Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A Day in Guayaquil

After a bit more than an hour flight from San Cristobal, we land in Guayaquil. This one of the main cities of Ecuador, and sits on the banks of a wide muddy river. 

Two of us, Tamar and Shmulik, run to catch their connection. The remaining three, Momi, Ilan and me, are staying overnight and flying out tomorrow. We collect our bags and go outside to the waiting hall. A very nice person picks us up and brings us to the hotel. The hotel is located in the center of the downtown, just next to the main cathedral.

View from our hotel room

Since there is still some light, we decide to go for a stroll before searching for a place to have dinner. In front of our hotel is a small park with large Ficus trees.

Strolling through it, we find the important denizens - large iguanas. They are not afraid of people. In fact, some of them come up to the visitors and wait to be fed. 

It is interesting to see that similarities and differences from the iguanas we came to know in the Galapagos. These are larger and thinner in build. They have large flap of skin below their face that we didn’t see in either the land nor marine iguanas in the Galapagos. 

We stroll along the street toward the river bank. There is a large well maintained garden all along the river. 

We see impressive number of police that maintain order here, as well as cleaning crews that use strong water guns to keep the grounds nice and clean.

We walk toward the older part of the city. Las Penas and Cerro Santa Ana are one neighborhood situated on a steep hill on the river side. This was one of the earliest neighborhoods in the city. It is known for the colorful houses and the narrow winding streets. Apparently this was slums until the city decided to restore it to a historical monument.

View of Cerros Santa Ana from the boardwalk

There is a street with 444 stairs that heads to the summit. The stairs are numbered so you can see your progress as you go up.

The last stair!

By the time we get to the neighborhood the sun is already gone. From the summit we can see the lighted sprawl of the city around us. 

We go down to the sea level, and catch a cab to a neighborhood that supposed to host many restaurants. The directions we got were not that good, and we end up in a street of shish-kabab stores. We are not too excited about the selection and start exploring about. By now all our phones are without batteries, so the internet is not available.

We finally end up in a very fancy Italian restaurant. Ilan decides that this is our best option. We look a bit out of the place in sweaty travel cloths. The dinner is excellent (and expensive). Later on we read about the restaurant and find that it is one of the best in the city.

The next morning I wake up with acute ear pain and some fever. I decide to sleep through it while Ilan and Momi go for a walk. By noon time I feel a bit better and go out for a short stroll.

At this time, the iguanas are out in full force in the park, and give me a chance to photograph them.

There is also a pool with small river(?) turtles. These for some reason aggregated to one end of their pool and piled up on each other.

And then there were more iguanas.

I take a short stroll to the boardwalk. The sky is gray and the light is a bit flat. I do go up on one of the "observation towers" built along the boardwalk and take a stock of the view.

By now I am tired. I return to hotel to meet Ilan and Momi who returned from their travels. We checkout from our rooms, and sit down in the plush lobby to wait for our driver.

Monday, October 27, 2014

San Cristobal and Departure

I wake up and go upstairs. This will be the last time I see the sunrise from a boat’s deck for a long while. I guess I will miss  this two-week habit.

We are moored in San Cristobal. The sunrise does not disappoint.

From the deck I see a group of sea-lions playing in the water just below me.

After breakfast, we  have the last briefing. William explains the procedures for checking in for our flights. Its time to finish packing. We load the suitcases onto the deck. 

Most of the passengers on our boat are staying for a day or two in San Cristobal. The few that do fly out have to wait until mid-day for the flight.

The plan is simple, we go to the port. The crew members will take our suitcases and check us in for the flight, and half an hour before the flight a minibus will take us to the airport.

We have time to kill, and Ilan suggest we take a cab to a beach outside town. The place is called Las Loberias. The cab fare is 2$ and the ride is about 15min. We ask the cab driver to pick us up in about an hour (we take a big safety margin).

The trail leads us to a rocky beach. We encounter sea lions, iguanas and crabs.

We continue along the trail and get to a sandy area. There is a large colony of sea lions living here. 

In the shallow water there is a pack of sea lion pups busy playing. 

We watch them for a while. By now we start worrying that we need to head back.

We get to the parking lot, but the taxi is not there. We sit and wait.

A local lizard on the asphalt provides some distraction while we wait.

After about 15 minutes two cabs show up. Neither of them is our driver, they unload passengers heading for the shore. We take a ride back with one of them.

We still have plenty of time. We are not too hungry, but this is our last chance to get local ceviche. The second time at this nice little restaurant is not disappointing. 

We still have time. We stroll back to the pier and take last session of shooting the birds and crabs.

A pelican in mid-dive

The minibus comes to pick us up. The ride to the airport is 5 minutes. The terminal here is minimal. Soon we are on the airplane, and up we go above the island.