Riobamba and the Devils Nose Train

Riobamba Travel Blog

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View out of the front of our bus to Riobamba

We had come to Riobamba for one reason, to ride the infamous Devils Nose train, the only functioning train ride in Ecuador and one that is famous for the scenery, several switch backs down a steep mountain side and the fact that you can sit on the roof for the entire journey....or so we thought.

Despite staying at the dodgiest hostel so far on our trip (but for $3 what can you expect), Riobamba was a fairly pleasant town - big wide cobblestone streets, a nice plaza de armas and some good places to eat. But enough of the town.

We were both pretty excited at 6am on the day of our train ride, having read so much about this 'awesome' trip our expectations were high. Arriving at the train station with our $12 tickets in hand we were a little taken aback by the amount of tourists already lined up.

The indigenous ladies carry their children on their backs by an ingenious baby sling made out of 1 piece of material
That minor setback was nothing compared to what was to come. Apparently, about 6 months ago two Japanese tourists were unfortunately killed when they stood up to take a photo and a overhanging wire decapitated both of them. So the government stepped in and in all its wisdom removed the train and replaced it with buses on train wheels, apparently it was too hard to raise the wires and make the track safe. Then, although the buses have the setup, more sanctions were imposed preventing people from sitting on the roof.

As you can imagine, sitting on the would-be train with 40 other tourists we felt a little bit let down and we hadnt even left the station. I must admit though, the journey through the country side was still amazing (make sure you sit on left hand side to get more of the views). Two hours of weaving our way along a river, through small rural towns and along steep canyon edges was just stunning.

An early morning cup of milk
The pinnacle being the half hour descent down a mountain named the Devils Nose. The driver let us off every now and then to take photos which was ok but didnt make up for not being allowed on the roof. After spending 20 minutes at the bottom of the mountain, we made the ascent back up the switch backs to the small town of Alausi which was our departure point.

While I really really enjoyed the trip, it was only because of the show that nature put on. It wasnt the experience that I had read all about and that it once was (and hopefully one day will be again). Writing this after leaving Ecuador, that trip really summed up the country for me. If only the government threw a little bit of money at it to create a safe train track, the train would still be in existence and people could still sit on the roof and it would continue being the 'experience' that it has been.

The food on offer to hungry travellers and locals alike
Throw a little bit more money at it to restore the track to its former glory running all the way from Quito, through the valley of Volcanos and down to Cuenca and it would surely have to rank as one of the great train journies. Yep, Ecuador, a place so beautiful with so much potential but stuffed up by its political environment over the last quarter of a century with its corrupt politicians and government officials.

Still a good trip though and definitely beats being at work, hehe!!

Dave

ps Two weeks after our train ride, we met an Irish guy in Peru who said that his group were 'unofficially' allowed to sit on the roof for the descent of the Devils Nose. Lucky so and so's. Luck of the Irish I guess.

 

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View out of the front of our bus t…
View out of the front of our bus …
The indigenous ladies carry their …
The indigenous ladies carry their…
An early morning cup of milk
An early morning cup of milk
The food on offer to hungry travel…
The food on offer to hungry trave…
The bus (sorry train) to the Devil…
The bus (sorry train) to the Devi…
The famous devils nose. You can se…
The famous devils nose. You can s…
Now thats art.
Now thats art.
Riobamba
photo by: Adrian_Liston