Heaven to Hell

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Foreshadowing?

The skies have cleared and the sun is bright, but alas we must leave Galapagos for Guayaquil.  A slide show of the week’s adventures diverted us from the crew’s work transporting bags and grooming rooms, and with a quick zodiac to shore the fun’s over.  We’re through the small Baltra airport quickly and in a few hours we’ve landed in Guayaquil, where our AirBnB host Carolina has arranged for a driver to deliver us to her apartment in old town, not far from Guayaquil Malecon.

Guayaquil is a necessary evil.  The country’s largest town and economic engine, it’s stews in Ecuador’s equatorial goulash, nestled between feverish forests and the brackish, braided Rio Guayas.  There are signs of prosperity – the airport gleams and there are new skyscrapers, but they can’t save this town from unrelenting tropical heat, grit and a reputation for theft and violent crime.  Our guard is up.

I’ve done my best to find safe, comfortable, reasonably priced digs close to the riverside Malecon.  The pickings are slim and our apartment building is uninviting, but inside Carolina’s pad is spacious, well decorated and supplied.  The bedrooms are unvented and stifling, but there is a good A/C unit in the comfortable living area, so I leave the family there and venture out with minimal mugger money to assess the city, its dangers, and to get some supplies.  

It’s gritty, there’s clear poverty, but the area around the main avenue 9 de Octubre seems safe enough, and there’s a comforting police presence.  I took 20 minutes to scout down to the river and back, then picked up some  water, beer and coke to slake hot thirsts.  

After a deserved beer I herded the family out on the street intent on strolling the Malecon to a Sue-vetted restaurant, but an evening downpour forced our retreat.  Re-supplied with rain jackets we hit the mean streets again, but the downpour persisted so we jettisoned our plans and capitulated into the crispy comfort of KFC… our first fast food of the journey.  

IMG_4578Tough Tuesday ahead: we have to find fun in seedy, steamy Guayaquil, then we pull an all-nighter in the Lima airport before arriving in the refuge city of chillaxing Arequipa, Peru.  Sue and Ben had bedded down in the cooler living room, and I let them sleep in IMG_2005perhaps too late: by the time we ventured out it was already hot.  Croissants, eggs, coffee, juice and hot chocolate at venerable Dulceria La Palma fueled some enthusiasm, and we made it through the gritty city streets to the renovated Malecon without incident.  

The Malecon is very nicely redeveloped, with colorful sculptures, children’s’ rides, a IMG_4580lovely botanical garden and river views along the way.  We seek shady routes past these, the IMAX cinema and the miniature museum to the northern end of the walk, where we take refuge in the lightly air conditioned Centro Cultural Liberator Simon Bolivar.IMG_4583

The anthropological and modern art exhibits can’t hold the boys’ interest, so we continue north to the colorful hillside Las Penas barrio.  We are warned away from the side streets – “muy peligroso” – so stick to the main pathways we eventually get a feel for the area and learn which alleys to avoid. But it’s just too hot to explore so we descend and continue north to the cold comfort of the Westin’s air conditioned lobby, then a taxi back to our apartment.

IMG_4586The heat has taken its toll and tempers are short, so I stand guard between Ben and Max for a bit while Sue ventures out for peace and pictures.  Once the truce has taken hold I risk a journey out and return with some BBQ, which soothes our savage beasts.  Double checking our flight itinerary we realize we’ve missed a time change and we’re suddenly late for our international flight to Lima, so we scramble outside and into a taxi.  At my request the driver steps on it and gets us to the airport in 15 minutes.  The lines are long enough to induce stress, but we made our flight and landed Lima around 8pm.  Now for the hard part.

In an ideal world we would have flown from the Galapagos to Arequipa in a day: we had the time and the distances were not far.  But limited flight schedules, imperfect information and an acquired aversion to tight connections conspired to stretch and complicate our journey: hence our Guayaquil and Lima layovers.  Our flight to Arequipa departs at 5AM, and the cheaper hotels convenient to the airport are nasty, so we planned on sleeping in Lima’s airport lounge.  

We researched the lounges carefully, even finding a useful site called IMG_4591sleepinginairports.com, and by all accounts the two international lounges looked very nice, with quiet rooms and even showers… we could endure a night there.  

IMG_2010But I hadn’t counted on the fact that once in Lima we had to exit immigration, and our next flight was domestic… leaving us with access only to the domestic lounge… which was closed from 8PM to 130AM.  We played the “tired child” sympathy card, and talked our way into the closed domestic lounge.  Not the most comfortable, but secure and quiet enough… we managed a few hours of sleep before more passengers piled in, and we all slept hard on the 5AM flight to Arequipa.

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