Ride the rails, but not the roof
(Photo above: Tren Ecuador’s Diana Guevara (red jacket and Panama hat) stands next to tour guide Sebastian Cardenas during a train stop in a remote Andean community.)
Tren Ecuador has decided to sacrifice some much sought-after discomfort.
The Ecuadorian train company provides train travel in different parts of Ecuador, including the Devil’s Nose Tram, which has journeys that begin and end in the Andean community of Alausi, which provide dramatic views of Andean landscapes and insights into native populations in the region.
And, says area tour guide Sebastian Cardenas, safety concerns mean that passengers will now have to stay inside train cars, enjoying the views from their comfortable seating, rather than riding on top of those cars as many earlier tourists eagerly did.
Tren Ecuador decided to ban the roof rides because of safety issues.
“It was amazing,” Cardenas recalls of the upper-level ride. “You had 360-degree views.
“But it was not comfortable.”
Passengers loved riding on top, with demand so strong that those who wanted a lofty perch would only be able to do so for half the trip, giving others a chance to experience some open-air travel.
Passengers will see very rugged landscapes that at times force the train to use switchbacks, with Cardenas reporting that when the tracks were built long ago, workers were brought to the region from the Caribbean to fill a shortage and large numbers died from accidents and tropical diseases.
The original steam engine and cars have now been replaced by a newish train that has what Cardenas labels a classic look that includes wooden floors.
Highlights include the dramatic Devil’s Nose, a mountain with almost perpendicular walls.
The route was the greatest complication faced by those building the Trans-Andean railroad. To deal with the terrain, a zigzag railroad was built that climbs more than 500 metres in less than 12 km and has steep ascents and descents.
The train also stops en route, enabling passengers to visit a small museum and a restaurant, and view dancing performed by area Indians.
And memories of people riding atop the cars for that ultimate, but at times uncomfortable viewing position, remain alive and well among foreign visitors to Ecuador, Cardenas reports.
“Many still buy tickets because they think they can still do that,” he continues.
More information is available at trenecuador.com/en/day-trips/the-devils-nose/ .
Tours of the region and other parts of Ecuador can be arranged by Ecuadorian tour company South Land Touring Ecuador. Its website is www.sltecuador.com .
Airlines that fly to Quito include Panamanian carrier Copa Airlines, which includes Montreal and Toronto in its network.