This morning was definitely the most hectic so far on my trip. It started off less hectic than slightly frustrating – the hostal owners weren’t awake by the time I left for the airport at 7:45, so I didn’t have breakfast – and this followed a sleepless night after a group of middle-aged people decided to have a party on the terrace directly outside my window at midnight (I had them leave eventually, though it wasn’t easy).
What ended up being hectic was that about 30 minutes before my scheduled boarding time I realized that I’d left my camera battery and charger in the hostal. Mulling over whether to leave them behind and try to get new ones in Guayaquil, or make a dash back into town, I headed downstairs (there wasn’t a single airport employee in the many-gated departure lounge) and asked the check-in staff if the flight happened to be delayed. Past experience informed the answer I received: my flight was running half an hour late. So I made a dash to the taxi stand and rushed – or rather, stopped at every single traffic light, and bolted forward 100 meters before the next red light stopped my taxi – back to my hostal. The owners had no idea what I was doing running through their hallway and back to my room, but I guess they figured it out when I came back running with my forgotten camera equipment in my hand and back out to the taxi, which was waiting on the curb. I got back to the departure lounge at the airport five minutes before my flight boarded. Really, it would have been awful had I not had a good camera for my trip to the Galapagos. Right? (If I’d been traveling with someone, I’m sure they wouldn’t be speaking to me right now for the stress I’d put them through.)
Anyway, I got to Guayaquil without anything in my stomach – horror of horrors! – so after checking in to my room I decided to see what restaurants were part of the Hilton Colón Guayaquil complex. Yes, I could have gone into town for some local grub, but I was exhausted, and to be honest it was nice to find myself in far better digs than I’m used to. (Thanks, Mom and Dad!) In any case, I went for sushi. Not just any sushi, but Kioto Sushi.
Being in Kioto Sushi, I ended up going with the Kioto Combo, which is a disgustingly huge amount of food: 3 pieces of sushi, five pieces of sashimi, two salmon skin maki rolls, four California rolls, and four Eagle rolls (lobster tempura and cream cheese wrapped in avocado and eel). They brought it out in a boat – not some small miniature dinghy, either, but a sushi boat that a German shepherd could have sat on and had plenty of space left over for a water bowl and a plate of kibbles.
Ultimately, I was put off less by the sheer abundance of food than I was by the quality of the fish. It all tasted the same, which is to say that it tasted like nothing – from the fish to the avocado to the seaweed, everything tasted like it had come out of a laboratory. Fake food, in other words. It was quite disappointing, as was the $22 price tag, which, when an automatic tax and tip was included, came to nearly $30. How do you say “Yikes!” in Spanish?
After lunch I didn’t do much. I was expecting my family to arrive at three, though I found out later that they wouldn’t be coming until ten at night. So, rather than explore Guayaquil, which I’ll probably regret later but not at this moment, I stayed inside and tried to make more headway into an 800-page book I’m reading about Japan (it’s meant to be research for a writing project). But reading makes me hungry, and after 120 pages it was time for dinner (the hotel restaurants all open at 7 p.m., which I found a little strange).
I headed downstairs to Café Colón, where I hoped to have a cheaper, and better, meal than I had for lunch.
I was also hoping to try a dish that Guayaquil is famous for: encebollado. Encebollado is a hearty stew normally made with fish, onions, and yucca. Mine, however, also came with tomatoes, green peppers, and cilantro, and the fish used was corvina (sea bass).
It was absolutely delicious, and adding some picante sauce and lemon juice enhanced the flavors of the soup. For $5.50 at the Hilton, I thought it was a pretty good deal. However, a cerveza and a dessert from the buffet, not to mention 12% tax and 10% automatic tip, plus my own tip, brought the total to $17. Kind of crazy considering that I was initially happy to see my entrée was only $5.50. Then again, my laundry, which I desperately needed to have done, cost me – I’m ashamed to admit this -- $42 (or the equivalent of 2.5 nights at the last hostal where I stayed)…but with tax it jumped to over $53. Jeez! I feel like I’m contributing directly into the pockets of Paris herself.
But enough of my tangents. The dessert (totally unnecessary, but I can’t help it – it was just there) was interesting: sweet potato pie that tasted exactly like sweet potatoes served plain, and something called “deer back” that was basically a minimally-sweet chocolate cake with a crunchy and minimally-sweet chocolate icing. Oh, there was also a huge bowl of melting macadamia nut ice cream, and I decided to scoop up a glob of it, too.
Well, as of tomorrow I’m going to be on a boat, and that means no Internet access until December 27th or thereabouts. For all of you who have been kind enough to read this far, let me say thank you! I hope all of you have a safe and joyous holiday, and I look forward to continuing this blog as my journey progresses from Guayaquil to the Galapagos and then to Chile!