This is the blog I would have written contemporaneously, had I not been so overwhelmed by an extraordinary experience! Revisiting it exactly year later seems like a good way of reviving and reflecting on my memories.
Day 1 – Easter Sunday 20th April
We arrived at the Pacific port city of Guyaquil in the mid-evening of Easter Sunday, to be hit by a wall of heat and humidity. Our transfer took us past some fascinating sculptures and modern buildings then along a cobbled lane in the recently restored historic area of Las Penas, below Santa Ana hill, a mass of brightly coloured buildings, to Mansion del Rio. The house was built in 1926 by a British businessman, father of the ballet dancer and choreographer Sir Frederick Ashton. It is a fabulous house with high ceilings, elaborate furnishings and decoration, and paintings in gilded frames.
Day 2 – Easter Monday 21st April 2014
We awoke to find views of the very wide river, and of birds and butterflies. A guide and driver collected us for a tour of the city, firstly taking us over one of the rivers to the Parque Historico. Unfortunately the endangered animals section is closed on Mondays but we were able to see the architecture area of rebuilt houses and the traditions section with interesting plants and demonstration gardens with coffee, cacao (whose flowers grow straight from the tree trunks and branches) and sugar, among other crops. I spotted an iguana as it rushed off then stopped at the base of a tree, as if posing for photos.
Next we were taken into the city centre and the Cathedral with some fine stained glass. Across the road was the Plaza Bolivar or “Park of the Iguanas”; a few years ago some boys brought back some iguanas from the mountains, and when they grew too big their parents made them dump them. There are now huge numbers in quite a small square, and they didn’t seem to mind being among so many people.Finally we returned to our “home” area where we were shown the 400+ steps up Santa Ana hill. In a nice little market/gallery we were particularly taken with some superb small works by a well-known artist, particularly focusing on the hands. Then we walked along the lane and went in a government building to see the interior and the views. We stopped for a refreshing tamarind drink from a street vendor and continued to a new built area on the river of shops and houses with a fantastic wavy office block. Silos behind the riverfront had been converted from brewery use to flats! Our guide left us here and we strolled back along the lane and across the main road to the Malecon 2000, a regeneration project which created an attractive riverside promenade. We enjoyed tea and ice cream watching ducks and geese in a lake, and a tabby cat hunting and catching small prey! Further on we watched herons feeding on the shore of the river, then on the way back another heron trying to swallow a huge fish. Keith decided to climb the 400 steps and I decided not to!
That everything we went to Artur’s Cafe just over the road, where we enjoyed sea bass while watching the torrential rain.