La Nariz del Diablo Train – 23 July 2011

We’d read a lot about the train ride to “la nariz del diablo” (the devil’s nose), said to be one of the most incredible train rides in the world. We’d also read there was construction on the line, but I could not find any current information on the status of the work. So, we headed to Riobamba, which is the normal starting point for the journey. As is often the case in Ecuador, when you need updated, accurate information on something, you have to go to the source in person. This method is not always so convenient, but generally works.

Once in Riobamba, we learned that the Ecuador State Railways (Empresa de Ferrocarriles Ecuatorianos) has decided to capitalize on tourists’ love for this (and a few other tourist routes) and renovate the rails, cars and turn them into tourist trains. For all practical purposes, buses are now the way to travel in Ecuador. That is because they are generally safe, very cheap and fairly quick, and they usually allow you to get closer to your final destination than you can with a train system.

When we arrived in Riobamba, we learned the train is now leaving from Alausi (an hour and 1/2 bus ride to the south), so we booked our train passage and planned to catch the bus the following morning. We then had the afternoon to explore Riobamba, which is a very friendly little city.

The view of Alausi from the cafe

The next day, we left our hotel (Oasis – great, family-owned spot!) much earlier than we’d have liked and caught the bus to Alausi. We arrived in time to enjoy a stroll around town and a coffee before catching the train.

Although another change in the train ride is the price (our guidebook said $11 roundtrip from Riobamba, but it is now $20 roundtrip from Alausi), but the track and cars have been updated and don’t derail anymore (though I think this was part of the attraction before!). If you are on a tight budget, and not a train buff, I might advise skipping it, but otherwise, it’s a nice afternoon out. The guides were interesting and the ride in the refurbished train car through the beautiful scenery was pretty incredible.

You can't ride up top anymore, but you can still pretend you're a dog and stick your head out the window!

The Nariz del Diablo train once connected the sierra mountain region, which runs down the middle of the country, to Guyaquil, the country’s largest city, on the coast. More than a scenic voyage, it was a feat of engineering in 1900. Instead of tunneling through the mountains, the engineers decided to just go over them. This limits the amount of cargo the train can carry, which was an ongoing problem for the line, but obviously not an issue for most tourists! Prior to the renovations, passengers could ride on top of the train cars, however, after the deaths of two tourists, this has been outlawed. In light of that fact, I was ok with riding inside the car.

We had a beautiful day and incredible scenery. For more photos, visit my set on Flickr, here and to get more of a feel for the ride, view the video below: