Wednesday, June 18th, 2003 – Day 120

Wednesday, June 18th, 2003 – Day 120

Today was train trip day. I was up at 6.05am as we were told to be at the station by 6.30am. I bought some croissants from a vendor (.10 cent each) before I got to the station. There were about 40 tourists already there. I bypassed the guards checking tickets and passports as Marys name was on mine. Normally you have to show your passport when buying tickets. The steam train was now out of commission for 3 months for two reasons. The first was that it was too heavy for the now badly eroded tracks. It kept on derailing and they didn’t want 40-100 dead or injured gringos on their hands. The second reason was it was too expensive to maintain as it had to stop many times for water and fuel. Now in operation were two diesel powered carriages. Locals say it is still dangerous as the tracks are in bad repair and because of the many landslides and soil subsistence.

More on the Train

The Train ride from Riobamba is out of this world, the highlight being bite the Devil’s Nose and Alausi Loop. The train departs from Riobamba on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays at 07:00, arriving in Alausi around 10:00-10:30, hits Sibambe about 11:30-12:00 and regresses back to Alaus? around 13:30-14:00. Tickets for the 07:00 train go on sale one night before around 18:00 to 19:00, or the same early morning at 06:00, do take note that the seats are not numbered, so as with Egyptian trains its best to arrive early. The train service isn’t always punctual with some disruptions and changing timetables so do check locally about current times. The administration office is positioned on Espejo, adjacent to the Post Office, for information call Tel. 960115, or 961909. Metropolitan Touring, have private autoferro on the Riobamba-Sibambe route. They need a minimum of 20 passengers to run the train and are flexible any time convenient to your group or mixed ones.

The cost was 11 Dollars. The reason why it is popular is that you can roof ride. Over 90% of the people there did because unlike yesterday, it wasn’t raining. Anyway we set off at 7.00am and it was pretty exciting to begin with. The scenery was great and we could see many people working the fields. We passed many locals who laughed and waved at the passing gringos on top of the train. On our carriage there were about 25 on top, 10 below with only 3 people from Ecuador. As this train is faster than the old steam one, we got to our location by 10.30am. There were 2 stops for the toilet or to buy snacks. Anyway, while the scenery was good, I wasn’t impressed by the Devil’s Nose and Alaus? Loop. It wasn’t trilling, exciting or dangerous. The views were so-so and by the time we got back to Alaus? at 1.00pm, I was ready to head back to Riobamba. It was a nice day out, but not a must do activity. I was pretty under awed. Anyway the town of Alausi was nice with many colorfully dressed locals queuing at the bank.

We grabbed a bus (1.50 US) for Riobamba which was nearly full. The best part of the day was the scenery on the way back. It was spectacular with a patchwork of fields. We arrived back at 1.55pm and four of us shared a taxi back to the hostel (1 US but he tried to charge us more).

Anyway I grabbed my bags, said my good byes and headed back to the station which I just left. A Quito bound bus was just leaving. I jumped out and grabbed it. The cost to Latacunga was two Dollars and the journey took two hours. I took a taxi to the main plaza in the town for 1 Dollar as it was raining. I checked out about 5 hotels and hostels but I think there is a agreement amongst them. No matter what place I checked out, the cost was eight Dollars. The guidebooks say between five and seven. I even checked hostels which were not in the guidebook. There must be an agreement between them. As they were all the same price, I went to the most luxurious (Well, biggest room and bathroom, and hot water) which was the Hotel Central just off the Plaza. I paid for two night s (15 Dollars) and walked around town. I visited a few agencies to check on treks and climbing opportunities. Prices were between 100 and 150 US for 2 day treks. I will wait until Sunday to decide on those. Most shops were closing by 6.00pm and I had to chase around to look for a restaurant as many close by 8.00pm. Found a small place and had a 1/4 Chicken and Chips with salad for two Dollars.

As I was up since 6.00am, I decided to have a long shower and an early night (9.30pm). There are two or three NET cafes but connections are VERY slow. I had tried to find out when the Corpus Christi celebrations in Pujili were on too no avail. Tomorrow is the official day but many festivals wait until the following weekend. Anyway, I had a good scrub and went to bed.

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Riobamba – Ecuador – The Train to nowhere. Some bright spart had cut a tree on the tracks. It took 20 minutes to clear. Lots of impatient gringoes. (18-06-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in it´s original size

Riobamba – Ecuador – The Train to nowhere. Good view of Chimborazo which I had been yesterday. (18-06-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in it´s original size

Riobamba – Ecuador – The Train to nowhere. (18-06-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in it´s original size

Riobamba – Ecuador – The Train to nowhere. Colourful lot waiting for the bank in Alausi. (18-06-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in it´s original size

Riobamba – Ecuador – The Train to nowhere. Some locals waiting for the bus. (18-06-2003)