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My first travel impressions in Ecuador are naturally different to the impressions I garner now as I travel through Ecuador.

Now my impressions are tempered by many years of collected impressions yet I never tire of the journey north from Quito through the Andes to Cotacachi. I thought it would be interesting to share one of those early experiences; who knows, maybe you’ll be here traveling the same highway very soon.

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I crawl out of bed as best I can at 4.20 in the morning. A quick shower and sip of coffee later I step out of the front door and I’m walking the backstreets through a silent and dark Quito to arrive at the small bus terminal.

Something amiss here …… No bus. No passengers. Nobody. It’s 4.55am and I should be 5 minutes early for the PanAmericana bus to the Colombian frontier. “Now what?” I step inside the ticket office. Empty. I step outside again. Deserted. But not quite.

A wizened grey-haired, grey moustached fella sticks his head out the window of a Lada parked in the terminal forecourt. “Where´s the bus?” I ask, not unreasonably. “It left early –get in!” I shove my rucksack in the back seat and jump in the front next to grey beard. Is this old fella waiting to pick up passengers who arrive late? Is this a common arrangement?

No matter. We speed, as much as a Lada can speed, through the deserted backstreets. I look for a seat-belt in vain. We pay no heed to red lights or green lights, my man is on a mission – ‘Catch that bus!’ – also presumably speeding through downtown Quito somewhere ahead. Five minutes pass and I consider what I’ll do when I get back to the house. But, not stopping at lights gives us the advantage and soon we see the bus ahead. A couple of minutes later we’re alongside. The Lada has prevailed and with a few beeps the bus pulls over and I thank Lada grey-beard.

I settle into a comfortable seat midway down the aisle. Its pitch black outside and the roads are wet in the Quito suburbs. We rumble along the Pan American highway at 9,000 plus feet headed northwards,

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