It was my last day in Ecuador, and really the goal for the day was to kill time until my 11:30pm flight from Guayaquil to Fort Lauderdale. Luckily I wasn’t alone. Jeanette and Marisa were also stuck in town for a bit longer, so we decided to do a bit of gallivanting along the port town of Guayaquil.
We had breakfast at the hotel, which was probably the nicest breakfast we’d had on the trip. We ran into Rachel and Austin downstairs too. It felt weird that there were only a handful of us left.
Marisa, Jeanette and I decided to explore the lighthouse district with our free morning, which according to Mayra was the nicer part of town. To get there we walked along the waterfront, where we’d had our pirate ship departure the night before. I snapped a couple more pictures in daylight so you can really see what that looked like.
We continued to the lighthouse district, passing by the little theme park at the waterfront. We almost tried to walk down here last night after the pirate ship to ride the ferris wheel, but someone had mentioned that it was too far. It definitely wasn’t that bad. I kind of wish we’d tried.
Past the theme park we found a little craft market, where a couple of us purchased some last minute jewelry. Mayra had told us on the first day of our trip about an Ecuadorian quirk known as “Yapa,” which translates roughly to “bonus.” Basically if you go to a store and spend a decent amount of money, you can ask “e yapa?” and they might give you something a little extra. Considering it was my last day in Ecuador, I figured I’d give it a try. The shopkeeper handed me my purchases and shyly with a smile I squeaked, “e yapa?” He looked at me confused. I don’t think he’d heard me. Thankfully Jeanette was there and had my back. She repeated my request in a Spanish full sentence. He smiled and started fumbling around looking for something to give me. He settled on a little black bracelet with a rose gold tree charm. I was very excited about it. It worked! Hah!
We reached the colorful collection of buildings that served as the entrance to the lighthouse hill and right away I was charmed. I’m a sucker for a brightly colored neighborhood, and this one was the prettiest we’d seen on the trip. It didn’t hurt that we’d finally found some nice weather.
Now, to get to the actual lighthouse, we had to climb up four hundred and forty-four steps. The real name for this Contiki tour needed to be “a climbing tour of Ecuador,” because that’s what it certainly felt like. But eh, if there was a proper way to cap off this tour, it was with climbing. After buying some waters, and taking many a break, the three of us summited the lighthouse hill and got our panoramic view of Guayaquil.
After a bit of a break at the top, we descended and returned to sea level. We’d seen some people getting dressed up to perform some sort of dance, and I’m a sucker for a performance of any kind, so we putted around for a little while until they got their show together. I got a delicious cappuccino at the café nearby. There was also a cute little sign in the shop—translation: “A cup of coffee won’t change the world but it’s a start.”
We saw a little bit of the dance performance, which was fun. I loved their dresses. But it was getting close to time for Marisa’s flight, so we wanted to get her back to the hotel to get her bags.
On the way back we had a run-in with some guys who tried to sneak into Marisa’s backpack, so that wasn’t fun. But it was evened out by the excitement of running into an iguana walking on the sidewalk. You win some, you lose some.
We returned to our hotel and helped Marisa get her stuff together and sent her on her way to the airport. If you’re reading this, thanks for being a great roomie!
That left Jeanette and I to find our own fun for the remainder of the afternoon. Well, first of all, she had gotten a cheaper hotel a block down, so we took on the task of getting her checked in to the new establishment. It wound up being quite an adventure. First of all, the front desk lady was adamant that I could only stay in her room with her for 20 minutes. Which, like, ok. I get it that you don’t want us trying to pay for a single room for two people, but she was kind of a jerk about it. We took the elevator up to the right floor. There were no interior doors on the elevator so you saw the walls passing by as you ascended. That was disorienting.
We got to the room and it was definitely a downgrade from our hotel down the street. Bed was kind of sketchy. The tv was ancient. The air conditioner made up its own rules when deciding temperature. And lastly, when I went to the bathroom, I closed the door, and revealed, from the door’s crevice, a pair of Fruit of the Loom tighty whitie underwear.
So we very quickly left that place and went for a walk. Nearby there was a park famous for iguanas. We certainly found them! And a bunch of turtles! But there were also a lot of aggressive pigeons in the park so we didn’t stay too long.
Guayaquil had the waterfront, the lighthouse district, and that was kind of it. We tried to go in search of entertainment. There had been a museum that Mayra had mentioned was free. It was closed. We walked around a shopping mall. It was kind of weird. We went through an outdoor market. It was pretty sketchy. Finally we settled on getting a McDonald’s lunch so we could chill out in the air conditioning.
