27 April 2011
Goodbye to the blue South Pacific Ocean, welcome to the green waters of the Jambeli Channel. On Monday, an Ecuadorian pilot came aboard Tara to guide Loic, our captain, on this river navigation. It takes about 4 hours to go up the Rio Guayas, bordered with mangroves, to reach the dock at Malecon 2000, located in the heart of Guayaquil. On the way the schooner passes some pirogues, a few fishing boats, and an impressive 3 masted sailboat, school-ship of the Ecuadorian navy. Going up this river feels a little like going back in time.
With each nautical mile traveled, the humid heat and mosquitoes increasingly drain the energy and the blood of Tara’s passengers. But these equatorial discomforts do nothing to diminish the crew’s excitement at reaching their next port of call.
Navy officers in white uniforms are on the dock waiting for the scientific sailboat. The moorings are cast and the gangway is installed. After 3 weeks at sea, crew members can finally walk on firm ground. The honorary Consul of France at Guayaquil, Mr. Thierry Souët, has come to welcome the scientists and sailors. After greeting the travelers, he warns us about the dangers of the city. Certain neighborhoods are to be avoided.
But Malecon 2000, where the schooner is docked, is actually one of the safest places in the city. On this long jetty that looks like a promenade, families and couples of sweethearts are peacefully strolling under the watchful gaze of numerous policemen.
After a restful night on the boat, the crew starts their first day of official visits. At 10 in the morning, about 40 journalists are on the dock armed with cameras, microphones and pens.
The head scientist and the captain present the Tara Oceans project to the local and national media. Also present are Mr. Oscar Garcia Poveda, director of Interagua, and Mr. Jean-Baptiste Main de Boissière, French Ambassador in Ecuador, who express their support of the expedition. A few hours later, after the stream of journalists have toured the boat, the Mayor of Guayaquil Mr. Jaime Nebot, comes to visit the crew and salute their work.
Once the visits are over, sailors and scientists are invited to come taste the traditional ‘ceviche’, a dish composed of fish and shellfish marinated in lemon.
Little by little, calm returns to Tara. Tomorrow there will be more visits, with the Ecuadorian Ministers of Ecology and Education. Meanwhile, sailors and scientists go back to their usual activities. As at every stopover, a long list of work has been planned. The luckiest ones will take advantage of the afternoon to explore the streets of the picturesque neighborhood, Las Penas.