I arrive in Quito after a long but seamless journey bleary eyed but excited to be back in the capital after 9 years. The sun is just setting as we drive towards the city. The new airport has been built to the north with longer runways allowing for larger jets to operate. Ecuador is growing.

We approach the East side and through the spotless panoramic windows of the minivan I can see the sun setting behind the snow-capped peak of Cotopaxi volcano in the distance. The traffic can be terrible and the journey can take up to an hour and half in rush hour, but luck is on our side and we weave our way unhindered up to the capital. Quito stands at 2,800m and we can see through a gap in the mountains the built up city and packed mountainside communities as we climb. Almost as soon as we hit the old town the traffic is at a standstill. In order to make some headway my driver takes a less conventional route allowing perhaps more of an insight into the backstreets of the city than would have otherwise been offered.

The old town, awarded its heritage status by UNESCO, is almost unrecognisable since my last visit. So many buildings have been renovated keeping the original facades and even new buildings are being demolished now to really consolidate this colonial area. Churches are lit up like torches and the Jesuit church of la Copania sends hues of purple and green into the night sky. The streets are bustling, although its 7.30pm trade is still in full swing, music blares from small stalls, families chatter, and cars honk horns, while whistles of the traffic police fill the air. I’m pleasantly surprised by my surroundings and the positivity of the regeneration. Quito has come a long way.

After a fantastic dinner organised by my hosts of fire-roasted octopus & Ecuadorian shrimp; I am defeated by an outrageous chocolate marquise and a glass of silky merlot that sends the effects of my sleep deprivation of the last 24hrs into overdrive. I return to my hotel and crawl between the crisps sheets at the delightful Casa Gangotena that stands in all its splendour overlooking the San Franscico Plaza. Tomorrow I leave for the Amazon.