I was hesitant to fly in to Guayaquil for an overnight stay before departing for the Galapagos Islands, mostly because some Ecuadorians I volunteered with at a kitchen supplying lunches for the elderly kept telling me I would be mugged there. “Don’t go to Guayaquil.” “You won’t like Guayaquil.” The U.S. State Department’s cautions about the place hardly displaced my nervousness. The Youthful Adventurer was accompanying me on this press trip, thus adding to my anxiety about even our intended short stay there. On our shuttle ride from Simon Bolivar International Airport, we passed a large, intimidating graveyard, the bodies stored in crypts stacked close together, with food stands outside it. The place was scary in broad daylight. Normally drawn to cemeteries with history, I was too scared we’d get mugged to venture in.
At the Hotel Oro Verde (a sustainable enterprise listed on the Rainforest Alliance’s travel site), we walked into a Latin world. Accidentally disembarking the elevator on a party floor, we came upon an enormous wedding cake and women that looked like candies themselves in their brightly colored long gowns. Over dinner at El Patio, the hotel’s restaurant, we marveled at my “Coke Lights” in a bottle, and I enjoyed some mushroom ceviche. What was there to be scared of?
I didn’t have much time to ponder that thought because we were up and off the next morning to begin our adventure to the Galapagos. We passed through Guayaquil again on our way back home, but this time I was more emboldened to venture outside. Walking to the nearby Centennial Park, we passed banks with guards carrying big guns. I guess we couldn’t be safer with so much security around us. We had Cokes and our new favorite food, cheese empanadas with a bit of sugar sprinkled on them, before heading back to the hotel, back on the shuttle, back to our world in New York. Like the Big Apple, Guayaquil can intimidate at first, but I’m glad we didn’t shutter ourselves in the safety of our hotel, because we would have missed a city with a lot of spirit.
© Lori Tripoli