Going up and down the Devil's Nose

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May 2nd 2009
Published: May 24th 2009
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Day 761 (29.04.09)

We'd come to Riobamba to travel on the famous section of railway between here and Sibambe. Usually this route is served by a large steam train and until recently you could ride on the roof of the train to enjoy the stunning scenery along the route. We'd had many mixed reports throughout the country as to whether the train was running, whether the track was open and whether you were still allowed to ride on the roof (after an unfortunate Chinese tourist lost their head a while ago). Even our taxi driver in Riobamba thought roof riding was still allowed but when we turned up at the station last night we finally heard the truth. Sadly we weren't going to be able to catch the famed train all the way to Sibambe. Due to a fairly recent landslide, the track between Riobamba and Alausi had been damaged so we'd have to catch the bus for this section of the journey and pick up the small replacement train there. Oh, and four months ago they stopped all roof riding.

We almost decided not to bother but it was what we'd come for and there was a large group of us that had travelled on together from Baños so we thought it would still be fun.

It was a horribly early start as we had to be at the station in Riobamba just before 6am to catch our bus. We arrived into Alausi and queued up for our tickets only to find that we couldn't get onto the first train and would have to wait a couple of hours for the next one. Thankfully there were 9 of us so we managed to keep each other entertained until our "train" was ready to leave. The small replacement train looked like a school bus on rails, not quite the puffing steam train in all the pictures!

The train ride took about two hours as we wound through beautiful green hills and valleys until we reached the most famed section of the track, the Nariz del Diablo (or Devil's Nose). To navigate a steep hill section the train shimmied back and forth down a series of switchbacks into the valley beneath, a pretty amazing feat of engineering.

It hadn't been quite the experience we'd hoped for but because we'd all been together it had been a laugh anyway.

After the train took us back to Alausi we had some lunch and grabbed a bus to Cuenca. It seemed everyone was still going in the same direction which was great. Once in Cuenca we found a place to stay and hit the town for some dinner and some 2 for 1 cocktails - you gotta love happy hour!

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