When you finally get out of Quito you pass through a toll booth, descend into a deep ravine and continue snaking up and down through this incredible terrain. You can turn off to visit Las Tolas de Cochasqui and Cayambe, the town, volcano or ecological reserve.
After Cayambe the landscape is flatter and greener, dotted with hills and volcanoes, really very pleasant indeed. The clouds race across the sky as if in high speed definition, casting shadows on the hillsides. In the mornings villagers are up and about, maybe on their way into Otavalo. At other times it feels very sleepy, a great place to live and forget about the worries of the world (with some bottomless source of income).
The Panamericana circles around Otavalo and follows the valley to Ibarra, a short distance further on. From there it continues to Tulcán although you can divert towards El Angel and the páramo. Otherwise you will follow the hot, dry Chota valley, a centre of the black population and a hotbed of football talent (link). Further north the landscape becomes much greener and you pass mountains, lakes and rivers. It’s also a beautiful area.