October 12, 2007
The advantage of getting to Riobamba two days before the train to the devil's nose left was that I got a ticket in the luxury car at no extra charge because of their first-come-first-serve system. I relaxed in my first class seat and met some of the other passengers, most of whom were in high-end package tours. Vendors constantly paraded past us hawking their junk food and coffee at double the normal price. The train left before any restaurants opened for breakfast, so most people were happy to take the offer.
There was an exciting atmosphere when I first boarded the train. Everyone had smiles on their faces, and the local people waved at us as we passed them. Everywhere I've been, there is an unwritten rule in train etiquette that you have to wave whenever a train passes you. There's something magical about a passenger train, whether you're on it or just a spectator. Too bad trains aren't more common in South America or I'd ride them more often.
We got great views of Chimborazo at the beginning of the trip, but really all of the scenery was great. The train moved slowly through the countryside where we got to view the local farming life in a way that wouldn't be possible on a fast-moving bus. We also made several stops at small towns where all of the locals gathered either to sell stuff to us, or just to watch us. The train stopping must have been the most exciting part of the day for those people.
In the middle of the day, my enthusiasm for train riding dropped as we derailed several times and the engineers had a tough time of getting us back onto the tracks. The old people in the tour groups got bored quickly, but it wasn't such a big deal for me because I didn't have anything else planned for the day and had already dealt with unbelievable stretches of downtime during my trip. We finally reached the devil's nose a few hours late, but I was disappointed when the dramatically-named landmark turned out to be nothing more than a kink in the tracks.
When we backtracked to a small town, we were allowed to sit on top of the roof of the luxury car. People used to be able to ride up there all day, but the rumor was that two Japanese tourists got decapitated recently and it was no longer allowed. A few people complained about the new rule, but we had only been on the roof for one minute when two guys who weren't paying attention got hit on the head by an overhanging pipe. Sometimes, rules are made for a reason.
The trip took a little long, but it was still a great day for seeing the area around the uninspiring city of Riobamba.
The photo album for this entry is here.