After the high energy of Baños, we’re looking forward to a relaxed day in Alausí riding the La Nariz del Diablo, the Devil’s Nose Train.
We take the bus from Baños to Riobamba and have to change to a bus for Alausí. We wander the terminal and find that the desk for Alausí is shut. I sit down with the bags and Dave does a lap of the terminal to see if anyone else goes there. Doesn’t seem they do. I spot a man waiting at the Alausí counter, he speaks to a security guard and starts heading outside. ‘Follow that man’ I say to Dave and sure enough, there’s a bus outside with a sign for Alausí, we jump on.
A short but rather countryside smelling journey later and we arrive in beautiful Alausí. This place looks like it’s straight out of some cowboy film.
We check in to our hotel and are very excited by the new digs. It was advertised as a hostel but this place feels like a boutique hotel. It’s gorgeous, immaculately clean and feels almost band new throughout. After dumping our bags we head out to explore. The friendly man on reception, Marco, has reliably informed us the town is very safe and we can happily wander anywhere. We head down the road following the train lines into town. I miss trains! We could’ve travelled so much quicker if trains were a thing here, stupid, beautiful mountains ruining travel times! As we are walking we spot the biggest beetle we have ever seen. He’s on his back and appears to be dead. I’m convinced he’s not and try to persuade Dave to flip him right way up. Dave obliges but is still convinced he’s no longer with us. We’ll see if he’s moved on our way back.
We have a short walk around the tiny town and it has a really great feel. It’s so rural and not at all touristy, in fact we don’t see any other tourists at all. The locals are all kitted out in traditional garb and it’s stunning. The ladies all have long braided hair, heavy velvet, pleated skirts, hemmed with gorgeous embroidery and sequins, in rich jewel tones. They all wear a shawl in a contrasting jewel tone, some just for warmth and some to carry children or shopping in. They all have a felt trilby with some sort of adornment on it. The men all look like grubby, little farmers.
We grab a quick family sized pizza and some grande beers in a restaurant playing loud South American soaps.
We forget to check on the giant beetle on our way back to the hostel but a little later we decide to have another wander. Obviously one of us wants to go to a viewpoint. We wander over to the big statue of St. Pedro, the highest point in the centre of the town.
To our absolute horror there are giant beetles and humongous moths everywhere. Cowboy film by day and horror film by night.
Feet for scale
There are big spotlights on Pedro which seem to be attracting these dinosaurs of the insect world.
The whole thing makes us both itch and it really is unpleasant so we quickly retreat back to our fancy digs.
Free tea and coffee, oh yeah! ? We play a few games of cards in the lounge and then call it night. Early morning tomorrow to catch the first train, yay trains!
We wake up and have one of the best showers we’ve had since we arrived in South America! Dave runs over to the train station to buy our tickets. We have breakfast at the hostel, which is by far the best breakfast we have had. Perhaps we should just stay here for a few more months, eww no, giant bugs.
We walk down to the train station and board the train. Where have all these tourists been hiding because they certainly haven’t been in or around the town, not that we’ve seen anyway? The train its self is not super fancy but it’s pretty quaint, all wood trimmed with large windows all the way along.
The big deal about this particular train, also where it’s name comes from, is that it winds and weaves round a mountain (shaped like a nose) with almost perpendicular walls. In order to overcome this they built the zigzag railway which climbs more than 500 meters in less than 12.5Km with very steep ascents and descents.
We pull out of the station and very soon we realise this is the slowest train we have ever been on. It’s poodling along slower than an Ecuadorian family using the entirety of the pavement. There is a lady pointing out the highlights of the route and telling us various statistics about the railway line and how it was built. The one that stood out for me was the number of people who died building it. Around 2,000 people died during its construction, due to disease, land slides, jaguars, snake bites and not being able to get away quickly from dynamite explosions. Most of these people were Caribbean slaves or prisoners on a promise of freedom.
This railway line actually runs all the way from Quito to Guayaquil but we are only going to travel a section of it, including the famous Devil’s Nose.
The journey really is beautiful and the landscape is very dramatic.
But after only 20 minutes crawling up and down the mountainside we come to a stop. The information lady tells us we will get off the train for 10 minutes and take pictures of the train and the famous Devil’s Nose. She goes into great detail about the nose we should be able to see pointing into the sky, I can’t see it.
