The Devil’s Nose (Alausi)
When we finally dragged ourselves away from Rio Verde and got back into a travelling frame of mind we started to head South. After stocking back up with groceries at a big Mega Maxi in Ambato we continued heading South on the PanAm. Our bad luck with the weather in the mountains in Ecuador continued and as we headed past Chimborazo low cloud and rain scuppered any chance we had of seeing the mountain.
We drove straight on to the small town of Aluasi. This is famous as it is the departure point for a train ride over a set of switchbacks across a mountain called the Devil’s Nose. The incline here is so steep that the train has to go down one track and then reverse to go down another leg of the switchback.
In the past this was a cheap and more adventurous trip than now as the old carriages had stairs up to the roof and tourists could sit on the roof for amazing views. However in the last few years new modern carriages have been introduced and they have taken much of the fun out of the trip. The price has also increased and is now a pretty hefty $25 each (even more expensive tickets are also available).
Despite this we decided to take the trip which runs from the Alausi station to a small station just below the Devil’s Nose mountain called Sibambe. We bought our tickets at the station in Alausi. We’d been told that we should sit on the right hand side of the train to get the best views so we had to get the 8.00am train rather than the 11am which would have been our preference.
We were staying in a small hotel just outside town, parked on their volleyball court, which was a 15 minute walk into town along a dirt track which used to be part of the railway. The railway used to stretch all the way from Guayquil to Quito but now only short sections are still in use. In fact our guidebook says you can take the train from Riobamba to Alausi but this is no longer the case.
When we arrived at the train station in the morning we waited a few minutes before we could board. Once on board, in your designated seats we realised that we were at a table on the right hand side but not actually in the window seats. The train journey itself only takes 45 minutes on the way out. The views are good – but not exceptional.
After a few minutes the roof started leaking above a couple just down the carriage from us and they were upgraded to more expensive seats. We took advantage and moved into their window seats which weren’t getting wet despite the leak.
The switchbacks down the mountain aren’t as exciting as I expected and all that really happens is that the train goes one way, stops and then reverses the other way. This brings you down to the station but we went straight through this to the end of the track where we all got out for a good view of the Devil’s Nose mountain itself.
After this we loaded back in and the train drove into the station. We spent an hour here, stopping for refreshments, some souvenir shopping and local entertainment. There were a group of indigenous people dancing in a covered area above the platforms.
Before we left Sarah joined in and danced with one of the guys! Needless to say I stayed firmly seated (well someone’s got to take the pictures).
The journey back was quicker than the journey out and we were soon back in Alausi.