South America Here I Come
 

Ecuador--Guayaquil --April 22-26, 2006

My first stop in South America is Ecuador. I have been to Ecuador before but really wanted a chance to visit the Galapagos Islands which are part of Ecuador. After surviving a really long flight (4 flights, 3 airlines, and 45 hours or so of flying) I arrived in Guayaquil. I had called ahead for a room at a midrange hotel to stay a couple of nights and to recover from the flights. What I didn't know was that the hotel has a disco every Saturday night until 3am or so and it felt like they were dancing in my room all night long. I got up early the next morning and found a nice, quiet place to stay for a couple of days.

There is not much to do in Guayaquil. It is just a big city so I got out of there as soon as I could. there was a dance performance going on in the park on Sunday and on Monday I arranged my trip to the Galapagos.

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Cuenca--April 26-30, 2006

My next stop was a city called Cuenca, about a 4 hour bus ride from Guayaquil. The city is a nice place to relax for a few days and would have been better if the weather had cooperated. It rained almost the entire time I was there, but considering I hung out and did some relaxing and catching up on my reading, it was a nice place to be. Cuenca has a nice old city, with cobblestone roads and many churches.

As I always do when I get to a new town, I sought out the markets and found a few different ones. This one is the large fruit and veg market where all the hill tribes and locals come to stock up.

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Trivia Question--Where do they make Panama Hats

If you said in Panama you would be wrong. The home of Panama hat making is in Cuenca, Ecuador. There are a number of different hat makers in the city. I visited the Casa del Sombrero where I had a chance to see how the hats are made. I had a nice chat with the hat maker (80 years old and still making hats) and had a chance to see his workshop, and of course he sold me a genuine Panama hat.

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Money

One more thing you may or may not know about Ecuador is that they use the US Dollar as their official currency. They have for a number of years to prevent the rapid devaluation of their old currency that they were experiencing. And for all you Americans, you might wonder what happened to all the Sacagawea 1 dollar coins they minted back in 2000. Well I am happy to say they are used all the time in Ecuador....

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