From Mindo on the west slope of the Andes, we went up, back through the crazy labyrinth of Quito (where people stand in busy intersections selling newspapers, flowers, tamales, inflatable penguins and charged cell-phone batteries), and over Papallacta Pass to the top of the east slope. The destination was the village of Papallacta, just below the pass. It's a stormy place, where the hot humid tropical air meets the cold alpine. Thus, "Andes at Papallacta, storm coming up from the Amazon" - not quite Church's Heart of the Andes, but dramatic enough when I was drawing in the cold wind with the black clouds piling up in all directions.
A local man I talked to there said (I think) "Everything you see here will be gone one day" - which is true of everything, but more imminently in Papallacta, built right below the big, active volcano Antisana. The upside is that the valley is full of hot springs in the meantime, including a relatively swishy "resort" that was our destination. You can sit in lovely pools among the strange subalpine vegetation, right beside the rushing mountain stream that is the very start of the Amazon (or one of many very starts, anyway). It's all quite relaxing - until you get on the bus back to Quito, with its failing brakes and very much not-failing sound system playing Funkytown, along with the usual lurid poster of Jesus, Mary and Little Bo Peep(? - my Catholic theology is a bit weak).