We made a huge mistake.
We wanted to spend the next few days riding the entire length of the western coast of Ecuador, hopping from beach town to beach town. As you can tell from the map above, that didn't happen.
Crossing the bridge to Bahia de Caraquez
We stopped for lunch in the town of Manta, called the Capital del Atun (Tuna Capital of Ecuador)
There's a huge statue of a tuna fish in the background somewhere behind all the luggage and Neda
It all seemed to go according to plan until we reached Manta. As we entered the city, hot winds from the coast blew the overpowering stench of the fisheries up into the insides of our helmets, forcing us to hold our breaths as we rode. As it was getting well past lunchtime, the smell did nothing to dampen our appetite and we stopped for a nice seafood meal by the coast.
We somehow got turned around as we exited the city and headed inland instead of following the coastal road south. Why yes, we do both have GPSs, why do you ask...?
In fact, it was our GPSs that steered us wrong. You'd think that after years of experience second-guessing the GPS maps that we would have figured it out by now. The moment we realized we had gone the wrong way was when the skies decided to sling heavy rain at us. Checking the GPS, it was too late in the day and we were too far inland to turn back north. The only route directly westwards towards the coast was a dodgy dirt road through the mountains of the Machalilla National Park. Not something we wanted to do in the dark and the rain.
We had not planned to go back to the land of big cities for another week or so, but Guayaquil beckoned to us, the closest viable haven from the pouring rain. We forged on.
Bow Chicka Wow Wow!
We arrived in Guayaquil in pitch dark, with the heavy rain falling all around us. Not knowing where any of the hotels were, I turned to the only resource we had (and also the tool that got us lost in the first place). Our GPS said there was a hotel a hundred meters from where we were in the outskirts of the city. We turned the corner and saw the lights of a brilliant neon apple lit up in the sky. It was advertising a Love Hotel. Apple: as in Adam and Eve, Original Sin, etc.
We were wet and cold. It would have to do.
Inside, we warmed up to the 24-hours-a-day porn channel. The plastic under-bedding made crinkly noises beneath us and in the mirror above the bed, we watched ourselves slowly drift off into a fatigue-induced unconsciousness. As the rain raged on outside, I had strange dreams about riding in and out of long, dark tunnels. Oh, and of lots of boobies too.
Leaving the Apple-licious Palace of Porn in the morning
We rode to the centre of the city and parked ourselves and our bikes at a McDonalds for a healthy helping of wi-fi and fries to try to find a place to stay for a couple of nights. Although not Ecuador's capital city, Guayaquil is the economic centre of the country and its largest city. We had no problems finding accommodations within our budget.
Checking into the hotel, we found to our surprise that they carried the same Apple-shaped soap and towels that our Love Hotel had last night. They were owned by the same company! LOL!
Riding around Guayaquil, looking for a place to stay
Since we were in a large city, we decided to head to the shopping mall to see if I could find a waterproof camera, especially with all the rain we've been riding through.
Oooh... motorcycle racing! What was I looking for again?
Chair. I think I was looking for a chair...
Taking a walk around downtown Guayaquil
A popular haircut for dogs in Latin America: all business up top, party on the bottom
Outside the Church of San Francisco
Malecon 2000 - Guayaquil's main tourist attraction
Late in 1999, the city unveiled a new tourist boardwalk for the next millennium. Called Malecon 2000, it stretches for over 2 kms along the shoreline of the Guayas River, boasting plenty of fancy stores, restaurants and theaters for tourists to spend their money. Another attraction is the tall ship, Guayas, you can see it docked in the photo above. It's both a symbol and ambassador of the city, as it travels across the Americas.
Amusement park on the Malecon 2000
Just in case we forgot where we were...
At regular intervals on the Malecon, these nautical-themed outlooks provide a great view of the river and city
The pretty Malecon is a popular place for wedding photos!
Right across the street is the flea market where the locals shop
Only gringos spend money on the tourist trap that is the Malecon 2000. All the locals instead walk across the street to the long and crowded line of stalls and storefronts that sell everything at a fraction of the cost!
Hanging out with the statues outside the government buildings. Neda is practicing being a politician
The downtown core is a mix of beautifully painted colonial buildings and newer skyscrapers
This is actually the second time we've been to Guayaquil. Our flight from Quito to the Galapagos Islands made a short stopover here, and as the plane circled for landing, the distinct neighbourhood of Sanata Ana rising up like a multi-coloured hill was very striking amongst the grey backdrop of the rest of the city.
Colourful colonial architecture of Santa Ana neighbourhood
Daily life in Santa Ana
At the northern end of the city, the Malecon ends at Santa Ana, and we walk up the well-marked staircase past beautifully painted buildings boasting high-end hotels, restaurants and stores upwards to where most of the denizens of the hill lived and up to the very top where we were treated to a birds-eye view of the city, Malecon and the river.
Taking a breather at the top after climbing countless number of stairs
The tiny chapel at the top of Santa Ana hill, overlooking the city
Guayaquil was a really nice city to walk around in, but it was still a city nonetheless: lots of traffic and noise. We felt like we really missed out by bypassing the coast. Our two days on the beach in Canoa was not nearly enough time away from civilization, so we're going to keep looking for somewhere quiet to hang out for a while.