American Airlines, Ash Wednesday, Baltra, Baltra Airport, Campaigning, Cemetery, Ecuador, Ecuadorian President, Election, Guayaquil, Guayas River, Hilton Colon Guayaquil, Iguanas, Isabela II, malecón, Metropolitan Cathedral, Metropolitan Touring, New Guayaquil, Old Town, Parque Bolívar, Rafael Correa, Santa Cruz, The Galapagos Islands, Tiger Lillies
Mon., Feb. 11 – Baltra / Guayaquil
We woke up this morning and placed our luggage to be checked outside our door to be taken to the airport early. We enjoyed one last buffet breakfast, and waited for disembarkation in the lounge. While we waited, Jose went over a checklist of all the animals we saw, and we checked off a list we had in a pamphlet we had received in our rooms.
A short panga ride later, we were on a bus to the Baltra airport, which is apparently under construction. It is pretty small, and what we wish we would have known is that once you check in, you have no access to food or gifts. We sat waiting for two and a half hours for our flight wishing we could get back on the other side.
At one point, a helicopter landed right outside our open-air waiting area, and many of the locals jumped up with their cameras. Someone was able to tell us what was going on, and it turns out the President of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, was walking across the tarmac for some last minute campaigning in the Galapagos!
The voting begins tomorrow, and he is running for re-election. Later, during our Guayaquil city tour, we learned that he has several opponents, but none of them are good. Lettucia, our guide in Guayaquil, was telling us later that though most of the people are supporting the president’s second term, he has made many mistakes in the last year that has lost much of his support—such as hiring someone (a friend, I think she said) for treasurer that has no degree, and loaning Greece over a million dollars for nothing in return. We saw many signs of campaigning around during our tour, and even leaving the airport into Guayaquil.
The flight was uneventful, and we made a quick stop at the Hilton to drop off luggage before the city tour. The city tour was an abbreviated version of the normal one Lettucia usually gives, since we got into Guayaquil relatively late. The city is an interesting mix of completely worn out buildings mixed with renovated ones. Lettucia explained that they have many problems with fires with older buildings, and just rebuild after something burns down.
There were many hostels, but Guayaquil isn’t known for being a tourist-friendly city. We received many warnings not to go out on our own. And when there are police everywhere, even between the barbed wire fence and the Ecuadorian version of Toys R’ Us, you know you should probably stay in. A scam we were warned about included cab drivers who blindfold you after you get in the cab, hold you hostage, and make you call your relatives for money.
Even being in a large group, we were getting stares and feeling a little uncomfortable. We quickly got out of the motor coach at Parque Bolívar and were able to walk inside the The Metropolitan Cathedral, a structure dating back to 1547. In the park, iguanas were walking around freely and finding peace away from the tourists and curious children in the trees. I’m still wondering how they keep them all in there. None of them seemed to have any interest in wandering across the street.
We got back on the motor coach for a quick ride to the malecón where Matt and I tried to buy some ice cream while Luttecia was talking about a structure a few yards away. However, they wouldn’t serve us—locals kept cutting in front like we weren’t even there. We gave up and decided to stick with the group.
The waterfront is on the Guayas River, and due to the rainy season and storms, globs of Tiger Lillies were floating downstream. There were some beautiful boats nearby, not sure if they were tourist rides or not. There was barely anyone out and about, as it is their holiday before Ash Wednesday. This also meant there were no flea markets or stores open, so no chance to buy any gifts.
The rest of the motor coach ride passed by many hospitals, the old part of the city (which I wish we could have explored, with its colored houses and crazy stairs—the only way you can reach the top!), a large cemetery that is the resting place for several of the country’s presidents, and New Guayaquil, which looks just like any other city—fancy car dealerships, nice buildings, and huge hotels.
By the time we returned to the Hilton, we were dying for food. The hotel was nice enough to let those of us who are flying out tonight to use the Executive Lounge (reserved for those who are paying for the Executive Suites), which has free snacks, drinks, and internet. It was a perfect place to hang for awhile, before grabbing something a little more substantial in the lounge.
We got to the airport, ready to embark on the journey home. We hit a little speed bump when our flight that was supposed to depart at 12:55am was about three hours late, causing all of us to miss our connections in Miami. However, we re-routed, and ended up with a better itinerary than we had (coming from purchasing the cheapest tickets—at least we knew it couldn’t get any worse!). We exchanged a connection to JFK arriving in Seattle at 10:30pm for a straight flight from Miami to Seattle, arriving at 8:55pm—oh, and an upgraded seat on our international flight. Not such a bad trade! Definitely karma from the crazy flights we had on our way here.