Guayaquil, Ecuador city photo of letters
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Eight Days of Ecuador…Day 2

Day 2 – Saturday, April 21

Ecuador is one of the most diverse travel destinations in the world. It offers an indigenous rainforest, beautiful beaches, 27 volcanoes, the Galapagos Islands, the Amazon Jungle (La Amazonia), and the Andes mountains. It has wonderful seafood, fruit, chocolate, roasted guinea pig, and your choice of monkey, snake, turtle, or tree slugs depending on the region you visit. 

Day 1 of our Eight Days Of Ecuador travel abroad adventure consisted of mostly travel but if you missed it you can find it here! This blog series shares our travel experience offering many of my professional photos (shot with my new Panasonic Lumix G8 but also includes some candid photos by my students while learning about Ecuador. I hope that you will follow along on the journey.

Lexa Art Institute

In the morning we grabbed a quick breakfast at the hotel and headed to an art college specializing in photography named the L.EX.A. Institute. Our host Chantal Fontaine is a promoter, Artistic Advisor, and member of the Board of Directors at the Institute. She picked up an interest in photography from her father as a child, with more than 35 years of experience, she has specialized in seminars and photography workshops held in Costa Rica, Mexico, Brazil, Cuba, and Ecuador. She is an image consultant for TV, founder, and Director of ASOFOCREA, and promoter and Director of the Sathya Sai Human Values ​​Institute for Ecuador.

Chantal and her crew spent half of the day educating us about the culture and history of Ecuador. We learned how diverse Ecuador is and had a chance to view photos from individual personal projects the college instructors have worked on over the years. Some of the stories included working directly with minority groups of indigenous people living in the Amazon forest. I was fascinated by how they were able to get close to those native yet primitive people. It is amazing to me that in this day and age, there are still tribal people living in the jungle so close to modern civilization. 

Students from Nossi College of at at L.EX.A. Institute, Guayaquil, Ecuador.

We were introduced to Mathew Wijatyk, a freelance videographer and teacher at the college who would join our crew as our translator and help me teach my students by breaking them into smaller groups. He would also document the trip with video footage along the way.

We also met our tour guide Norby Lopez the GM of Biotropica Expeditions. He would be in charge of the itinerary as well as offering local historical information on our travels. After experiencing a historical presentation, seeing the college instructor’s work, and enjoying a warm welcome from the Ecuador students and faculty, we shared our work with them. Then we were off to explore Guayaquil for our first day of fun. We headed out along the historical part of downtown town and the boardwalk area.

Nossi College of Art students and teacher Sheri Oneal take photos in the streets of Guayaquil, Ecuador.
Photo by Jason Lyell

Downtown Guayaquil

We first visited Parque Seminario, a park built in 1868 also known as the Iguana Park. As we walked around the grounds dozens of iguanas live among the park’s ornate gardens. There are places to sit and feed the iguanas as well as several historic sculptures alongside an octagonal pavilion.

Iguanas at a park in Guayaquil, Ecuador
Student Gabriella Karademos takes photos of Iguanas in a park in Guayaquil, Ecuador.
Photo by Jamie Kemp

Around the outer edges of the park, there were street shoe shine booths and food, water, and newspaper vendors. It was interesting to see how these people earned a living selling their services near the park. The area was packed with people and the bustling noise of a busy city was evident in the area. Mathew caught some video as we were walking along the streets during our tour.

Videographer Mathew Wijatyk films local shoe shine vendors in the streets of Guayaquil, Ecuador.
Photo by Jason Lyell
Shoe shine street vendor in Guayaquil, Ecuador
People in the city streets of Guayaquil, Ecuador.

The shoeshine vendors as well as other locals all seemed very kind smiling at us as we walked by them on the sidewalk. From there we headed down to the boardwalk area where we were able to experience the century-old uneven cobblestone streets, colorful brightly painted houses, restaurants, bars, and shops. All were built around the beachside area of town leading into a winding, 444-step staircase up to the Las Peñas Lighthouse that was built in 1841.

We didn’t have a lot of time to explore so after getting some lunch we headed to the bus so we could make our next destination by sunset. We would have time to journey up all those steps and see the lighthouse upon our return to Guayaquil on our last day of travel before heading home.

Photo by Beverly Warren
A painters easel in the historical district of Guayaquil, Ecuador.
Nashville TN students photograph the pigeons in a park in the downtown city of Guayaquil, Ecuador
Photo by Kathleen Munkel
Guayaquil, Ecuador city photos
A woman sits in her home in the historical part of Guayaquil reading a newspaper.
A shop on the downtown streets of Guayaquil.

