Esmeraldas, capital of the province with a population of about 250,000, is perhaps the opposite from the shining emerald ['esmeralda'
] of its name. If there is a jewel to be found there, it isn't obvious. Even before 1997-8's El Nino laid the town to waste, there wasn't much for the tourist to see. And things haven't changed much since. The town, the region's most important transport and commercial hub, also grows from the nearby oil refinery, the junction for the first Trans-Andean oil pipeline from the Oriente
. Most travelers treat Esmeraldas as a stop-off point on their way to somewhere else.
||Article contributed by Dominic Hamilton|||