The bus to Riobamba leaves Baños behind, climbing upwards along dusty, pitted roads with steep, deep drops into the rocky ravines below. Chunks of the road have fallen away leaving jagged, earthy edges.
The lack of tarmac on the first significant stretch out of Baños makes for a very deliberate and bumpy ride. This section has been closed in the past due to volcanic debris cluttering the path. For the first time on all of the bus journeys I’ve been on in Ecuador, the driver slows down to a crawl and pauses before turning corners or climbing hills. There is very little grip; plenty of opportunity for wheel spin and sliding off of the mountainside. We pass by wind battered trees and little clusters of villages. Dust gets everywhere; I can feel a layer caking my face. It’s a toss-up between boiling on the bus or getting covered in dirt. A couple of land workers wave the bus past, machetes dangling by their sides. Sunlight streaks through the blanket of cloud.
And then we hit the tarmac and the bus driver immediately hits the accelerator. We’re back in action.