Travel Destinations »

Guayaquil

The chaotic and humid clump of humanity is Ecuador’s biggest city and is ports (it lies next to the River Guyas) and size make it of fundamental economical import. As a quick aside, it got its name from an old legend of Indian Chief Guaya and his wife, Quil, who committed to rebel against Spanish rule. Hence Guaya…Quil. Not the most imaginative but it certainly gets straight to the point.

The streets are wilder, the air is wetter and the people are the most rushed Ecuadorians get (from slow amble up to medium-paced saunter). Make a visit to the Malecon 2006 (the riverside promenade) – it begins with a rather unsettling shopping complex at one end – the massive Macdonalds archways make one feel like one is descending into fast food hell – but the walk improves with lush natural vegetation parks, bubbling brooks populated with fancy fish and a wooden boardwalk.

Amongst the botanical plethora you might find a quaint eatery with old-style hospitality. This is straight out of Beatrix Potter, but crossed with Che Guevara – there are lots of buildings and statues to fallen heroes round and about. The history, however, is only interesting once you are standing in front of it, so ask a local or just absorb.

As Guayaquil is named Ecuador’s most dangerous city, walking round at night is apparently inadvisable. But the locals are as friendly as anywhere else and even the smartest hotel will allow scruffy backpackers in to use the loos.

Robyn Leslie

I am a South African, which means I like sunshine and sticky-tape coins together so no-one knows I have money in my pocket. An environmental scientist by qualification, I studied at the University of Cape Town. My years there taught me about the grand narratives of communism, neo-liberalism and post-modernism, and how shitty people can be when they can't find a spot to park their car. After that I needed a break and went off to South America, where I lived and worked for a year. Now I am freelancing as a writer and holding out for a job that combines a morally specific mission with valuable, practical development goals. With a salary. Hmmm. By the way, I was just being snarky before. South Africa is totally safe. Really. Come and visit.