There’s a man in traditional dress with a couple of alpacas and a man dressed as a cowboy with a horse, wandering about charging a dollar for a picture. It definitely feels a bit more touristy now. We grab a couple of snaps of the train and the nose, as instructed and then we’re lumbering along the tracks again. Within 5 minutes we’ve pulled into the station at Simbambe.
The information lady tells us we will be stopping here for an hour, during which we will watch some traditional dancing, visit a museum and then have 20 minutes free time to explore. We skip the traditional dancing, it looks super awkward and uncomfortable plus one of us wants to smoke. Much more interesting than the awkward dancing, we watched the train be turned around, ready for departure.
We do have a little wander around the museum, as instructed. It’s very small and about the indigenous people who live in this area. A particular highlight is when the guy showing us around blows into a shell to demonstrate how the chief guy gets everybodys attention.
He tells us before that he is still in training and that the chief can do it much better, longer and louder than him. Now I’m not sure how long he’s been training (he may have told us but we were too busy suppressing giggles to hear) but I think he’s got a way to go. He basically blew a raspberry into a shell, it was great.
After our fill of culture we decide to grab a beverage. The coffee in Ecuador has been sorely disappointing. I’ve had to drink instant coffee, that’s right SOLUBLE coffee, in South America, where coffee grows! This coffee was the worst I’ve had by far, it’s can barely be called coffee, it’s just hot, brown water and bad water at that. Dave’s hot chocolate is not any better and a dog stuck his tongue in it on his way passed. After not finishing our disgusting drinks we get back on the train ready for another slow chug back to Alausí.
It’s not as exciting as expected or advertised but it certainly is very pretty.
We arrive back in Alausí and decide to have a wander along the railway lines in the other direction. It feels very different here to other places we have visited, it feels very authentic, bar some tourist shops outside the train station. We both really like it, the people are genuinely friendly and it has a nice small village feel. We find this sketchy bit of track and after seeing a few locals make short work of crossing it decide to have a go ourselves.
I go about five rails in, look down, freak out and then hobble back, very timidly. Dave makes it a little further but appears to keep a cool head unlike me.
We go back to the park to see if it’s full of horrible dinosaur bugs during the day and find this tree of nightmares.
We wander around a very local market, mainly selling fruit and veg and a few clothes. We buy a fancy bag to carry our Colombian hammock and a couple of other souvenirs in. Then we walk to an even higher viewpoint on the edge of town. The weather changes dramatically here, one minute it’s clear and the next we are in a cloud.
After a comfortable night’s sleep, a fantastic shower and another yummy breakfast we get on the bus to Guayaquil. The start of the journey is gorgeous as we wind down the mountains towards the coast.
After four and a half hours we arrive in Guayaquil. We’ve booked an Airbnb not a hostel for the first time on this trip. We get a cab to the address and sign in with the doorman. A lady arrives and shows us up to the 3rd floor of what appears to be an office building. She lets us in and the room is huge, there’s a bed over in the far corner and floor for days. She turns on the air con, leaves us the key and is gone. It’s hot again, really hot, stifling, city hot! We’ve been in the mountains for quite some time now, it has felt like Ecuador has been cloudy since we arrived. We are in rainy season and February is the wettest month so we’ve been lucky really. We drop our bags and head out for a look around. We visit the park, which is full of iguanas.
And have a walk along the malecón where we find Father Christmas.
After some dinner we stroll back to our room/office block. The doorman seems very put out that he has to open the door to us, despite the fact it’s literally his only job! We notice how creepy the lobby feels and decide it would be a good horror film location. Just before the lift arrives we spot this light which may or may not be covered in blood!
As it’s a Friday evening all the offices are shut now and the building is pretty quite, bar one very South Americanly loud TV somewhere, echoing around the corridors. This place gives me the creeps, it looks like some sort of asylum.
Safe to say I don’t leave the room on my own again and Dave has to accompany me for any subsequent cigarettes!
After somehow managing to survive the night in creepy towers, we take a slow mooch up and back down the malecón. We take a walk up to the compulsory viewpoint, which is very pleasant and contains this lighthouse.
On the way back down we stop for beers in the quietest bar we can find (most are completely deafening) and watch the sunset over Malecón 2000. After some dinner and managing not to get caught up in a political rally, we reluctantly return to the nightmare palace.
Luckily we survive yet another night in the horror hotel as we’re moving on to the seaside today! ??️