Yesterday's journey started off great with the most beautiful scenery through stunning mountains. We drove through Parque Nacional El Cajas and saw wild llamas all over the hillsides. We had to go super slow because our car, which we have named little Sparky, was having a tough time with the altitude of 13,000 feet, but the views were amazing. Once we dropped down the other side of the mountains we were planning to search for the mangrove reserve outside of Guayaquil. The navigation app we have been using didn't show it, but I had a general idea of where it was from the guidebook and we managed to just stumble across it, which felt like good luck. This is where our luck started to turn...
The reserve was swarming with more mosquitoes than I have ever encountered. Baylie and I actually ran back to the car as we were being eaten alive and we had to spend ten minutes squashing all of the little monsters that flew in with us. Shawn doused himself in repellent and was determined to go for a hike anyway, but when he came back 30 minutes later we discovered that the tiny vampires just feasted on him right through his shirt. He said that on his hike there were spiders so huge blocking his path that he threw rocks at them before walking through their webs. We couldn't get out of there fast enough!
Unfortunately, we didn't really have a plan from this point and we don't check into our beach condo in Playas until Wednesday. We decided to brave our way into Ecuador's largest city and look for a hotel along their "newly renovated pedestrian boardwalk" - ha! We encountered the worst traffic we have ever seen combined with the most confounding maze of one way streets and a psychotic new twist on the dreaded "round-about" traffic circles which are shaped like four-leaf clovers. We spent hours turning in circles and getting stuck crossing the same bridges back and forth in an unrelenting stream of exhaust and car horns. We finally hit a freeway that opened up but we were moving in exactly the opposite direction from the coast. Shawn refused to turn around based on the logic that any movement at all was better than the gridlock we had just escaped. But I kept trying to force the navigation to show us a way to the coast and they all led back through the city! We hadn't eaten all day, I was really dreading being lost at night, and there was simply no way around this monstrous cesspool.
We found the courage to dive back in, turned around, defeated the four-leaf clover traffic circles that were in our way and managed to force our way through the dismal gray, concrete and pollution filled maze of Guayaquil and came out the other side. When we were finally on the open freeway to the coast we absolutely had to stop and eat, even though it meant we wouldn't reach a beach town before dark. The choices along the highway were pretty slim, but as soon as we saw some plastic tables and chairs at a roadside stand we screeched to a stop. No menu, two choices: goat or chicken. The super nice lady and her daughter were all smiles and the plate of chicken and rice (you didn't really think I would go for goat, did you?) was a life saver.
Shawn was exhausted from driving for 10 hours but we made it into Salinas and started our search for a hotel. Lots of places looked dark, and after one mistake of going into an apartment building and asking for a room, Baylie and I found the fancy Hotel Bleu right on the beach. We have had a great beach day today, even rented a jetski for a half hour and spun circles in the bay.