Today was the first official day of the IGTOA conference. Amanda and I joined the group for an amazing breakfast at the Patio Restaurant- the chocolate croissants and ceviche were my favorites! After breakfast, Amanda headed back to the room and I headed to the conference.
All morning long we listened to speakers from organizations that IGTOA has supported. They spoke about threats to the Galapagos and where they felt support and money was needed the most. The biggest threat is uncontrolled and unregulated tourism. With the new airport going in and numbers of tourists skyrocketing, it is more important now than ever before to make sure tourists are traveling with licensed tour operators! We all had lunch together and then met again in the afternoon to discuss what we had heard that morning.
When we were done meeting, I went to Casa de la Cultura (a museum) to see if I could find Amanda. She had left a note that she would be there. I found her
in one of the rooms and we checked out the museum and Plaza del Centenario.
They aren't used to 'gringitas' there, so we drew a little attention, but we kept our heads low and made it around safely. We came back to the hotel and took advantage of the free snacks and then got dressed for our evening out.
We met in the lobby and loaded into a bus with two tour guides and the US Consulate to Ecuador. They handed us Ecuadorian beers as we loaded onto the bus and then proceeded to give us a super quick city tour on or way to Malecon.
They had arranged a very special event for us. The Cerro Santa Ana district is a hill at the south end of town on the river. There are 440 steps to the top (each numbered) with shops, bars and restaurants flanking the stairs. Next to each door is a photo of how that building used to look before it was turned into a business. It was a beautiful and super popular area. We had crazy security detail (even some guys who looked like the secret service type) that followed us the entire night. We headed up the hill, beer in hand.
The climb was super easy, but apparently they had anticipated us having a rough go of it, so they had set up two stops along the way for us to grab another drink and pause for a moment. It was strange amidst all the tourists to a see a butler standing at a table of beer and gatorade! When we reached the top, they were waiting for us with cool, spearmint scented towels. They had closed off the top area just for us, it was the first time in the history of the city that this had been done!
There was a little church and a lighthouse at the top and the view of the city was gorgeous. Servers kept approaching us with appetizers, drinks and desserts. It was all prepared by the same chef that had made our banquet the night before, and it was all amazing!
After an hour or so of gorging ourselves on deliciousness and small talk with the consulate, we headed down the hill in a different direction that took us through La Pena- one of the oldest areas in Guayaquil. It was beautiful. We made our way back to the bus and back to our hotel.
We joined the rest of the group at the bar and stayed up laughing and drinking until about 1AM. The rocking was still making me pretty crazy, so Amanda and I called it a night and headed upstairs.