<Where to go, What to do <Routes
ROUTE quito - ambato

The poor suburbs to the south of Quito stretch on for many kilometres, although drivers can avoid them by getting onto the east or west bypass. If you’re catching a bus you have to get to the new bus station at Quitumbe. Check the price first if you get a taxi – my sister got charged $20 (Marriott prices, but it is a long way). Their driver tried to dump them at the exit gate, presumably to avoid paying the terminal tax. It’s not worth you saving 10 cents when you’ve got big bags so don’t let them pull that one. Alternatively you can take the trole. Make sure you leave a fair bit of time (40 minutes from the Old Town) and try to avoid rush hour periods.

All roads converge on Tambillo (nothing to detain you) and head south. The Panamericana is now a slick dual carriageway with a hard shoulder which seems to double as an extra lane for slow pick-ups and people who just fancy stopping. After about 20km you pass a big mess of gas stations and drivers, above which a huge scrap metal dump pokes up. This blot on the landscape is Aloag and you can turn tight here (if you dare – there are no traffic lights) onto the road down to Santo Domingo (LINK A3v Routes/ Santo Domingo - Quito. Almost directly opposite is the turn off to Machachi on the left.

Continuing south you can hopefully enjoy great views of the mountains on either side of the highway. You pass through a pine forest and an entrance to the Area Nacional de Recreación el Boliche on your left. You can also get here on the train from Quito.

25km from Machachi is the main entrance to Cotapaxi National Park on the left. This stretch of the Panamericana is being widened (signs proclaim that it will soon be a 8 or 6 lane super highway) so you’ve got to look out for the sign across the corridor of dirt. It is located on a gradual descent, which continues down another 7km to the village of Lasso. This little place is a dump but you can get a pick up here to take you to the park.

In Lasso I found a vulcanizadora very handily located to fix the puncture I’d sustained on the way down from Lago Limpiopungo. From this point down to Latacunga there is lots of agriculture either side of the highway and a corridor of sprawl – half-built houses, gas stations, little shops, restaurants and the odd hostería. It’s not particularly attractive and might actually be improved if they demolished a lot of buildings for the forthcoming lane expansion. I doubt that will happen though – they’ll squeeze the lanes in somehow.

At the moment there are two lanes and a wide hard shoulder which you are expected to drift into if you are going too slow. Cars will get right up behind you and let you know. There are turnings to the right (west) which lead to Squisili and Sigchos.

The road goes through Latacunga but west of the centre which is on the other side of the river. At a set of traffic lights you can turn east onto the road to Zumbuhua, for Quilotoa, or down to Quevedo. Otherwise continue straight, passing gas stations and leaving the city but not the line of development behind. A short while later you pass into Tungurahua province and almost immediately enter the town of Salcedo. Ridiculously the Panamericana passes right through Salcedo and you’ll have to negotiate a route through the grid of streets.

Emerging on the other side the road climbs uphill, with magnificent views east down to ravines cutting into the valley and across to the hillsides rising up into the eastern cordillera and the foreboding Llanganates. It’s possible to turn off for Píllaro or Patate. Otherwise the road ahead starts to drop and finally enters Ambato. If you’re not planning to stop a bypass leads you off to the east. Take this if you want to go to Baños or continue your journey south.


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