|Guayaquil is the largest city in Ecuador and situated at the junction of 2 huge rivers flowing from the mountains down to the coast. It is a busy port town, the largest in Ecuador and the most important on this side of the Pacific ocean. Much of the business done here is through trade and export and although there are some very well off people that live here, a majority of the citizens live well below the poverty line.
Surrounding the edge of the city is a never ending sprawl of ramshackle housing known as 'Invasions'. People come from everywhere to move to the big city in hope of work and money. They set up a home anywhere, very basic, lucky if there is 4 walls and a floor and there are hundreds of thousands of people living in these poorly constructed invasions.
Arriving in Guayaquil to stay with Ivette's family was something we had looked forward to for months and we hoped our Spanish had improved enough to be able to converse with her parents Antonio & Lilyan. They really helped to make us feel at home in their beautiful house and we spent the first weekend visiting some of their farms on the outskirts of the city.
After 5 months on the road we were exhausted at this point, we had been counting how many hours we had on buses during our trip and at this stage we had done almost 3 weeks straight, over 400 hours sitting on buses. We spent a lot of the first week catching up on sleep and getting back to our normal selves, finally we had a great bed and a divine swimming pool just outside our room which we used almost every day.
We already knew Ivette's brother Anwar from Australia and it was great to see a familiar face. He showed us around town and took us to the local botanical gardens where we admired some beautiful tropical orchids and a huge display of mangoes, with more types than we have ever seen before. We were lucky we were in Ecuador for the mango season. They were just delicious and sometimes Antonio after work would bring home over a hundred of the tastiest and juiciest mangoes you can imagine!! We were in heaven, eating mangoes every day.
We also got to try all different types of fruits that the tropics have on offer at this time of year. We tried Zapote, Mamey, Guanabana, Maracuya, Granadilla, Nicaragua, Naranjilla, Taxo and Fruta de Pan just to name a few. Trying new flavours of fruits was a delight to our senses and it is something we will miss about Ecuador as we only got to try a fraction of the fruits available.
One of favourite fruits here was the Platano or Plantain (a variety of green banana). A very versatile fruit, when green and cut into medallions and fried they are called Patacones, and when the fruit ripens to yellow and is cooked whole in the oven they are called Maduro's. Antonio grows them on a few of his farms and there was always a supply at home, so we ate them almost every day and were one of our favourite foods on the whole trip.
Antonio loved to spoil us and show us all the incredible foods that were on offer in Ecuador. Whenever we went out we would stop at the little roadside stalls to sample their wares. He always knew which was the best one to stop at and they all knew who he was and everyone looked after us very well. We tried all sorts of strange local delicacies, from blood sausages to bulls balls, we ate it all. Ryan was definitely more game with the food and never said no to anything, much to Antonio's delight.
One night something incredible happened. We were sitting up late after dinner chatting with the family about religion and god and what its means in their lives. They told us some amazing stories about miracles they know of that have happened to them or people they know. They said that if you ask and believe that anything is possible. That night Alison had a dream all she could remember on awakening was a voice that had said 'The camera is ok'. We knew this really wasn't possible as we had tried numerous times before, almost throwing it in the bin because you could still see water in the lens and it didn't even turn on. Skeptically we put batteries in and what do you know- It worked!! Our camera had come back from the dead and this seriously was a miracle!!
Our little Nikon was not designed to go swimming and we couldn't believe that it was working as normal with no obvious water damage, only with the slightest crack on the side where it had bounced of the bridge. We tried the memory card with our photos of Peru that were in the camera when it fell. The camera couldn't read the card with a message on the screen saying 'No Images' we were a bit crushed we had lost these photos but so happy to have our camera back. The next time we went to the shops we took this card with us. We had both said prayers hoping the thousand or so photos were still there but we really weren't sure. Putting the card into the machine and finding that all the photos were still there was like Christmas for us. We were so happy that we still had these memories on film, as much as the camera surviving was incredible it was the photo's that we really wanted. We are definitely blessed!