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Riobamba to Guayaquil City

Written on: Monday September 17th, 2007

A journal entry from: Kevin and Julie's RTW

Author: Julie


It is election time in Ecuador. The political message ranges across human rights, family, employment, access to information, health, technological advancements, international recognition, etc. Quite similar to Canada actually although their ways of campaigning is slightly more aggressive than we are used to seeing. In even the remotest communities, we?ve seen large political advertisements painted on fences, concrete walls, along the foundation of homes. Down a side-street near our hotel in Riobamba, a large convey of cars and vans past by, blaring music and political messages of one of the representative, with the supporters wearing orange t-shirts and caps and waving flags with the political party name. Where it differed greatly was when behind the slow moving convoy 2 men set down a stool with a hole in the middle, inserted a firework and light it. We spent the evening listening to the sound of them being repeatedly set off with a large boom. It would set all the neighbourhood dogs to howling and barking. Imagine the Conservative and Liberal party setting off fireworks in your neighbourhood, having their names painted on your fence and house foundation. I don?t think that?s likely to happen anytime soon. Also, unlike Canada where there are maybe 5-6 candidates per district representing 3 major parties and a few smaller parties, in Ecuador based on advertisements painted on walls (even in the most remote communities), on posters, and in TV commercials, that are about 50 different political parties presenting themselves for election. What a choice! Would you know who to choose? It will be a busy election day, each citizen is required to vote. At the voting pole they are assigned a national number that can then be used to run businesses, buy cars, and even get married. No vote, then no rights to do anything within the country.

The next morning after the train ride, we boarded a 5-hour bus to Guayaquil, the largest and most populous city of Ecuador with 2 million citizens. We weren?t exactly thrilled to be visiting as we had heard mainly negative points about it, but it was a stopping point on the bus route towards our next intended destination of beaches town north of the city. The ride to the large metropolis was beautiful as we rode down from the high mountains of the Andes with never ending colourful fields down into the flat lands towards the Pacific Ocean. As we left the mountains, the landscape changed and we passed endless fields of a banana plantation to finally see a sign for Dole bananas. Next time you eat a banana, we might have seen them actually growing on the tree. Each bunch was wrapped in a plastic bag to ward off insects and to stop them from being bruised. The best bananas are sent to the North American market and the slightly imperfect ones are kept for South America, even thought they are perfectly good if not as nice looking as the ones we buy. The closer we got to our destination, the warmer the weather became. After so many days of cold and humidity in the mountains, it was a welcomed change.

Once arrived at the bus terminal, we quickly took a taxi to our plain, concrete hotel off the main street and proceeded to take advantage of its best feature: free wireless connection. It was quick and efficient and for the first time in a week we were able to surf our email and update our blog. The internet in Banos and Riobambe was slow as molasses and doing anything was like watching grass grow. We went to sleep that night in our impersonal room listening to squealing brakes, grinding gears, and the most common sound of all: horns beeping and cars alarm sounding. Ah, to be back in a large city.

We had planned to only spend a few hours in Guayaquil before moving on to the beach towns further north along the coast, but ended up spending a full day exploring the city when we discover a lovely surprise in this ugly concrete jungle: the Malecon. In 2000, the city decided to re-create its shoreline and built a beautiful boardwalk for everyone, rich and poor, to enjoy. After breakfast, we hopped a taxi to the barrio of Las Penas, located at the end of the Malecon, which had been renovated last year by the city. All the exteriors of the houses had been renovated and repainted, the streets had been cobbled and all the stores/restaurants had been given a face-lift. Each little house had a ?before renovation? photo on its exterior wall showing the difference from the renovation. It was the Ecuadorian Disney version of a perfect little colonial neighbourhood when you were expecting only dirt and poverty. Next, walking along the Malecon, we saw the Anthropological and Contemporary Art Museum which we skipped due to time constraints, after that was the IMAX theatre showing Harry Potter and Robots in Spanish. It was a beautiful walk along the ocean, watching little boats drift by, and walking through various gardens (classical, pre-colombian, Italian, English, etc). Next was the children play area, then on to the art work area, to finish up with restaurants and bars. It was a well-thought and greatly executed idea, we certainly hope that other cities learn from their example.

Tomorrow: beach time!