weekend we are headed to Puerto Lopez to go whale watching. I have heard that it isn't your typical whale watching excursion, with you on a nice big boat and the whales miles away. Oh no, we will be in a relatively small boat and the whales will be right next to us. This should be exciting. And maybe a little wet.