Friday, April 3, 2009

Riding the Devil’s Nose (Riobamba, Ecuador) - Part Two

Read Part One of the journey down Devil's Nose firstly.

Along the platform, enthusiastic street vendors parade a wide variety of food and drink to sate empty and dry bodies. Small kids dance along the train’s roof with the aplomb of Russian circus performers balancing trays of tasty morsels and shuffling currency with the flair of a central banker. No-one leaves their seat on the roof for fear of losing it with the influx of new passengers – possession being ten-tenths of the law on Ecuador railways!

The train finally starts its journey down the Devil’s Nose past a sequence of abandoned buildings. The sun has comfortably won the temperature battle as passengers have shed any semblance of winter clothing and try to catch any cooling breeze and hide from the harsh equatorial sun. The train rides past a junction in the line before a crew member clambers down and switches the junction. The train proceeds in reverse a further distance before repeating this same technique, zig-zagging down the mountain-side until we arrive at the abandoned town of Sibambe, with its shell of a railway station and church. We all get to stretch our legs for a few minutes before the train commences its slow journey back to Alausi, simply reversing its journey and struggling up the steep slopes of the Devil’s Nose.

With dust-encrusted skin, slight sunburn from the mountain sun and sore legs from perching on the roof all day, most agree that it is good to be off this train that only a few hours earlier, people had rushed onto with excited anticipation. The switchback engineering is more interesting to read about than see, the views are pleasant rather than spectacular and the towns somewhat sad as they slowly fade from their colonial glory. Yet, in many ways, the Riobamba-Devil’s Nose train is a travel wonder worth experiencing.


Martin in Bulgaria said...

A gripping part two given here. I really enjoyed reading it and the picture just are the icing on the cake.

Gennaro said...

Love that first photo. Something about people riding on a train that catches a viewer attention. Happens a lot in India.

Mark H said...

@Martin: Thank you

@genarro: I doubt I'd be that brave on Indian trains. But this trip isn't bad.

Heather on her travels said...

I agree with you about Riobamba - it does have that slightly bored feel from a tourist point of view although there are plenty of normal Ecuadorians getting on with their lives there. We stayed just outside the town at a lovely hacienda with amazing views of Mt Chimborazo, but we didn't have time to take the devil's nose. when I read up about it, it did seem that it could be wonderful for the first hour, but maybe not for a whole day. I spoke to someone who recommended picking it up halfway down, so as to have a shorter journey

Mark H said...

@heather: The mountains are magnificent and I agree that the train journey is long. Many do catch the train at Alausi further down the line.

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