Ecuador is a very diverse country and there is something for everyone. At the same
time Ecuador is a small country, tiny compared to a country like Brazil and getting
around is relatively straightforward. The roads range from bad to terrible but the short distances
to travel between places make the trips usually pleasant.
Anita and Emily at the Inca ruins in Cuenca
If you like cities, a great choice of food, stunning architecture, don't want to
travel too far from Vilcabamba and don't mind a slightly colder climate than Loja,
there is no better place than Cuenca, also known as "The Athens of South America".
We will definitely make a point of writing about Cuenca in the nearest possible
For city lovers, there are of course also Quito, the capital city and Guayaquil,
the largest city, both much larger than Cuenca.
If you like ocean and beaches, the Ecuadorian coast offers ample choice of destinations
and of course, there is the ultimate ocean destination, the Galapagos. We haven't
been to the Galapagos yet but we have been to la isla de la Plata, near Puerto Lopez,
nicknamed: "the Galapagos of the poor" because it offers some of the same fauna
and flora for much less dinero.
National Park Machalilla near Puerto Lopez (Playas Las Frailes)
Piquero patas azules (isla de la Plata)
The Orient (jungle) is a truly unique experience and one can get a taste of it without
committing oneself too much by simply going for a day or two to Zamora (see our
neighbouring towns section), or better to Puyo or Tena. Of course, the real deep
jungle experience requires more time and effort as the real exotic destinations
are usually not accessible by car or by bus.
Dance performances in Tena
There is so much more: active volcanoes, lakes, glaciers, caves, you name it.
In this guide, we will cover some of the highlights of our own journeys, without
trying to be comprehensive or objective, rather trying to be interesting.
By Anita Evans
Personally, it a strange way, I don’t mind Guayaquil (for a day or two that is).
I have never felt unsafe there. However, we do stick to the main streets and tourist
areas and stay in a good hotel. There is enough to do in the CBD to entertain you
for two days.
It’s a bloody busy city! Traffic for as far as you can see and the pollution to
go with it. We generally use local taxis however, we do ‘check’ the look of the
taxi driver and go by our gut feeling a lot. There are great shopping malls if you
want to get a mall fix. There is Burger king, KFC, MacDonald’s if you need your
junk food fix. It’s a big city that is a mixture of slums and up market flash gated
Driving in G
I must give credit where credit is due and take my hat off to Pierre. He can drive
around G!! This is by no means for the faint hearted. The traffic in G is diabolical
and crazy and noisy and just plain mad. There are no identifying land marks, hardly
any street names and a one way system to boot! You find yourself driving in some
real slums where you hope like hell you don’t need to stop for any reason. As you
enter G from the West (coming back from the coast) you go past lots of HUGE gated
communities where I guess the wealthy locals live. When you head towards the coast
you go through La Puntilla, which is an up market gated housing area.
There is a ring road that surrounds the city but getting on it in the right direction
and then finding the exit you need is a game of patience and luck! Pierre can do
it. He has navigated G multiple times now from the airport and the bus terminal,
to finding the coast road and finding your way into and out of the CBD. In
the day and in the NIGHT!
This is the place we have stayed at a few times when in Guayaquil. Pierre calls
it "a soft landing spot". When landing in Ecuador from a western country such as
New Zealand it helps to adjust a bit to have one night in a place that does not
look too "Ecuadorian". It is not the cheapest option (nor the dearest). However,
we have always received very good service here. The rooms are spacious and comfortable.
They have a good restaurant and do a very good buffet breakfast. The location is
right in the heart of the CBD so it is easy to get to places like the Iguana Park,
the water front and the 444 steps from the hotel.
For more information to the website for the hotel. http://www.hotelpalaceguayaquil.com.ec/
The Iguana Park in Guayaquil is a family favorite park to visit. Sometimes we take
a bunch of bananas with us. Find a park bench (preferably not under a tree) and
hold a few bananas out at ground level and within a minute the Iguana’s start making
their way to us.
They can move these animals when they want to! And they can smell, especially bananas.
Then, well put a banana on our lap and UP they come! They are expert climbers so
legs with jeans on them pose absolutely no challenge to them at all. You do not
want to try this without jeans on as these animals have long, hard as nails, razor
sharp and you will feel them through your jeans. Just don’t tense up and laugh and
relax and within seconds you will have an Iguana or two on your lap happily eating
the banana. If you want them off you then just put a banana on the ground and viola
they’ll follow it.
They are amazing to touch! I love to gently place my hand over the side of one and
let it rest there, feeling the breathing and energy as the rib cage rises and falls.
It’s an energy that goes back to prehistoric times.
Respect these creature, respect all creatures great and small we are all connected.
So, DON’T pull their tails.
Warning! Be aware, very aware of where you sit or stand in this park. LOOK UP!!
You will see 100’s of Iguana’s resting in the trees above you. Hmmm…. What happens
when an animal high up shits or pee’s?? Hmmm……. What happens when you are standing
under a tree filled with animals above your head and one of the ones that is directly
above you decides to relieve itself? Splat!!! Is what happens on your head and shoulders!
Trust me I’ve seen this happen.
For those who want a work out or just a challenging walk and a great view of Guayaquil
there are the 444 steps. Take water with you. There are places to rest along the
way and restaurants if you need to refill for more energy. The houses that line
the walk have been done up. However, do not venture off the steps. The surrounding
area is very run down, to put it basically it’s a slum and dangerous. Tourist police
will stop you leaving the steps if they see you trying too!
Another spot we visit when in G is the promenade (Malecon). It is in complete contrast
to the CBD which is old and grey and reminds me of Sydney’s CBD. The promenade is
new and modern and very nice indeed. With big play grounds for the kids to play
on, restaurants, rest areas etc. You can walk the promenade and at the North end
find yourself at the bottom of the 444 steps.
Machala is the coastal city nearest to Loja. It takes about 6 hours by bus to get there with the Loja Internacional. Then a short taxi drive ($3) to the port (Puerto Bolivar) and the real fun begins.
A small but comfortable boat will take you from the mooring to the island. It only takes about 20 minutes but you'd want it to take more because the scenery is stunning.
After 5 minutes in the harbour the boat enters the jambeli mangrove and from there on you are in a quiet protected space where you can observe quite a bit of wildlife (especially birds) right from the boat.
Ubicada en la Provincia del Oro, Machala es la ciudad costera más cercana a Loja. Se tarda alrededor de 6 horas en autobús desde Loja para llegar hasta allí con la cooperativa Loja Internacional. Luego un corto paseo en taxi ($ 3) al puerto (Puerto Bolívar) y la verdadera diversión empieza.
Una lancha pequeña pero cómoda le llevará desde el puerto hasta la isla. Solamente se tarda unos 20 minutos, pero querría que tome más tiempo porque el paisaje es realmente impresionante.
La Ramada de Noe, hospedaje a precio comodo en la isla de Jambeli Machala