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Published: March 19th 2019
Today we are going on the Tren de los Volcanes. This tourist train follows a 50 mile route to El Boliche which, it claims, gives you the opportunity to see 15 volcanoes in good weather.
There aren’t any passenger trains in Ecuador; the taxi driver doesn’t even know where the station is, and tries to drop us at the offices of Tren Ecuador. Luckily, a motor cyclist explains his error, we get back in the taxi and follow the motorcyclist to Chimbacalle station.
We board our train and set off flanked by a team of motor cycle outriders to keep the tracks clear. We have only been able to book aisle seats, Ecuadorean families have booked all the window seats. But once underway, the families move to sit together (a group of 7 have booked 6 window seats) and a pair of seats together frees up.
After 45 minutes, we reach the outskirts of Quito and pass our first volcano, the active volcano of Atacazo. Next, through a large eucalyptus forest, then into a valley past Pasochoa, a horseshoe shaped volcano which has erupted sideways.
We stop for 30 minutes in the village of Tambillo for no
discernible reason than to bring tourism to the area. I show willing by buying a train fridge magnet.
After 3 hours we reach our destination, El Boliche, where we have 2 hours of ‘activities’. First, we are taken on a guided tour by an eco warrior who loves the sound of his own voice. It takes over an hour to follow a 320 metre trail. I zone out of what he’s saying, but basically he loves nettles and hates cow poo. He stings himself a few times to prove the point. Then it’s a case of ‘exit through the gift shop’. For an hour.
We are disappointed to discover that on the ‘Volcano Train’ (which advertises itself with pictures of Cotopaxi and takes you to the foot of Cotopaxi) you don’t actually see Cotopaxi - which was the point of the trip. I have been robbed of $78 and a day of my life by Tren Ecuador. However, unlike PeruRail, they haven’t cloned our credit card (yet).
On the return journey it rains and cloud descends so visibility is minimal. Now our ‘volcano experience’ is reduced to sitting on a retired Spanish commuter train crawling towards Quito
with nothing to do except write my blog and watch the outriders struggle on the wet cobbles.
We stop for two hours at Machachi station in the middle of nowhere. There’s the station, a café and a fancy ranch. We have some lunch at the station which leaves over an hour to kill aimlessly wandering round the train, which finally departs 20 minutes behind schedule.
We return to Quito station and get a taxi. I show the driver the address of the hotel and he nods and drives into town. It becomes apparent he has no idea where he’s going when he starts asking ‘aquí?’ every few hundred metres. The old man loses patience and we get out of the taxi and walk the final mile, find somewhere to eat that’s open on a Sunday (harder than it sounds), return to our hotel, swap rooms (it’s a long story) and go to bed with no alarm set for the first time in ages.
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