This is a bittersweet moment as it will be my last journal entry for this trip. It will also be a shorter entry as I have had little opportunity to play “tourist” over the last few weeks. However, I did get a chance to stay in two amazing cities along the Ecuadorian coast in Manta and Guayaquil. I would be remiss if I didn’t take the opportunity to describe my experience in these wonderful cities before signing off.
Manta- I originally was not planning on going to Manta, a mid-size Ecuadorian coastal city about three hours north of Guayaquil. However, I changed my mind when I had decided to head back to the United States rather than continue my journey into Peru. In order to get an extra week out of my trip, I added it to the itinerary and I am glad I did. From Montañita, I caught a passing bus to Manta which cost $4 USD and took about 4 hours. Initially, I was confused when I arrived because the bus terminal was on the outskirts of the city and the surrounding area of my hotel looked nothing like the sunny beach destination found through a Google search. However, I would go on to discover that despite the hotel being nice it was in a horrible location. Despite this fact, I ended up staying for 2 nights because I was tired and I wanted time to look for something better. I ended up moving to a nice little bed and break in the upscale neighborhood of Barbasquillo. While it was also outside of the center, my room had an ocean view there was a really nice commercial plaza within walking distance. As for the city itself, I really enjoyed Manta. In fact, if you offered me an opportunity to live in Ecuador, I would choose to live in Manta. Aside from the tropical weather, the beach was clean and the water was more pleasant to swim in than the beach towns down south (Salinas, Montañita). It was a small enough city to where the public transportation was cheap and simple (only 17 buses which are conveniently numbered 1-17) to get around. However, it was big enough to where there was Uber capability available if needed. The city’s main attraction was Mall del Pacifico which was a four story modern commercial center with high-end shopping, upscale restaurants, and a movie theatre. It was conveniently located across from the tourist beach. Manta reminded me of Fort Lauderdale in that it was nice but not overwhelming like Guayaquil. I stayed in Manta for about a week mostly hanging out in my ocean-view room and shopping at Mall del Pacifico.
Guayaquil- My first time staying in Guayaquil was a few weeks back when I was traveling from Cuenca to Salinas. I was aware that Guayaquil was Ecuador’s most populous city however, I was overwhelmed by the sheer amount of people I would encounter at the bus terminal (made worse by the fact it was a holiday weekend). It took my Uber driver an hour to pick me up and get me to my hotel. However, my most recent trip went a lot smoother and I was able to enjoy the city. I took a bus from Manta for $6 USD and the trip took a little over 3 hours. To me, Guayaquil felt more like a capital city than Quito. It was bigger, had better infrastructure, and was home to many national and international financial headquarters. I stayed in a basic hotel right around the corner from the city’s central park. Leading up to the park was the main tourist corridor filled with restaurants, department stores, and smaller parks. In addition, Guayaquil was one of two places I visited in Ecuador that had an active nightlife and club scene (Montañita being the other). Along the water was the cities main attraction, known as El Malecon 2000. It was similar to Santa Monica Pier in Los Angeles with theme parks and ice cream stalls strewn along the 2.5 kilometer boardwalk. The best part of the city were the street vendors which sold various items at below market value. For example, I bought $16 USD Samsung headphones for $2 USD. While it doesn’t have a historical sector like Quito, there were a few European style buildings which allowed for good photo opportunities. In addition, the city has an international airport which is convenient for those catching flights to the Galapagos Islands. Despite its modernity and size, Guayaquil still maintains a little of the natural beauty found throughout the rest of the country as one doesn’t have to walk to far down the Malecon 2000 to find a family of iguanas or turtles.
For the last 21 weeks, I have been on the road. What started as a volunteer mission in Puerto Rico ended with me typing this final journal entry in my hotel room in Guayaquil, Ecuador. I didn’t know what was waiting for me when I got on that airplane on July 1st, but I knew it would be something special. Indeed, these last few months have been the best months of my 30 years on this earth. Not only did I learn about the world around me, but I learned more about myself in the process. The question going for is not IF I will do this again, but rather WHEN and WHERE my next trip will be. That is a question that I hope to have answered in the near future, but for now I will forever be grateful for both this opportunity as well as those of you who took the time to follow along by reading my blog. Until next time.
Keep living the high life on a low budget.