It’s time to finish the subject of Guayaquil. In fact since the very beginning of my stay in Ecuador I knew I was going to be in Guayaquil finally because I had a bus ticket from there to Peru. I was going to spend there about two days, no more, because the vision of the biggest city of Ecuador was rather repelling than appealing. But life is not always as we plan it.
I was sitting in my windowless room in Cuenca and I was going to go to sleep because the midnight was coming, when I got a notification on Tinder (a date application, it’s XXI century, happens to everyone). I don’t often write to girls on Tinder, in fact I don’t use it for few months already, but I decided that it would be really a shame to miss such a pretty girl. I wrote to her. She answered immediately. And we spoke for two hours. I haven’t spoken with any woman so easily since a long time. We decided to meet few days later for a coffee. Two days later I was sitting in a bus going to the coast.
And that’s why I spent so much time in Guayaquil. Then I went to Quito for few days and back to Guayaquil. In December I went for four weeks to Peru and got back to Guayaquil only to learn that my magnificent love wouldn’t work out. It didn’t happen to me for the first time, I was quite down but without a profound depression.
So instead of spending in this ugly city two days, I stayed there for about five weeks before I finally decided to go back to Vilcabamba and to become a cowboy.
Now a bit of the history. Guayaquil was funded in 1547 by Fransisco de Orellana, the first European to navigate the whole Amazon (he got killed on his way back by Indians). The city was attacked few times by English and French pirates, insurgents and Peruvian army. In 1896 a big part burned down. Then, in the second half of the XX century the authorities of “Muy Ilustre Municipalidad de Guayaquil” (Brightly Enlightened Municipality of Guayaquil) decided to replace a non-functional historical wooden villas with concrete buildings, stripping the city of its colonial charm.
The part of the city called Cerro Santa Ana, Saint Ann’s Hill was preserved, though. It’s the oldest part of the city and the place of the first European settlement in Guayaquil. On its bottom lays a neighbourhood of artists and small coffee shops – las Peñas. On the top of the hill next to the old galeon’s trunk cut in half there is a lighthouse with a splendid view on the whole city. Well, it would be splendid if there were anything nice to see.
Through las Peñas neighbourhood you get to Puerto Santa Ana, where Torre the Point, the tallest building of Ecuador is situated. The modern port of Saint Ann is a neighbourhood of office buildings and luxurious apartment blocks where the rent is about 2000$ per month.
Another luxurious neighbourhood in Guayaquil is Plaza Lagos, the Square of Lakes. A small estate making me think of Rome district Eur built during Mussolini’s period or paintings of Giorgio de Chirico. Nice place, very fancy. Expensive restaurants, small modern art gallery and magnificent apartment blocks built on the islands on an artificial lake made of Guayas river’s waters – thus muddy greyish, because there is no other water nearby.
Interesting opposite of beautiful and colourful Cerro Santa Ana is laying in front of it equally colourful Cerro del Carmen – a place where it’s better not to go with a camera hanging on your neck – especially not at night. Traditional colourful houses are inhabited by rather poor people that are many in Guayaquil.
Guayaquil lays upon the river Guayas and its canal called el Salado, the Stream. Upon the canal there is an elegant park situated. There is also a microtheater (interesting institution, quite popular in Latin America – it’s a kind of a coffee shop with small theatre halls where short plays, no longer than a half an hour, usually improvised are exhibited.
Wandering between different parts of Guayaquil I found few view points, neighbourhoods full of family houses, others with coffee shops and restaurants. In the center of the city I discovered a museum which was boring as a museum but rather interesting as a villa from the middle of XX century.
I spent a lot of time reading in Parque Centenario next to which I lived – this neighbourhood deserves mentioning. The center is… well, not too friendly. I was told it’s dangerous. In fact, around the park at night the best represented group are prostitutes and surrounding hostels serve rather as a meeting place than as the actual accommodation for the travellers – unless they get there by mistake. Although even at night you can see children paying football in the street or riding bikes. It has its own charm. Once I went out to smoke my pipe around midnight and I spent an hour talking to a prostitute sitting on a step. My professional curiosity didn’t let me skip the question about the price – 25$ per hour.
The Guayaquilean charm… well, there is some, probably. But very special one. The city is huge. Officially there are 2.5 mln inhabitants, making it the biggest city of the country. Unofficially I heard about almost 4 mln, although it’s still nothing compared to Lima – 8 mln officially, actually over ten. In fact I was relieved leaving noisy and dirty port city of Guayaquil for a peaceful mountain Vilcabamba, even though I haven’t seen everything there. For example I didn’t visit the sanctuary of Our Lady of Częstochowa that the pope John Paul II visited in 1985. It wasn’t on my way. I will probably get back there some day but it doesn’t appeal to me especially. For now I stay in the mountains.