With packs a little heaver (we had to buy some llama magnets and Peruvian coffee) and legs a little stronger (60 miles of mountain hiking will do that to you) we said adios to Peru and made our way North towards Guayaquil, Ecuador – where we thought we were going to lounge on beaches and rest our blistered and tired feet (thought being the key word).
In order to reach the Galapagos Islands one must layover in Guayaquil, thus you have a lovely airport bustling with eager tourists waiting to continue their voyage to the outer islands. We shuffled our way through the throngs and made our way to an area not frequently visited — the exit.
Standing there with our mountainous packs and mud-caked hiking boots we were greeted with blank stares as (I’m sure) the taxi drivers wondered why we had wandered outside. After a brief exchange;
yes, I’m sure we want to leave the airport. We’re here to visit Guayaquil! I’m positive!
we convinced one of the drivers that our destination was indeed Guayaquil he loaded us up and took us to our hostel.
Back in February, during the fleeting moments we dedicated to planning this trip, we chose to stop over in this city for several days before ending our trip in Quito because our time in Peru was cold, Quito was going to be chilly, but Guayaquil! Guayaquil (why-a-keel) sat on the ocean and was at a low altitude AND was close to the equator therefore it must be a tropical beach location! And without looking one single inch further, we booked our flights and let it drift to the back of our minds.
Guayaquil was near the ocean, but in a way that includes 70 miles of buffer (i.e. it’s not near the ocean). Tropical heat and humidity it had aplenty thanks to the massive river it had rushing out to the South Pacific Ocean, but beaches did not exist and for very good reason; crocodiles. The murky water of the Rio Guayas was fast moving and the perfect cover for the meat-eating beasts. Lounging on the beaches and lazing in the sun was out, so we traded our boots for chucks and hit the streets.
Aside from the fact that Guayaquil is Ecuador’s most populous city, beating out their mountain-top capital of Quito by several hundred thousand, there wasn’t a terrible amount to do as far as tourism went. We meandered our way up and down the river-lined promenade, Malecon 2000, enough times to take note that the people of Guayaquil very much enjoyed two things: ice cream and juice.
Looking for some relief from the humidity I went to a street vendor to buy a fresh-squeezed juice. With my mediocre Spanish I ordered myself a small carrot and pineapple jugo. The woman juiced one carrot, then two, then three, and on her fourth I began to assume that she was making a large batch as it was a popular flavor and would quickly sell out. Here come the pineapple slices. One, two, three, four. Then, as she began to toss in heaping tablespoons of sugar I had to intervene.
¡No mas, por favor! ¡No mas azúcar!
She looked hurt, as if I was compromising the juice recipe by not allowing her to cut it with 5 pounds of sugar. She gave me the stink eye, then began mixing the juice and with a great thud set a BUCKET of juice on the counter and slid it my way. Truly. The small was no less than 50 ounces, which made me wonder – what in the hell is their large? A barrel? Does it come on wheels? It took two hands just to hold the damn thing, and took the two of us no less than 2 hours to drink it all. The gargantuan size of the drink gave us an odd feeling of warped perspective, as if we were too small for the accoutrements that surrounded us.
We continued to feel that perspective was off here in Ecuador as we wandered our way into a museum and were introduced to bugs big enough to carry their own juice bucket (hand for size comparison):
And then there were the heads that were equally unsettling in size:
As if gawking at genuine shrunken heads weren’t fascinating enough, the museum provided a handy step-by-step IKEA-esque instruction manual for your own backyard head shrinking. In just five easy to follow steps you too can have your own tiny human head. How very lovely.
From oversized juices, to undersized heads, Guayaquil was a city full of the unexpected. Public park overrun with pre-historic iguanas? Check. Restaurants to eat in after 7pm? Not so much. Millions of jacked-up dragonflies perpetually hovering over the city? Check. Big-ass spindly spiders hanging out everywhere? Double check! We dodged aforementioned spiders and dragonflies, rode bikes alongside dinner-plate sized iridescent blue butterflies, drank double our weight in juice and toured some of he most amazing museums we’ve seen to date. A relaxing beach stay it was not, but it certainly kept true to the unexpected adventure that we were having in South America.