It is a land of emerald-hued rainforests filled with birds of bright plumage; a land where llamas graze among the weathered stone architecture left behind by a lost empire; a land where the contrasts of environment range from humid and sultry coastline to frozen mountain wastes. Named for the line of the equator that runs through it, Ecuador, on the Pacific coast of South America, is a land of varied beauty and fascinating history. It is a land I enjoyed visiting for the first time prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Traveling south from the Vero Beach area to Miami International Airport, I took a plane to Panama, and there transferred to my second flight, which would take me to the Ecuadorian city of Guayaquil. In Ecuador, I found places that were very tropical, yet also very different from Vero Beach; it was, in my eyes, a land both exotic and welcoming.
Known as the “Pearl of the Pacific,” Guayaquil is located on the shores of the Rio Guayas, a navigable river that flows into the greatest ocean in the world. The hot, humid climate of Guayaquil is undoubtedly tropical, and the Rio Guayas matched my mental picture of a South American river: wide, slow-moving, clumps of branches and vegetation perpetually floating in it. I would not have been surprised to see a caiman or a crocodile gazing up at me from its muddy waters.
Guayaquil is a bustling and highly urban environment, but it retains places of great natural beauty. One of my favorite destinations of the trip was an island in the middle of the Rio Guayas, reached by a bridge from the shores of Guayaquil. The island is known as Isla Santay, and it has a boardwalk that allows visitors to hike through a rich and vibrant rainforest environment.