Ecuador Cliffhanger Train

The Ecuador train doesn't go for speed. It travels as fast as a car and can stop quickly should a confused goat, cow, person or any foreign object block its way. Two conductors take charge - one driving - one serving as a lookout. In Quito, three motorcycle cops escort all the way to the end of the city, mostly directing the traffic up ahead.

Train Trip Plan

Melva, my Ecuadorian friend, and I planned our trip for the very next day. We took the trolley to Chimbacalle stop on the south side. Chimbacalle means the other side of the edge. At one time it divided Quito from the other side of a river no longer there.

We let three crowded trolleys pass us by, and finally took one slightly less crowded. The squeeze-through aisle, kept us from moving further back.

As we rolled along, we heard someone shout to the driver not to open the doors because a "celular" had been pickpocketed. The driver complied, advising the victim to ring her cellular from a borrowed phone. The thief was promptly caught by an undercover cop on the bus.

At the train depot we were told that the ticket office supplied the "boletos" (tickets) at the corner of Garcia Moreno y Bolivar at the Ferrocarril office. Eager to purchase our $10 round trip documents, we were advised we needed a reservation preferably 15 to 30 days in advance.

Since I departed the next week for the U.S., Friday had just two slots left - not the next day. That worked. Weekends you really do need reservations.

Other routes are becoming available through Ecuador from Ibarra to Cuenca as the railroad once more comes alive.

They tell me the trip to Guayaquil is well worth the expense.

Off We Go

On Friday, we thumbed a taxi on Guayaquil Blvd. - cost under $2 - much better than the $6 quote we got on the phone when we tried to book one the night before.

If you get turned down by an older driver, try for a younger one. The older ones sometimes fear heavy traffic. The younger ones bypass it.

The Trip and the Legends

The cliffhanger area, "Nariz del Diablo," (Devil's Nose) together with "Cordillera de los Aves" (Mountain Ridge of the Birds) earned this rail the title of the most difficult in the world.

The bus transfer from Tambiyo Depot delivers you to Machachi, where a 30-minute lunch break awaits. Their hot chocolate delighted my heart.

We boarded the Ecuador train with no steering wheel, and continued on our way, listening to legends. The tour guide explained that the steering is in the wheels.

According to legend, a train derailed by a village near Laguna de Yambo. So they say screams from the victims as they fell out can still be heard in the night.

Also legendary, the tale of the double volcanoes, Las Ilinizas...  the story of two lovers from families who adamantly opposed to their plans to marry. When the father of the bride discovered their secret plan to marry anyway, he killed the groom. The bride then committed suicide. They then became the two volcanoes, the one with snow, the bride with her veil, and the other without snow, the groom.

We reached Boliche Depot at the edge of the refuge, and stayed - 27 miles from Quito - letting the Ecuador train go on to Latacunga without us. As soon as we stepped out of the train a tour guide offered a group trip to Cotopaxi, and we joyfully accepted.

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