Devils Nose – by train through the Andes

Better “late than never” there is some nice experience to share with you from Ecuador…despite us already being some days in Peru by now: We took a train ride along Devils Nose.

Historically a master piece of engineering: The Trans-Andean Railway went from Guayaquil (at the coast) up until Quito (in the middle of the mountains) within Ecuador. Along the track in between both cities there are many of the highest peaks outside the Himalaya. These had to worked around or across to make this project a success.

Well, that’s all history by now. Today not much of Ecuadors’ pride remains. Various “El Nino” years with their torrential rains have damaged the tracks severely. And in the decades of streets and lorries to transport goods nobody saw a need for maintenance. All that remains somewhat functional for touristic reasons is a stretch between the cities Riobamba and Sibambe.

Our guidebook referred to this part nevertheless as a highlight to visit, as you pass along the famous Devils Nose. Sure as hell we also wanted to tip toe on the devils’ nose (6)

Riobamba but no train

There were already some discussions around fellow travelers, that the train currently is not operating. Rumors differed widely from “the track is simply in too bad of a condition” to “some tourists died when standing on the roof to take some pictures”. But nobody knew for sure.

Doesn’t scare us. But when reaching Riobambas train station it was confirmed, currently no train. And the substitute “ferrocaril” is sold out for the coming days. We didn’t understand what type of vehicle this replacement would be, they alternately talked about a “train” and a “bus on the tracks” *smiley surprised*

Thanks to insisting and Iris’ charm, working on the sales lady at the ticket office as well, we nevertheless got some tickets for the replacement vehicle from Alausi to Sibambe. Shorter and more expensive than expected, but at least covering somehow the Devils Nose *smiley smiling*

Alausi and its history

On our way to Alausi by bus we at least managed to get a glimpse of Ecuadors highest peak with its impressive 6310 meters. The Chimborazo was most times covered in clouds, hidden behind buildings along the road or somehow else invisible…but suddenly we spotted it in the distance *smiley smiling*

The city of Alausi has not much to offer, despite its past as a very wealthy town as a stop along the Trans-Andean railway. Today it is normally deserted and only gets back to life for a few hours throughout daytime when tourist wait for “trains” to depart.

Disappointing train ride

The next day was the day of our ride *smiley smiling*

After about a month in Latin America we learned to never be sure about reservations, departure times, etc. So right after breakfast we headed to the local ticket counter at the train station. Taking a number we of course needed to pass the obligatory waiting time. Not an issue, catering for waiting tourists, there is some good coffee you can get.

And finally Iris insisting on the reservation the other day paid off. Other than some fellow travelers without, we got our damn expensive tickets for the afternoon.

But wait, what is that? *smiley surprised* *smiley surprised*

No, seriously. No joking, that is the replacement. A cross-over between bus, tram and train!

After all, we really got on and started our trip on time. But look for yourself:

As quickly as we took of it was already over and we reached the end of the tracks in Sibambe. There is literally nothing at this station and thus it was just about returning back to Alausi.

In a nutshell: No highlight, must-do or however you want to call it. We don’t understand the hype and could have saved much time and money *smiley sad*

Our three takeaways from this “detour” in pictures:

Time to move on. And time is the key-word here, as we are about to do something supposedly healthy – visiting the Valley of Longevity.

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