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We started our trip by looking for direct flights from New York, where we spent Christmas, to Quito, the capital of Ecuador, but we couldn't find any. There were, however, direct flights to Guayaquil, the largest and by far the most industrialized city in the country, so that became our first stop. It's this country's main port and harkens back to the 1530s.

Two surprises awaited us when we were planning our trip here. One: Ecuador is directly south of New York and shares the same time zone. And two: When you put your cash card into an ATM here, U$ dollars come out. In 2000 Ecuador gave up it's former currency, the Sucre, and switched to the dollar.