The destination for our day trip was the village of Sibambe, at the foot of the mountain we so laboriously came down. We were given an hour to buy snacks or handicrafts or watch the costumed dancers go through their paces. There were horses and llamas one could mount and be photographed wearing a campesino hat. There was even a mirador (viewpoint) and museum for those who felt like ascending about a hundred steps. (I myself did not.)
I just looked up at the mountain we had just descended and marveled at the ingenuity of those 19th century engineers who built the line:
Tomorrow, I will upload a video of the Nariz Del Diablo train departing from the sation at Alausi.
The day my brother returned to the U.S., I took a Patria bus to Alausi for one of the most spectacular train rides in the Americas: The Nariz Del Diablo route from Alausi to Sibambe and back.
Originally, there was a single long train ride from Quito to Guayaquil. It still exists, as a luxury train called the Tren Crucero. If you take it, you will see a lot of rich Americans and Europeans—and damned few Ecuadorans. What the Ecuadorans did was to break the route into manageable day trips from Quito, Riobamba, and Alausi, while keeping the complete route as a four day trip including deluxe hotel accommodations.)
What is interesting about the Nariz Del Diablo (translated as “The Devil’s Nose”) is the rapid descent from the Andes where there is really no room to turn around. So the rail engineers designed a simple and elegant solution:
The train moves forward from the upper left to the end of track at the same level. Note the orange dots which represent switches. A rail employee throws the first switch, and the trains backs up past the second switch to the lower level end of track. Then the second switch is thrown, and the train moves forward at the lower level to its destination, the crafts village of Sibambe.
Here’s a view of the milieu:
Tomorrow, I will continue this post and also talk about our destination, Sibambe.
When I go to Ecuador later this year, I hope to take one of the trains that go through parts of the Andes. The only problem is that they are all tourist trains, that is to say, the locals do all their traveling by bus. Most of the routes are scenic fragments of what once were longer routes, back when one could ride the trains with Andean natives carrying their goods to and from market.
The problem is that I tend to dislike traveling with large groups of Americans. That’s when I dummy up and answer all questions in Hungarian. I don’t want to talk about how things are in East Jesus, Arkansas.
At present, the most spectacular route is through the Nariz del Diablo, or Devil’s Nose. It used to be part of the route between Quito and Guayaquil. Now it only goes between Alausi and Sibambe, where there’s a show for the tourists, a small hotel, souvenirs, and a small museum. According to Lonely Planet Ecuador:
Somewhere along the nariz, the old choo-choo (it’s actually more like a retrofitted bus) inevitably derails. Not to worry, though! The conductors ask everyone to get off and by using advanced technology—big rocks and sticks—they steer the iron horse back on track.
I remember taking the Chihuahua al Pacifico Railroad in Mexico between Las Mochis and Divisadero Barrancas some three decades ago, but that was a real train where there were no roads. Half the passengers were train aficionados like me, but there were many campesinos; and Tarahumara women sold tasty snacks at most of the train stops.
In Peru, I took the tourist train between Puno and Cusco, which was an all-day trip that I enjoyed immensely. Also, the only way to get to the Inca ruins at Machu Picchu is to take the train from Poroy or Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu town. That wasn’t bad either.