Peru’s border town is Tumbes, which we decided not to visit after friends told us there wasn’t much to see and it was hot and dusty. Instead we opted to visit Zorritos (45min south of Tumbes) and make the border crossing from there.
The Cifa bus collected us, on its way through, from the small town of Zorritos that is about an hour or so north of Mancora. You can also get this bus in Tumbes and it also begins in Piura. And we now know why this bus was a cheaper option then Cruz del Sur and Civa (who both have limited services), it was because it stopped a lot to let people on and off and took almost two hours longer.
The view out the bus window changed the instant we hit Ecuador. Desert became the tropics with acres and acres of banana plantations. Roadside vendors were all selling fresh fruits like watermelon and pineapple. The border crossing was smooth with no problems whatsoever (despite the online warnings) and we arrived late but in one piece in the biggest city of Ecuador, Guayaquil.
The online warnings had also pegged this city as the most dangerous in all of Ecuador, so we were feeling anxious. There was no need. In comparison to places we’d been in Peru, Guayaquil seemed like another planet. The bus terminal, Terminal Terreste was next to the airport. It is huge and clean, with lots of shops, a food court, and security guards everywhere. The well organized and secure taxi rank out the front replaced the usual scrum of dodgy men hassling you for a taxi, hotel or tours and trying to scam you because you’re a foreigner.
Our female (wow!) taxi driver took us along clean, tree lined boulevards to our hotel and even waited to make sure we got inside ok as it was late. Ecuador sure was turning it on for us.
The manager at Hotel Rio Guayas was the most personable and eager to please host we have ever had, relishing in the opportunity to practice his English, getting us cold water to drink and suggesting places (and walking with us) nearby for a late meal.
The budget hotel cost us $US18 for the night and was great. Apart from the friendly and helpful service of the manager, the room had air conditioning and is located in a great part of town, a five minute walk to markets and the Malecon 2000, which is a gorgeous public space along the riverfront with restaurants, museums and monuments.
Walking the length of this boardwalk you arrive at Los Peñas, a suburb not dissimilar to La Boca in Buenos Aires, Argentina. This area, set on the hillside overlooking the river, is made up of colonial homes, painted in bright colours and was part of a regenifacation project.
We only stayed one night in Guayaquil but it certainly gave us a warm welcome to Ecuador.