Posted by: tim ellis | January 2, 2009

Ecuador – Thursday 17th July

The saga of the Travellers Cheques

It Guaytakes me most of the morning to sort out changing some travellers cheques. It all started back in Quito, where the hotel would not change my travellers cheques as they didn’t feel the countersignature was sufficiently like the original one. Then the Cambio at Quito Airport won’t change them because they don’t think the original signature on two cheques are sufficiently similar, and suggest I need to go to American Express, so now I am in Guayaquil I set out to do this. I ask at reception. “American Express Newspaper?” they ask. This should have been a clue that things were not going to go well. Next stop, the tourist information office, where after much scratching of heads, they suggest I go to the Banco Guayaquil, as they have some sort of affiliation with American Express. At the bank I ask at the information desk for travellers cheques – they send me to the second floor. When I get there the security guard treats me to a torrent of Spanish, before directing me to a cashier who tells me I need to go to a Tourist Exchange. I tell her that they had told me to come here, so she suggests the Banco Boliviarno two blocks down. When I get there, I once again ask at the information desk, where I am directed to windows 14 and 15. There is a single queue for windows 13 to 20, but before I can join it, I have to pass another security guard. He does not think they do Travellers Cheques, and after consulting with someone else (I’m not sure if he is an employee or just a bystander) they decide I need to go to the Banco Central. On the way I pass the Banco del Pacifico, and to save time, I decide to try here first. The security guard here is right next to the information desk, so this time I actually get to join the queue, and – finally – change some travellers cheques

I am already downstream of my hotel by now, and only a block up from the river, so I decide to walk the other half of the Malecon 2000, from the imax cinema (Offering either Batman or Kung Fu Panda, but as both are probably dubbed in Spanish I decide to pass) down past a pleasant looking park area to the Bolivar/San Martin monument, the back to the hotel. The sun has got very hot, so I decide to shelter in the air conditioning for a while.

Once it is cooler, relatively speaking, I set off for Barrio Las Peñas, only a bit further out than where I was this morning. It is a hill which contains some of the oldest parts of the city, and many small art galleries and workshops. There is a lighthouse on top of the hill, and just below that an area with some model pirates and a number of old cannons (or canyons as Jorge told me yesterday when recommending it), and a few other historical artefacts, all labelled in Spanish and “Spanglish” – some of which is reasonably clear and some makes no sense whatsoever. The steps up the hill are all helpfully numbered – there are 444 of them, and with the heat, you are glad of the chance to stop and look in the galleries and shops on the way up!

Bariro Las Penas

When I get back down the hill, I decide I should still have time to go to the far end of the Malecon 2000 walkway to some craft shops I saw yesterday for some souvenir shopping now I have my money sorted. Unfortunately when I get there, even though the shops seem to still be open the security guards, for some inexplicable (to me at least) reason have closed off access to that section of the walkway, so you can’t actually get to them.

In an attempt to get a meal served in the right order tonight I go around the corner in the opposite direction, to the restaurant attached to the Ramada hotel. The menu here is in both English and Spanish, and is large and varied. As I am now on the coast I go for Sea Bass in a creole sauce, with rice and plantain chips. Very good, and I do get all the courses in the expected order – Success!

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