Cuenca by Day, Guayaquil by Night
This morning began with breakfast at the hotel. If you ever go to Cuenca, I highly recommend the Hotel Posada del Rey. My room was clean, the staff was friendly and spoke English, it’s right in the middle of everything, and the breakfast which would have cost $10 in the U.S. came with the $30 room. 🙂
Then it was off for a little more shopping, but mostly just walking around. I meandered everywhere. I just love the extraordinary mix of hustle and bustle with laid-back Latin American. And I did my usual people-watching. One thing I noticed was the relaxed attitude parents have toward the children, who seemed to be fellow adventurers with me. They wandered the markets, played with stick horses and then put them back for sale, and found all kinds of mischief that no one else seemed to care a whit about. There is something to be said for this approach, judging from their apparently universal happiness.
As noon drew near, I headed back to the hotel for checkout. I’ve accumulated so much stuff that I may have to buy another suitcase to get home. So, I loaded up like a pack mule and walked the 20 blocks to the bus terminal. I took my time, even stopping to sit in a street market about halfway there. As I sat, a nearby vendor pulled out a hammer and started breaking what appeared to be large black walnuts. She brought one over to me, opened it up and let me sample it. It was shaped like a walnut, and the meat looked like walnut, but it tasted much sweeter. Maybe heating it changed the taste. Or maybe it wasn’t a walnut at all.
I got to the bus terminal just in time to board immediately for the bus to Guayaquil. More spectacular scenery. I was on the opposite side this time, and saw things I did not see en route to Cuenca. Like a few small towns or villages that seemed to have located where they were for no apparent reason. And I noticed that the clouds and mist made the mountains cooler than Cuenca, and that people who had built houses had cleverly put them directly in the sunny spots.
We arrived in Guayaquil at 6 p.m. I had been told to pay $5 for the cab to my hotel when I arrived, but I was charged $7. Then, when I was transported from the hotel yesterday, I was charged $6. So, determined, I pulled out the hotel address and a $5 bill, and walked into the taxi zone. As a man approached, I boldly handed him the address and said, “This place, for $5.” If he had said $7 or $6, I was going to keep shopping. He nodded, and I felt victorious. Then he told a young man to take me, and handed him the address. I realized that this wasn’t the taxi driver at all, he was something like a supervisor, directing all the drivers. If he had refused the $5, I would have been shut down. Ay, what a gringo!
My hotel here is in an area of town that seems run down. I’m assured that I am safe, but it reminds me of places in Atlanta where I would not feel so safe. But I was hungry, and so ventured out two blocks for food. I found a Ecuadorian Chinese Restaurant. Boy, was that confusing. Across the street was a small fast food stand. I paid $2 for a sub sandwich and a Coke, and decided to eat it in my room.
I rendezvous with Greg and Debby tomorrow, and head for Bahia. While I was out getting my supper, a bus passed me with “Bahia” in the window. I genuinely think you can get from anywhere in this country to anywhere else in this country on a bus with very little inconvenience. But Greg’s braver than I, and he’s rented a car. I’m just glad it will be him driving, not me. These drivers zigzag around the road like screen savers, and they have a series of hand signals and beeps that they seem to understand. But, with the exception of one hand signal that I recognized very clearly, I don’t know that language any better than Spanish.