Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Train touring in Ecuador ...

During our stay in Ingapirca we followed our wanderlust and took a side-bus trip into Tambo. As we entered the town we saw a train station with an odd looking train parked in front. Ah ha, a tourist train so off we tumbled in our haste to not miss anything. We had read about and heard about the various tourist trains and in fact wanted to take the one from the coast to Quito but had read that it wasn't running until Dec 8.
This train reminded us of the Goose that we rode in northern New Mexico years ago: A truck motor and transmission put onto a train chassis and a modified body built around it.

 yup, a typical tourist train. The fare was very good ... for a mere $36 we could ride the ride, regardless of the number of available passengers for the trip. When do we leave? Whenever you want. Yes!
 Our route would take us up to the Incan Baths at Coyoctor, you can see the water aqueducts and stone work found in the baths themselves. Apparently the baths are a religious rite and were used by only a select few.) 
and back, down into and through the valley. 
At the terminus, they had a round table that allowed for the turning of the train - all by manual labor. 

The next day, after reading the guide book, our jaunt took us to Alausí, and our next train ride. Alausí is  a quaint little (well, maybe not so little in the general scheme of things) town going north towards Quito, our final destination. OMG, the bus dropped us off on the highway, above, yes ABOVE the town. I asked if there were taxis available and was told yes. What I wasn't told was that the taxis were in the town proper. Crossing the road, we found a walkway, going down, down, down ...

 Although the town is nestled in a what appears to be a valley of the Andean highlands, it is actually on a plateau above the valley floor. 
A large religious statue of San Pedro towers from the edge of the plateau, over the town.

 The town is a colorful, quaint little town   everywhere people used the curbs as benches.
whose main call to fame is the La Nariz del Diablo train ride, our reason for coming and stopping in.   The local population were also very colourful with what appeared to be a love of the bright and vivid. One particularly interesting statue found near the market area depicted the shoeshine boys playing "bullfighter" in the street.

This train ride goes up and up, round mountains and through high altitude valleys. 

 You felt like you are going to the top of the world. It has the steepest ascent/descent of any railroad in the world (over 1000 meters), including 2 unique switchbacks which take you up the Devil's Nose.  Here you go headfirst up the side of the mountain, then stop, switch the tracks, and back down into the station. 

Once in the station, you then walk back up the mountain to get to the informational museum. 

As we stood looking down from the mirador, we happened to look up and actually saw a condor soaring between the mountains. Too far off to get a photo, but saw it we did.

The whole trip took only 4 hours, leaving us enough time to wander the town a little afterwards and then get on the bus to our next point and train ride ... Riobamba ... all the while continuously heading north to our final destination.