Riding the Devil’s Nose in Ecuador

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Getting on a train is usually an everyday experience. You might even call it boring when the trip involves the usual daily commute from home to work or back.

Yet, all over the world there are some amazing train rides that will thrill you. Probably the best trip of this type I have ever made was on the incredible Nariz del Diablo (Devil’s Nose) ride in Ecuador.

One of the Great Railway Engineering Feats of History

So what could be so exciting about a blooming train ride? Well, the fact is that this route is described as one of the great railway engineering feats of history. The winding track was built into the face of a sheer mountain of rock that it looks impossible to go up or down on a train.

It is known as being the most impossible railway line on the planet but they found a way to make it work. I am no railway expert but the manoeuvres and zigzags the train has to make are truly staggering.

That is only part of the fun, though. The other exciting aspect to this train ride is the fact that you can ride on the roof. When I went on it there were loads of travellers, so we each did half of the journey downstairs and half up on the roof.

It was an amazing feeling to have the sun on my face and then the rain beating down as we hurtled along the track with local dogs chasing after the train and barking wildly.

The route and timetables seem to be subject to a lot of variance, due to the weather and maintenance works. However, the basic route sees you go from Alausi to Pistishi (or Sibambe) and back. This is a 12 km stretch of track and you can expect to pay $30 for the ride.

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Getting There from Riobamba

The nearest big town is Riobamba. In fact, the train used to run from here until El Niño ruined part of the track. There is talk of the full line being re-instated but at the time of writing I can find no evidence that this will be done anytime soon.

The carriages have been refurbished in recent times, although as far as I can see they are now little carriages used rather than actual trains. The route is very popular so booking in advance is a good idea. Don’t worry if you are easily scared; the weird manoeuvres mean that the pace is usually pretty slow for most of the journey.

Riobamba is a decent place to spend a day or two, although it isn’t the most memorable place in Ecuador. I can recommend the great value restaurant called El Delirio. This was a place of refuge for the libertador Simón Bolívar and is a hugely atmospheric place with great food. I can also recommend the delicious tres leches cake, which had me scratching my head wondering what the three types of milk in it were.

They also play a strange and unique sport here that involves teams punching a ball back and forward. It seems to be called La Mamona but I couldn’t find out much about it, to be honest.

Getting to Alausi from Riobamba is easy but there is little else there to detain you. This means that you should plan to get there pretty much just in time for the train ride.

You don’t have to be a train nut to enjoy this fantastic ride. As long as you love seeing new places and enjoying new experiences you will discover a huge amount of fun and adventure on the Devil’s Nose ride.

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