Ecuador, Guayaquil & Salinas
Dec 13, 2008
|We returned to Guayaquil to stay with the family for Christmas and New Year. Getting back to our South American home really made us realise how much travelling we had done and how much the simple things like a good bed and hot shower were important to us. We spent the next few weeks considering our options of what to do next. Originally we had thought we would go further north into Columbia and Central America but our bodies were telling us otherwise. We were tired and after spending time with the family we realised how much we were missing ours at home.
The week before Christmas Antonio took us to his Finca de Vacas, or Dairy/Cattle farm. It was about a 5 hour drive from Guayaquil, halfway between there and Quito. A beautiful location set on a river with green rolling hills and plenty of trees. We got to sample some of the fresh cheese they make here everyday. We had eaten the same cheese at the house but nothing compared to the freshness, eaten with a side of Patacones it was amazing.
Our other favourite place we got to visit many times was a farm with a private zoo in Chongon, about half a hour from their home. It was Antonio's chicken and pig farm where they produce eggs and ham. As he was often busy managing the farm and the workers we got lots of time to hang out with the animals. There was a huge range- lions, monkeys, deer, llamas, ostriches, jaguar, puma, tapir, a spectacled bear (indigenous bear of Ecuador) and lots of cayman in the lake. One of the lionesses was very affectionate and came up to the cage for a pat and a scratch, we never thought we would get to touch a lion!
One day Antonio got a call from the local police who had seized illegal animals on a truck that had been mistreated and they asked him to look after them on the farm. He was more than happy to and his collection of animals almost doubled while we were there. He got a giant Galapagos tortoise, macaws, monkeys, a sloth and a huge lion and lioness that hadn't eaten for weeks. We went the day after they arrived and the lions looked very tired but after eating a whole pig each, their first meal in a month, things were looking up for them. In the future Antonio hopes to open the zoo to the public as there is no other zoo like this in Guayaquil.
The other farm we visited was a flower farm where they grow Heliconias to export to Europe. These amazing tropical flowers have a texture like plastic making them ideal for export because they last so long once they are cut. There was a huge variety of colours and shapes and we have included pictures of some of our favourites.
Christmas in Ecuador began with a huge midnight feast on Christmas Eve. With the whole family getting together and eating till the wee hours of the morning. After a sleep we had a barbecue for Lilyan's mums birthday which is the same day. Lots more food and a few drinks later we were getting salsa lessons from the young and old. It was a great Christmas but we were missing our families as well at this special time of year.
A few days after Christmas we set off for Salina's, one of Ecuador's most popular beaches, especially at new years when thousands of people flock there from the city to party. All week we had seen well made figurines of everything from politicians to movie monsters, this tradition known as Año Viejo (Old Year) is celebrated at midnight when they burn all these idols to bring in the new year. The fireworks at this time of year are everywhere, you can buy them on the street corner and Antonio made sure we had a big supply to let off.
The night started with a family dinner at a hotel overlooking the beach. Ivette's oldest brother Omar and his wife and kids came as well. Close to midnight we left for the beach carrying a life size figurine of their president and lots of fireworks. Looking up the beach there were at least 20 big bonfires raging with hundreds of fireworks going off-it was chaos. People were running and throwing bags of homemade explosives into the fire, it was hot and dangerous but it all added to the atmosphere. We all took turns lighting rockets and throwing bombs into the fire, we were like kids on cracker night. At midnight a huge display of organised fireworks went off and they set fire to all the figurines that people had piled together. It was a really great night and we spent the next few days relaxing at the beach.
Getting back to Guayaquil we knew now that we were close to leaving the family and Ecuador and we weren't looking forward to packing up and leaving what felt like our second home. We really felt that in our time in Ecuador we had seen and learnt so much and our Spanish had improved heaps, it was hard to tear ourselves away. In the first week of January Anwar left to go to Australia and a big part of us wanted to be on that plane with him, going home, but we knew we had a bit longer before we were there.
It was sad saying goodbye, we were so grateful for their hospitality and we had become a part of their family. After a few days of procrastinating we left on a bus to the north of Peru. Ecuador is such an amazing country, it is one of the most bio-diverse places in the world, with a huge number of indigenous plants, birds and animals. From beaches to volcanoes and the Amazon, it really is a paradise for nature lovers. Often when we were sitting by the pool we had Iguana's and Hummingbirds visit us. We were really going to miss Ecuador, the people, the food and the lifestyle had left a big impression on us.