In my previous post, I wrote about the opportunity I received to travel to Guayaquil, Ecuador for one week to volunteer with a local elementary school. It was my first time traveling to South America and I really wasn’t sure what I would be expecting. I tried to Google pictures of what Guayaquil looked like, what Ecuador even looked like and any of the local culture that I would be experiencing. It was hard to find a lot of information, but from what I did find, I’d be eating a lot of seafood and it would be extremely hot and humid. Also, Guayaquil is one of the largest cities, if not the largest, in Ecuador. It serves as the main port for all of Ecuador, which is why their seafood is extremely well known. Although it is one of the larger cities, it is also still impoverished. Much of the area was underdeveloped and the city’s crime rate was also very high. Most of what I researched told me to be careful, not carry around showy items, and try to blend in as much as possible. These travel tips can be applied to all areas, but this was the first time I’d be traveling to South America without my parents, so I was a bit more nervous.
Upon arrival, I realized very quickly that there was truth to the claim that it was going to be very hot and humid. Because Ecuador is right by the equator, they only had two seasons: winter, the hot and rainy season, and summer, the very very hot season. Not much change down there, weather wise! Our group arrived early in the morning (around 1am) and we headed to Escuela Semillita, the elementary school we would be volunteering at. It was so different! The school was an outdoor school, without any air conditioning, just fans. They had an outside courtyard and classrooms had windows, fans and gated doors for air circulation. It was very different from America, but the setting seemed more open and welcome. I learned that this open and welcome vibe carried through out the entire country.
Our first day there, our group visited Cero Santa Ana, Malecon 2000, el parque de las iguanas (the iguana park), and Malecon de Soledad. It was a lot of walking for our first day, and we were all trying to adjust to the climate down in Ecuador. It was great to be tourists traveling around Guayaquil and really getting the chance to see the city that we’d be calling home for the next week.
Cero Santa Ana – is a famous area in Guayaquil, Ecuador that is also known as the “steps”. With about 444 steps to get to the top of the overlook, it was definitely a climb! Walking up the steps, we noticed that they were all numbered starting with one and going all the way up to 444. The climb to the top was definitely worth it, though. There was a beautiful overlook where our group was able to see more of Guayaquil and a lighthouse we were able to climb to see over the city.
Malecon 2000 and Malecon de Soledad – both of these areas were more of tourist areas and a park. Malecon 2000 had Christmas decorations filling the area where children and families can walk around and play. They also had a shopping center for people to walk through and a lot of different restaurants. These two areas are definitely places to walk through/visit while in Guayaquil.
El Parque de las iguanas [The Iguana Park] – The most interesting place that we visited on our first day in Guayaquil, was the iguana park. It was an enclosed area where there were maybe 50+ iguanas roaming around the grounds and people visiting the park can watch them or even pet them! It was interesting to be that close to an iguana and being able to touch it, and it wouldn’t move or even flinch. The park had more than just iguanas, it even had different types of fish, birds, and turtles. What was really entertaining was that while our group was at the park, we were asked to take pictures with a lot of different people or asked where we were from. Traveling with a predominantly white group, a lot of the local people in Ecuador were very surprised to see us! It was definitely a spectacle and we took about 10 pictures with random passer-bys who wanted to show their friends or family.
After our first day of being tourists, we were exhausted! Exploring the city of Guayaquil was not an easy task, especially when it is one of the largest cities in Ecuador! What are some things you enjoy doing most on your first day in a new country?