Yes, I went to Banos again. My 4th time. I had an itch to get outa Dodge and there was a gap in-between guests checking in/checking out of my apartments so I leaped at the chance. I've also tried to do the Devils Nose Train a few times, but missed due to timing (not mine...Granny's), so I was determined to check this one off my list (hello Chris/Mike) once and for all.
This 4-day trip will be broken into blog-segments because there's just too too much to tell, and waaaay too many photos to post, in one entry. Besides, I like to make you wait. Wait for it...WAAAIT FOR IT!!!!!
I left Dodge City (Cuenca) at 8am and drove like the proverbial bat outa hell. The weather was perfect, sunny and some clouds, dry road, astounding views and not much slow truck/bus traffic to deal with. I was shooting for the 11am train departure and I knew it took at least 2.5 hours to get there.
Along the way there's a long stretch of countryside that is jaw-dropping gorgeous, but it's also subject to frequent fog, low clouds, and/or rain. Not this time. I wanted to take photos but couldn't afford the time to stop. So, I found myself frequently driving with one hand and the other with my (new) camera focused out the windshield. As usual, though, many of them just didn't do justice what my eyeballs could see...the depth, the magnitude, the 3-D, the looming, the height, the width, etc etc. And, the glare in my windshield also caused some photos to go to the trashcan in the sky.
I arrived 20 minutes before departure. Luckily, there were seats still available. I had a $25 or $35 option. For the latter, I could choose my own seat and I would get breakfast which I needed as I hadn't had any.
I handed my ticket to the guy at the steps leading onto the train. He said 'go to the left'. Went I boarded, the half-car to the left was nothing more than a couch that wrapped around the 3 sides and I could sit anywhere....amongst all the others who'd already snagged their spot. However, to the right was a nice orderly car with seats of 4 (2 facing 2) on one side and space for 2 (1 facing 1) on the other side. The chairs were nice and comfy looking and there were small tables you could pop-up. This was more inviting to me, so I took a 1 on 1 and popped up my own private table.
Once under way, I figured out why the car 'to the left' was more versatile because people could get up and wander from one side to the other depending on the view of the moment. I just so happen to pick the side where my view was pretty much the wall of the embankment versus the other side which was the view of the canyons below. To see that, I would have to get very friendly with the 2 on 2 folks across the aisle. Oh well. I figured I'd be able to see what they could see, on the way back because the train will turn around.
The train was very modern, smooth, quiet (no charming clackety clack). We had a guide who, via a hand-held microphone, explained every little detail in Spanish, then in English, as we descended. It was a trip 45 minutes down, then 1 hour to roam about at the end of the line, then 45 minutes return.
I had heard all the hype about this trip. The original track was constructed over a hundred years ago and it was a HUGE engineering feat (at the time). The design was to scale the side of a mountain by descending (or ascending) to a point where the train would pass an intersection by the length of the train, then switch the track and head down (or up) the next leg....but....without turning the train around or the train going around a curve. This meant, in the first leg (for example) you would be travelling forward, then in the next leg, you would be travelling backward.
I had visions of this precarious trip where I'd be looking thousands of feet down the sheer side of a mountain, wondering how the bed of the track could hold up. Well, to be truthful, it wasn't all that death-defying. It was 3 zigs and 3 zags and that was it. YAWN. Ok, OK, it was interesting, it was pretty, it was something I wanted to do and I'm glad I did, but I don't need to do it again.
At the end of the line, was a cool little station with a cafe situated right at a bridge crossing over a river. We had 'lunch' (never did get that 'breakfast') which consisted of a tall glass of juice and either a sandwich or a corn-husk-wrapped-something-or-other. Across the track was a 'market' of vendors (all 5 of them) selling something touristy. Normally, you could walk up a long set of stairs to a center that presented historical information of the construction of the train system in Ecuador...which is now being completely renovated. However, we couldn't go up there because very recently a slide occurred which put the safety of the buildings in jeopardy (see photos). I took a nap. The last 15 minutes of our 1 hour stop included a performance of a dozen or so dancers in EC regalia.
Back on the train for the trip back to the home station in Alausi (Ahh Lah ooh SEE) where the announcer pretty much kept his trap shut but a video screen presentation promoted all the efforts to restore the EC trains system.
Oh....and the view I had going back up? The same. The train didn't turn around.
Enjoy the photos!!!
|Along the way to Alausi.|
|The town of Chunchi. Where the buildings stop, is a cliff going down into a valley. The town is built right up to the edge.|
|Yes, the chairs are not attached to the floor.|
|The Devils Nose....at 12 O'Clock|
|The path of the track.|
|Informational sign and aerial photograph of the path of the track.|
|Hmmm....did OSHA approve this design??|
|Train station at the end of the line.|
|The slide under the exhibition center. Ooopsie.|
|GRACIE!!! Stop sniffing my shoes and get outa my Blog!!!|