Jul 18, 2009

Guayaquil: the city of ick

In all of my travels, have I ever disliked a city as much as I dislike Guayaquil? Thinkthinkthink….I didn’t much care for Andorra, but that was mostly due to my own stupidity – a story for another day. Other than that, nothing comes to mind. And I was expecting to like it. A nice lady on my flight from Panama to Quito told me the city was new and very modern and beautiful. She said I would love it. And dang it, I believed her.

It may have some new buildings, but it’s not modern or beautiful. It’s loud and stinky and dirty. There’s garbage everywhere. Yes, I know, that’s typical for a poor country like Ecuador. We’re talking about a place where if you eat an ice cream on the bus, you open the window and let the wrapper flutter away when you’re done. But in Guayaquil there’s more. In piles in the middle of the street, like a dump truck lost its load at a red light. And it’s hot and muggy and constantly smells like rotten food and burning rubber. It does have a nice waterfront walkway, and a cool iguana park where dozens of iguanas wander free. That’s it for the plus side. It’s the first place in Ecuador where I haven’t felt safe walking at night.

We got here three days ago, and I didn’t think that was enough time to really explore the city. After half a day, I was done. Fortunately Nathan had a few natural reserves nearby for us to visit, so we haven’t been spending all that much time in this horrid place. Yesterday was spent at Maglares Churute Ecological Reserve, 48km south of Guayaquil. A friendly guide that only spoke Spanish took us on a challenging hike through the bush. Along the way we were haunted by a demonic moaning and wailing, a horrible, bone chilling sound. Howler monkeys. Not something I would want to be woken to in the middle of the night while camping, that’s for sure. If you’ve never heard a group of howler monkeys just hanging out in the trees, you’re missing out. I've tried to link a video of one at the bottom of this post. The video quality isn't great, but crank up the volume and get an idea of the sound. If the video doesn't work, my apologies (it's my first time).

The mosquitoes were disgusting – they were not at all deterred by Angie’s 98% deet. Nathan walked away with over 100 bites, one actually inside his mouth.
We also went to see mangrove trees, a spindly sort of tree that grows in salt water. Once again we found ourselves riding in the back of a pickup truck. Only this time it wasn’t so charming, barreling down the freeway with massive trucks and buses whistling pass and the back hatch crashing open, threaten to suck our bags and hats right out the back.

Today we visited another reserve, that’s name escapes me at the moment. It had 100% less mosquitoes, and a guide that spoke English, so it was the more enjoyable trip. Although, there were no cool monkeys. Just huge trees that looked like they had a greenish elephant hide for bark, several little lizards and butterflies, and some birds for Angie and Nathan.

Oh, and I saw my first live tarantula in the wild. It wasn’t that bad, mostly because it had been paralyzed by a tarantula wasp. They sting the tarantula to paralyze it, then lay a bunch of eggs inside it. The wasp drags the tarantula to a little shelter, and while the spider is still alive the eggs hatch, and start to eat it from the inside out. We witnessed this wonderful natural event right after the wasp had stung the tarantula, and it was flying around looking for a place to hide its prey. And while I didn’t have my measuring tape with me, I’m pretty sure this wasp was three inches long, at least. That’s a freaking big wasp.

Tomorrow bright and early to fly to…wait for it….wait….The Galapagos! I’m assuming there won’t be wireless on our boat, so no blog posts for a while.

1 comment:

Matt said...

After my visit to the Victoria Bug Zoo last year, I'm actually quite fond of tarantulas, especially after I heard they would rather run from a large predator (read:me) than use any of their precious venom (which it needs for food).
Also, I understand that they're incredibly fragile, and a fall of just a few feet would kill one.
Honestly, the three inch wasp sounds more menacing to me!

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