04 Sep Devil’s Nose Train – Ecuador
Devil’s Nose Train – Incredible Views and Fascinating History
Fiona Black – South America Travel Centre
After an early start in Riobamba, I headed to Alausi. A small, picturesque town perched on the edge of the Rio Chanchan Gorge, where the notorious Devil’s Nose Train departs. I was booked on the 11am train which travels along a 12km component of the rail line that once connected Ecuador’s capital Quito in the mountains to Guayaquil on the coast. Built in 1901, this train line, and in particular the notorious Devil’s Nose section, was a feat of engineering for its time.
These days the train line is no longer used for transporting goods and much of the original track has deteriorated. The most scenic sections of the track have been maintained for tourist and historic purposes including the Devil’s Nose. In the past passengers were allowed to ride on the roof of the train which made for a thrilling but dangerous journey and due to obvious safety reasons, this is no longer allowed. The train carriages have been replaced in recent years and are comfortable with large windows to watch the scenery passing by.
The Devil’s Nose
When I boarded the sun was shining and the sky a brilliant blue, showing off the lush green mountains. Often visitors prefer to take the 8am train hoping the clouds will stay at bay in the morning but it is never guaranteed and today I was lucky.
The 45min train journey curved around the side of the mountain, overlooking the valley way below, then down the infamous Devil’s Nose. This part of the track travels by switchback down a cliff face that was once thought to be an impossible place to build. With the use of dynamite and a huge labour force, the near vertical rocky face was cut to allow space for tracks. This section of the track drops 500m over 12km and got its name due to the many deaths that happened during the building of the track and the sheer difficulty of the construction. Also if you really squint whilst looking at the side profile of the mountain it looks a little bit like a nose.
The Devil’s Nose
For the duration of the train journey our guide explained the history of the train and its significance, both in Spanish and perfect English. At the bottom of the cliff the train stopped for guests to disembark and take a look back at where we had travelled admiring the steep tracks descending down the Devils Nose as well as having a picture with a llama.
Eventually the whistle sang out to reboard then the train backtracked up the hill slightly to Sibambe Station which consists of a little restaurant and museum wedged between the side of the tracks and the mountainside. Traditional music was playing as we stepped onto the platform and a local dance group performed in their traditional dress.
Back onboard the train retraced its journey back up the mountain to Alausi, allowing us to experience the Devil’s Nose going up the steep tracks this time. By the time we arrived the rain had set in (classic Ecuadorian highlands weather during rainy season – sunny one moment, pouring rain the next). Luckily my driver was there waiting with an umbrella. After a fabulous day filled with stunning scenery and history I continued through the Ecuadorian highlands to Cuenca. And within 15 minutes the sun reappeared showing off the mountains and valleys along the way.
Note: When purchasing a ticket I recommend an ‘Abyss’ ticket – or ticket with A. This means you will be seated looking out over the abyss and are able to open your window for unobstructed photographs.
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