Alausí’s claim to fame is that it’s the starting point for the El Nariz del Diablo (the Nose of the Devil) train ride, so named by the engineer that figured out the unique zigag tracking dropping the elevation by 1000' in just a few kilometres. To set the record straight, there is a lot of confusion as to where you actually pick the train up, and it is in Alausí, not Riobamba. You CAN purchase the tickets in Riobamba at the train station, but when the day comes to ride, they will actually bus you down to Alausí to embark. If Riobamba is not on your itinerary, don’t bother stopping and just head straight south. The other change that has occurred is that you can no longer sit on the roof of the train, and haven’t been able to do so since 2007, when a couple of Japanese tourists sat up a bit too high, and who’s heads were taken out by a tunnel. Not a good way to go, especially for the other passengers.
This is the most charming of any towns we’ve visited in Ecuador. We could envision ourselves purchasing a piece of land in the surrounding hillsides, and frequenting the town. There is a tremendous amount of pride here, with one of the locals informing me that this was a clean city, not like some of the other towns to the north, and we can attest to it.
Monday morning after breakfast, we were wandering and came across this couple. As we saw a few helpless pigs in similar circumstances, we figured this was a “beginning of the week” chore. Of course, we were treated to a bowl of pig skin, complete with a hominy-type corn, juices and fresh salsa overall, which came complete with the inevitable “muy rico, MUY rico”. Ron was horrified, and resorted to the strategy of his youth regarding broccoli – cut it up in small pieces and hide it under something. Unfortunately, this old timer was wilier than that…..he came into the shop, inquired as to how we liked it, and then proceeded to root around in our bowl with his finger, and discovered Ron’s carefully constructed hiding spot. My manners dictated that I needed to choke a few pieces down….the flavor was fine, it was just the texture which was a bit tough to take so early in the morning. Kind of like chewing a piece of hard gelatin – very interesting. So now that we’ve tried it, we don’t need to go down that road again.
|This little piggy went to market......|
|.....and then he had none|
The area around the square and train depot was well kept, colorfully painted, and we really liked it.
As the train was fully booked when we came to town, we had to commit to sticking around for a couple of days to wait for when there would be seats available. No problem…..and although there wasn’t too much to do there, we enjoyed ourselves. There was another bustling Sunday market, and the hostel (another $8/person/night spot) had good internet. We could hang out to wait, and went out walking the train tracks, exploring the streets, and in general just “being” there, which was another reason we ended up really enjoying the quiet time.
|Me channeling my inner matador|
Of course, eventually the hunt was on a for a pizza place. I had read somewhere that there was one in town, and we had no less than five different people send us in five different directions in search of. Finally, one got it right and El Paraiso Pizza, in an obscure neighborhood, 5 blocks away from the main drag was awesome! A huge 18” square pizza was $12, LOADED. Extremely good, and fed us for two and ½ days.
But then came Tuesday. The town had a bit more of a bustle than was usual and we figured this was due to it being Train Day. At 3pm, all the tourists, some international, some local, filed into their respective cars away we went.
|Now he's Conductor Ron|
|Three levels in one camera shot|
At the bottom of the route in Simbambe, we were treated to dancing by the locals wearing traditional garb.
Although modern conveniences are becoming more abundant in these parts, there is a resurgence in indigenous pride, adding to a richer traveling experience for everyone who chooses to go to the effort. Ecuador is MUY RICO!!