Montañita

After lunch, we were off on a 110-mile journey by bus to Montañita, one of Ecuador’s prime surfing towns. This small beach town is located in Santa Elena Province of Ecuador. It is well known for its waves, bohemian atmosphere, and nightlife. Montañita is a very popular destination for backpackers and surfers from all over the world.

We checked into the Hotel Rosa Mística, a quaint and colorful building a block over from the beach showcasing bright green tropical palms and colorful hammocks hung outside of each room. It took some time to get us all checked in and a few students had to be rescued from a spider who disappeared behind a bathroom mirror which caused panic for a short time. Once we got situated, we cleaned up to head out for an evening of fun.

Hotel Rosa Mística in Montañita, Ecuador

By the time we all got back together the sun had set so we regrouped while sitting at some outdoor tables near a restaurant on the beach trying to decide what to do next. As we watched a few students walk along the water’s edge we suddenly saw something glow in the surf. Excited we all ran out to see what it was.

Mathew explained what we were experiencing along the shore was a phenomenon called bioluminescent phytoplankton and it occurs on the tropical surface waters as the waves crest due to a light-producing chemical reaction called chemiluminescence. This unusual sighting of blue sparkling waves in the surf results when certain types of chemicals are mixed producing energy that ‘excites’ other particles on vibration. The result is a generation of light that causes the water to glow.

It was something we were not prepared to shoot because it is extremely difficult to capture on camera without the proper gear so instead we all just watched in amazement. One of the locals said they had not seen it happen in 3 years so we felt very lucky to have had the opportunity to witness such a phenomenon.

We walked down the beach onto some local brick-covered streets to find some seafood for dinner. The streets with their palm-frond tops and stylish wood decor appeared to look like a movie set. The vibrant colors of blue, pink, and yellow were everywhere and many of the buildings were constructed from stiff guadua cane (we call it bamboo) with palm-leaf thatch roofing.

Everyone seemed so happy and relaxed. The locals laughed while sharing stories with each other, talking as they enjoyed the tourist festivities along the street. As the hours ticked by the streets became more crowded.

Nashville students embark on the streets of Montañita.

The streets became busier later in the evening and the vendors were happy to have visitors roaming through their shops buying food, jewelry, and clothing. Some of the cool things I observed were grilled food on sticks, fruity frozen drinks and other alcoholic beverages, beachy clothes, boho jewelry, travel trinkets, and colorful hammocks. The students enjoyed some yummy corn on a stick grilled right in front of them on a street corner. It was topped with what appeared to be a special seasoned buttery seasoning and smelled amazing.

Students Gabriella Karademos and Alexandra Cale eat corn from a street vendor in Montañita, Ecuador.
Photo by Kathleen Munkel

Later in the evening, the clubs blasted loud dance music, and the streets were crowded with happy people giving off a wonderful beach party vibe. After dinner, one of my students decided he wanted to get a tattoo….a 50$ lizard AKA iguana. While I was a little unsure how to respond as his teacher he was old enough to make the decision so half of the group went back to the hotel while the rest of us got to experience the crazy nightlife of the town while waiting for his tattoo to be completed. We passed the time watching the people walk along the streets while drinking 1-liter bottles of beer for 2$.

Erick Dulberg gets a 50$ lizard tattoo in Montañita, Ecuador.
Student Eric Dulberg from Nossi College of Art gets a tattoo while in the surf town of Montañita, Ecuador.
Photos by Gabby Karademos

As things winded down for our group the streets began to slowly thin out but the crowd on the beach was getting busier and the music blasted louder near the 1 AM hour. It was apparent that these people had transformed into a drunker and more aggressive group. We headed back to Hotel Rosa Mística for the night and I was exhausted.

In my room there was a single bed and a bunk, I opted to sleep in the bunk bed, pulling it away from the wall after seeing a very large roach in the bathroom that slipped away by the time I grabbed my shoe. With that visual in my mind and knowing I was not alone, I didn’t sleep well. I put my phone next to me on the top bunk just in case I needed a light to see what was crawling on me in the middle of the night. Along with the roach issue, my AC wasn’t working, the window wouldn’t open and there was no fan. The hot and humid room temperature made the night slowly pass by causing me to be a little grumpy and very tired the next morning.

Stay tuned for more, things are just getting started!

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