Mitad del MundoThe country of Ecuador is named after the imaginary line that divides the planet into the northern and southern hemispheres and a visit to Ecuador would not be complete without a visit to its namesake. Conveniently visiting the equator is an easy and fascinating half day trip from Quito.

Peace Concert Tulcan

The concert took place in a large park and sports field with bleachers and the number of people seated was slightly disconcerting. There was a small minority at the front, who were clearly in the spirit of the concert but the vast majority seemed for want of a better word, bored. There were more people crowded around the food stands than the stage and other than the odd ten year old whose Latin blood had overridden the general malaise breaking out some dance moves, dancing seemed to be an alien concept to this crowd.

Ibarra Feature Article

The white city of Ecuador and the capital of the Imbabura province lies some three hours north of Quito. A sleepy colonial city Ibarra is lined with whitewashed buildings and pretty plazas. However, for anyone choosing to go to this much visited northern city the true attraction lies in the spectacular lakes and mountain retreats surrounding the town. The surrounding lagoons and volcanoes are equally popular amongst Ecuadorians looking for a retreat from urban living as amongst tourists. ‘Lago Yahuarcocha’ some 2 miles outside the city is one of the most spectacular sights in the region. The lake originally bearing the name ‘the lake of blood’ in local language was formed from a glacier that proudly guards many local legends and is a focus point for many historical battles that have taken place there.

Tulcan - Sophie Lally

The concert took place in a large park and sports field with bleachers and the number of people seated was slightly disconcerting. There was a small minority at the front, who were clearly in the spirit of the concert but the vast majority seemed for want of a better word, bored. There were more people crowded around the food stands than the stage and other than the odd ten year old whose Latin blood had overridden the general malaise breaking out some dance moves, dancing seemed to be an alien concept to this crowd.

Puerto Lopez photoArriving in Puerto Lopez, the area seems more like a town under construction than a popular whale spotting destination. The bus station is fairly crowded and is situated opposite the only ATM in the town. This road is the main street and is part of the Route del Sol, named Machalilla. It is about a 10 minute walk to the beach side road, Melecon Julio Izurieta, which runs parallel to the high street, however, if you are laden with bags, or just plain lazy like me, there are a host of eager tuc tuc drivers clamouring for your business. Puerto Lopez oozes with laid back, chilled out charm. From the dusty tracks and town roads and sleepy souvenir stands to the bevvy of hardworking fisherman sitting upon their fishing boats, bobbing amongst the seabirds swooping for scraps, Puerto Lopez feels safe and homely and is a far cry from the beach party, theme park feel of Montanita.

Quito's escape spots

Deserved or not Quito’s reputation as an increasingly dangerous latin city and the scaremongering reports of certain guidebooks has left many of the more weary urban travellers ill disposed towards Ecuador’s capital, anxious to beat a hasty retreat after the prerequisite whilstle stop visit around the UNESCO heritage site of the old town. Amid the bustle, constant stream of people and often chaotic day to day life of down town Quito (which in some cases such as my own is exactly the charm of the city) it is easy to forget that Ecuador’s buzzing capital is nestled in the heart of the Andes and has plenty of tranquil escape spots that don’t cost the earth in organised tours or demand a five in the morning wake up call and full hiking apparel. La Parque Metropolitana is one such spot, located in the centre north of the city winding up behind the Estadio Olimpico it offers miles of unspoilt tranquil parkland that even the least enthusaistic trekker can’t fail to enjoy a few hours light strolling in.

Molotov in Ecuador

It’s not every day that you get to see a two-time Latin Grammy award winning band playing in a bull ring but as the words “Puto” reverberated around the Plaza de Torres in Quito and the surrounding area it was clear that Molotov had arrived. Since their conception in 1995, in Mexico, the band has been anything but mainstream. Their aggressive politically inspired lyrics have opened them up as the band of choice for a politically conscious youth in Latin America. The establishment have not looked on them so kindly and the band was forced into exile in Spain after a near ban in Mexico.

Quieres bailar?

It is inevitable that in coming to south america you will at some point be hauled to the dance floor to bust our some shady salsa steps. It makes me cringe to think about some of the erratic steps I've danced around Ecuador with a bevy of interesting partners. I take solace remembering a comment made by a salsa instructor: 'If the dancing is bad, it is always the mans fault'. Sorry fellas but there is truth in this. You big, strong, masculine chaps finally have the opportunity to take a firm grip and do as you like with us beautiful spinning ladies. In this wonderful world of Salsa, we will go wherever you tell us too, we need guidance, so the pressure is on. As is true in real life, we women are never wrong, so take control and dominate us.

Pululahua Hostel

Situated about 25km north of Quito, near Mitad del Mundo, Pululahua is the largest and only inhabited crater in South America. Created when a massive blast of magma burst through the walls of the volcano, Pululahua Crater is 2500 years old and is the only one in the world with agricultural production. The crater is protected as a National Park, the first to be created in Ecuador, and has since been declared a geobotanical reserve due to its multiple microclimates and broad and unique varieties of flora, birds, mammals and beautiful butterflies endemic to the area including indigenous plants used for the treatment of ailments . Pululahua is a Quichua word that means “cloud of water”, and when you are inside the reserve with the misty outline of the Volcano walls and the gently decending clouds, there is a tranquil, relaxing and mystic quality to this enchanted haven.

For many, discovery is an accident. The hypothetical non-Latino steps into a Latino club in Milwaukee or Prague just for kicks or flies off to some part of Latin America and ends up going out dancing. He or she suddenly realizes with a jolt of jealousy that Salsa is no improvisational hippie dance, no arbitrary, arm-swinging, head-bopping night of rump-shaking. Salsa is sensual and hypnotic, racing with an undercurrent that urges one to dance. Yet, you need rhythm and a partner, and the more moves you know, the more fun it is.

To newbies, Salsa seems as time-honored and pan-Latin American as futball. Why else would Cali be the World Salsa Capital? Why do so many Latinos know how to dance Salsa? Why the Dominican, Cuban, Peruvian, Argentinean Salsa stars?

It is difficult to believe that less than 15 years ago, La Mariscal was a neighborhood like any other, because today it is a genuine pleasure island, where there is never a lack of nightlife, or "daylife", for that matter. Every phenomenon begins with a pioneer, though, and, in the case of La Mariscal, it was NO BAR that assumed the challenge. The bar is undoubtedly one of the few establishments that drove the explosion of multicultural activity and entertainment in this flourishing district.

The NO BAR was founded on the 10th of March, 1994 to appeal to a public that yearned for a place of fun, healthy entertainment, and dancing. The interior of NO BAR is characterized by its rustic feel. The cadence varies widely between salsa, reggaeton, latin pop, techno, hip hop, and American and European chart toppers. The DJs stand out for the perfection of their mixes and the freshness of their selections.

Montanita Wandering along the endless white sand beach and between colourful cocktail stalls, the average visitor to Montanita will fall in love with theplace immediately.

Even without its much-lauded surfing opportunities, Montanita has more than its fair share to offer holidaymakers and travellers, with its vast arrayof coastal view bars and cheap hostels, set within naturally beautiful surroundings.

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