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20050725_C_00620
Family out on Guayaquil's Malecon

We woke today with no firm plan of where we would end up. If we can we will head out to the coast but the best connections seem to be through Quito. Alex came and dropped us off at the next village on the PanAm so we could get a bus. The first few did not stop but it was only about a ten minute wait until a Patria bus pulled up.

Quito is not far, it was about ninety minutes to the bus station. The road north through the central valley really brought home that this is where the bulk of the population live. Initially still mainly agricultural, roses are a big crop around here, villages were larger and soon merged into a steady stream of habitation. Before we knew it we were in greater Quito.

I am sure the city could rival Rome for the number of hills it is built on. Houses and buildings stretch as far as you can see into the valley and up the mountains. Stef had got talking to a man next to him on the bus who recommended we went to Salinas, Alex had also recommended this place. It is an eight hour bus ride or a thirty minute flight from Quito. The flight won.

Quito airport feels like it is in the middle of the city. I had wondered whether around here there would be enough flat land for an airstrip and there obviously is. There is a small domestic terminal and the next flight south was at 1:00pm, only ninety minutes to wait. The flight was a little bumpy, probably due to air currents off the mountains, but it was smooth enough and over quickly. Quito had felt hot (27C) but it is not a patch on Guayaquil. Here it is not the heat that hits but the humidity.

We took a taxi to our hotel, the Palace, another above budget stay, where we have a large room with all important air conditioning. Having dumped our stuff we then headed down to the Malecon, the new riverfront walkway, for an afternoon stroll. The place was packed, I thought probably just because it was school holidays but having checked Lonely Planet later today is the anniversary of the founding of Guayaquil an yesterday was a fiesta for Bolivar's birthday. No wonder it is heaving.

The Malecon was like Oxford Street on a Saturday afternoon without the shopping bags. The people, heat and humidity made for a very sticky stroll. It is great to see what they have done here though. London would have benefited more from something like this than the Millenium Dome. Lets hope they learn for the 2012 Olympics (we were chuffed to hear we had won!).

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On El Morgan

We saw an open topped bus that does a tour of the city centre and went to find out more. The next one does not go for about an hour, so we passed on that option and ambled back the way we came. We did, though buy tickets for the El Morgan, a fake pirate ship, for a night time hour long cruise up and down the Rio Guayas. In the meantime we headed back to the luxury of our air conned room to chill out - not only was the weather sticky it had made both of us (me more than Stef) a bit tetchy!

The trip on El Morgan was totally touristy but fun also. We were the only non-Ecuadorians aboard and attracted a fair bit of attention. The boat is decked out to look like an old pirate ship, down to the uniforms of the waiting staff and the Jolly Roger flying from the mast. It just cruises up and down the river, totally lazy. We were at the back by the cocktail bar and got chatting to the waiter. He is an Argentinian from Buenos Aires and has moved to Guayaquil to get work. He did not really seem that keen on the place! As today is a holiday he said he had been really busy and was knackered. If the amount of work he did when we were on board was anything to go by he does not know the meaning of hard work. If he served ten drinks in the hour I would be amazed.

The Malecon was absolutely heaving with people, all out enjoying the slightly cooler night air. We rounded off the day with a trip to a local chifa ("Chinky") for dinner but abandoned it with less than half eaten because the portions were so huge.