We had a chance to visit the refuge at Cotopaxi. Since the volcano erupted a year ago or so, you can’t yet climb above to the top, as I did nearly 20 years ago. Nonetheless, the refuge and volcano remains as stunning as ever. The glaciers have retreated though.
We stayed at a place nearby called the Secret Garden which is a popular place for backpackers. We were able to ride down by bike from the parking lot above the refuge to Secret Garden, which sits at the base of Passochoa.
We took back roads to get to the hostel which remained as cobble stone, but the main roads from Quito to Ambato are now toll roads that bypass a lot of the towns along the way. The route is fast, though heavily patrolled to deter speeding. The country has invested quite a lot in improved infrastructure, and you can tell. (Even some of the country roads like between Pillaro and Patate are now paved with lots of road signs to tell you where to go).