I wasn’t sure what to make of Guayaquill. I arrived at the bus station a couple of hours later than planned and it was starting to go dark. Buses never arrive when they say they are going to, I had already learned about bus travel in South America so I wasn’t surprised! The bus station in Guayaquil is in a huge shopping mall, and I walked through as quickly as I could, following signs for taxis into town.
Heeding warnings about fake taxis and muggings I took an official taxi cab from the booth outside the terminal. $5 took me into town and to my hostel, not a bad price but it seemed expensive compared to Peruvian standards, where I had spent the last few weeks.
I felt nervous, not knowing exactly where I was going. First impressions of the streets were like a not so nice part of any US city – not many people around, and all the buildings overhung the pavements so they seemed like tunnels, albeit open on one side.
My hostel, Re Hostel didn’t have a clear sign outside, it was just another building in the block. Luckily I had the exact address and sure enough when the taxi pulled up I saw a little sign above the doorbell. I guess some hostels don’t like to advertise their location (and guests) to everyone walking by.
Hauling my rucksack out the back of the taxi I rang the doorbell and was directed to the third floor. Once inside, the hostel was much more welcoming. It was nicely, and newly, decorated, with spacious bedrooms and great staff – I really liked it here.
Once settled in I took the recommendation of the receptionist Fede and went in search of dinner. Walking the streets around the hostel I felt the first initial unease I had felt before. Not unsafe exactly, just on edge, and a little wary of everyone. But I arrived at the restaurant without any problem, to find a fast-food style steak house.
I ordered at the till as I would have done at any McDonalds, and took a seat to wait for my meal. Sceptical to say the least, I was actually pleasantly surprised by my tender steak, fat crispy chips and addictive dipping sauce.
While I was waiting, I got chatting to a family, the father of which was originally from Guayaquil, but now lives in San Diego. He was friendly and kind, but warned me not to trust anyone, and told me not to shake hands with any new ‘friends’ who approach me, as people have been known to put a kind of drug on their hands and pass it through contact of a handshake.
That didn’t help my unease, so after dinner I didn’t linger, and went straight back to the hostel, where I slept soundly.
The next morning, I met one of my roommates – a half Swedish, half French guy of 23, who had been to University in Scotland and spoke with a delightful Scottish twang! We got on well, so decided to explore the sights of Guayaquil together – and complete our mission of welly shopping. It might sound like a strange purchase, but I needed a pair of wellington boots for my volunteering stint in the Galapagos, and he for Wooffing (working on organic farms) near Loja.
We headed to the market, completed our mission, and on the way back to the hostel passed through Seminario park. Similar to Parque Kennedy in Lima (which is full of cats) Seminario Park is known as Parque de Las Iguanas (Iguana Park) as it is full of iguanas. The iguanas are all over the park, just chilling out, climbing trees, sitting in the grass and occasionally on people. It was bizarre to see, but an interesting stop in the city.
After dropping off our prized wellies at the hostel we decided to visit Santay island on the other side of the river, a nature sanctuary full of mangroves. Negotiating the bus to Barrio Centenario we walked to the bridge that goes across the river, and hired bikes for $3 each.
We cycled across the bridge and around the island, which can also be explored on foot. It was humid, but not too hot as we cycled around. We spotted various birds, little crabs in the mud, and even some crocodiles – which used to be wild but who are now kept in a reserve to protect them from the visitors!
A community still lives on the island, and apparently when the government wanted to turn the island into a reserve they made a deal with the residents so they could build new homes and a new school there. I enjoyed the ride, and it made a change from walking everywhere!
If you want to hire a bike, they ask you to leave a form of id or credit card with them – I got away with a copy of my passport, but you may not be so lucky, it is best to bring something for them to keep until you return the bicycle.
We returned to the city and I strolled along the Malecon river front to catch the sunset. I climbed the steps to Las Peñas, and the little church on top, la Iglesia del Cerro Santa Ana, and admired the views. On the adjacent hill, there were piles of colourful houses in a slum. It always surprises me that the buildings in the slums are often brightly painted – it makes them look so pretty! But get closer and you realise what the bright façade is hiding.
Sitting and contemplating the view, I was relaxed and happy, and the unease of the previous evening had slipped away. After seeing what I felt was the best of Guayaquil I was happy to return to the hostel. I met up again with Philippe and we went for dinner at another place recommended by the hostel and enjoyed a fantastic seafood dinner. I was stuffed and happy, and excited for my flight to the Galapagos the next day!
Where to Stay in Guayaquil
I stayed at Re Bed & Breakfast & highly recommend it.
It was bright, clean and well looked after, and the owners helped with recommendations of where to eat and what to do. I didn’t get the optional breakfast, but from chatting to other guests I heard it was good.
The dorm was light and airy with plenty of space, and with air conditioning which is a blessing when it is hot and humid outside!
The hostel is in a good location, close to the main sites, and I enjoyed my stay here.
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