Traversing the Devils Nose and Cuenca

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March 10th 2018
Published: April 29th 2018
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We arrived in Quito at about 10pm and then got on a Cuenca bound night bus to the village of Alausi, where we were going to ride the Devil’s Nose train journey the next day. We took the latest bus possible, but still arrived at Alausi at the awkward time of 4:30 am. Thankful for alarms and GPSs, we were able to get some sleep on the bus while also being aware when to tell the driver to let us off. We were also thankful that a taxi was waiting where the bus stopped on the side of the highway to take us down into town. The train station doesn’t open until 7:30 so we had a chilly little sleep in the plaza until the town woke up. There aren’t a lot of places we would do this, but the clean and quiet village of Alausi didn’t even notice us, plus we got to watch textile shops put all of their products on display for the day. We have been to a lot of markets and rarely stopped to think about the effort and care that goes into displaying and putting away products every day. The Devil’s Nose is a tourist train trip on the most complicated section of the Quito – Guayaquil line, which climbs over 500 m in less than 12 km. To overcome the steep terrain between Alausi and Sibambe a series of switchbacks were built on a hill named Nariz del Diablo due to the difficulty building the track and the many deaths that occurred doing so. The scenery of the steep cliffs, the unique switchbacks and the proud people of Sibambe area made very interesting trip. The stop at the Sibambe station includes a lively dance routine performed by locals. Once back in Alausi we found a bus south to Cuenca.

The views on the trip from Alausi to Cuenca can be simply amazing in clear weather, which we had for about half the journey. If you are lucky you will be treated to sweeping green valleys of small farms and villages which appear close but are actually hours apart by road or foot.

Phil didn’t do any reading on Cuenca, so he thought it was simply a city to sleep in on the way to Peru. In reality it is as beautiful a city as any in South America with immaculate colonial churches around every corner, a river buffered by green parklands and upscale hotels and restaurants. Ok so our budget meant we are not the target audience for a majority of Cuenca’s establishments, but we were able to visit many of the churches and found a Lord of the Rings inspired café with local beer and gourmet hotdogs (yes Europeans, it’s a thing). If we hadn’t been on a tight schedule, we would have stayed in Cuenca longer than one day, but our objective to see Peru and Bolivia in the next two months pushed us to move on after one day bound for Piura, just across the border in Peru via night bus.

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