Whilst eating, Jeanette said that she wanted to cancel her hotel and return to the group’s hotel from the previous night. I supported that decision wholeheartedly. The air-conditioned, clean, underwear-free establishment was a steep upgrade, even if she had to pay more money. So we returned to her other hotel, cancelled her reservation, grabbed her stuff, and returned to Hotel Palace (yep, that’s its fitting title).
We spent the next few hours cooling off in her hotel room. I was able to get my suitcases from the luggage room downstairs and bring them to her room too, and change into something that didn’t smell like sweat. I wrote a little bit. We watched Spongebob in Spanish and Jeanette streamed The Bachelorette and Below Deck on her phone. The trip was definitely winding down.
Soon it was time for me to head to the airport, and we said our last goodbyes. Thanks for letting me chill, Jeanette. Couldn’t have asked for a better last-day buddy.
Immigration was a nightmare at the airport. I still don’t know what the hold-up was, but the line was at a standstill for a solid thirty minutes. I was starting to get afraid that I’d miss my flight. But I did make friends in line with a nice woman named Sofia. She’s from Virginia but she grew up in Ecuador, and had just dropped off her parents, who were retiring there. We shared some travel stories and bonded over our shared career of teaching. I also told her about Contiki, which she planned to pass on to her son, who is desperate to travel. After we’d made it through security she treated me to a glass of wine. We were making the best of our less-than-pleasant airport experience. Thanks Sofia!
After my carry-on was pulled for a last-minute security check (of course) I was the last one to board my plane. I secured my window seat, buckled up, and glued my face to the window as we left Ecuador for home.
I found myself crying again as we took off. I hate to be that dramatic person but this trip was really transformative. I had to face so many fears during this trip. Even before I left I had to overcome my fear of needles to get a yellow fever vaccine. That cave in Tena was the arachnophobe’s worst nightmare. Heights have never bothered me, but that bridge in Baños certainly awoke some new aversion to them. And we’re not even gonna talk about canyoning. But there’s nothing more empowering than admitting you have a fear, doing the scary thing anyway, and coming out safe on the other side.
In the last entry of a trip, I always try to do a recap, or make some final remarks of some kind, and I’m struggling to come up with how to do that for Ecuador. How do I boil this week into a series of impressions? It’s gonna be hard, but I’m gonna give it a shot. Here we go. Ecuador in a Nutshell, Presented by Christina:
*There are dogs everywhere. Social, happy, sweet dogs that like being pet. If you stop they’ll nudge you until you start up again.
*You don’t flush toilet paper in Ecuador, you put it in the trash bin. The plumbing can’t handle it. I kept forgetting to do this. If there’s a story in the news about the plumbing system in Ecuador collapsing, it’s probably my fault
*If you get 100% deet bug spray in your eye, your eye will be red for a whole week. Learned that the hard way. I looked diseased.
*If more people had to experience trying to successfully communicate with a language barrier, the world would be a much more peaceful place. No need to get frustrated. Just be patient, use teamwork and sign language. Everybody’s happy.
*I was on meds all week that messed with my appetite, so that may have been a factor, but the food was just okay in my opinion. But we did have some highlights. Barbecue. Jungle mushrooms. Hotel pizza. The best pineapple in the world…
*People are selling food everywhere. In the middle of a town square there’s a dude with an open barbecue full of meat. On the side of the highway a lady has a cooler full of ice cream bars. Cars stop at a traffic light and people come down the lanes selling water and churros.
*Everyone is so nice. SO nice. Don’t speak Spanish? That’s okay. We’ll figure it out. “E yapa?” Of course! With a smile. Tour guides, waiters, cab drivers, hotel employees, shopkeepers, nice people, little kids on the street. Everyone’s nice.
*Jeanette told me I was good enough at salsa dancing that I must have Latin heritage. I’m wearing that compliment like a badge of honor until the day I die.
*Fire water. Don’t drink it. No bueno. No me gusta.
*Comfort zones are there to be broken. Seriously. I’m not saying everyone should go jump off a waterfall, but if you’re looking for empowerment, you should do something that scares you.
People are probably wondering now, “Ok Christina, what do you prefer? Exploration of European cities or an adventure in a developing country?” I’m going to do that annoying thing and say that you can’t compare them. Ecuador didn’t have awe-inspiring architecture, fairy tale palaces, bellinis, schnitzel, or turquoise lakes. But then again, Europe doesn’t have equator shenanigans, the rainforest, scary rock walls, or romantic salsa nights. I can’t say which I like better.
All I know is that I’m looking at my scratch map. And while I know Turkey and Scandinavia are already booked, I’ve got my eye on other destinations that may push my comfort zones. I’m looking at you, Southeast Asia.
Until next time, Adios. (Don’t worry, it won’t be long. I leave for Turkey on Wednesday.)