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ARTICLES OF INTEREST - ECUADOR
When the city of Riobamba (capital of the county of Chimborazo) is still sleeping, one can listen to the roaring of a locomotive announcing its departure toward the "nariz del Diablo" (devil's nose) station. Besides the strange name, there is another particular characteristic, the dozens of passengers don't travel inside the boxcars, but packed in the roofs. "That is the point, Mister, because this way you can see the landscape", people explain in the station.
Deploy of colors and mountain shades in a dreamy morning in which the metallic yawn of a locomotive announced the awakening of the train, that skeleton of boxcars and empty seats that winds -indefatigable- by gulches, mountains and creeks, in its desire of reaching La Nariz del Diablo.
And the train vibrates, suffers and tosses black smoke, before beginning its fearless voyage... and the last hour passengers run and hung of the stirrups humidified by the garúa (light rain) and they ascend to the roof and look for a place to sit down or argue with the little man that seeks to rent them a cushion "for only one dollar, mister"; then, the locomotive throws its final stertor and somebody stumbles and screams and is about to fall. The wheels squeak when rasping the rails. The station of Riobamba stays behind.
The curves and the small hills are a challenge for the locomotive that suffers, screeches, whistles and makes an effort until finishing victorious. The train returns to its daily diabolical mischiefs, while the travelers -uncomfortably sat down in the roofs of the boxcars - begin to understand why the itinerary that unites the city of Riobamba with La Nariz del Diablo (a depression of 90 degrees) has the fame of being the "more difficult of the world."
Originally, the final destination of the journey was the city of Durán in the county of Guayas, but the road was destroyed during El Niño Phenomenon in 1982 and 1983. At the present time, the train arrives at La Nariz del Diablo, then it returns to the station of Alausí.
The rail history
of the Ecuador began in 1910 with the setting in march of the
Railroad Quito-Guayaquil. The construction of this work took more
than 30 years and had the financing and technical consultantship
of the United States.
"Help me I'm falling"
"You have to board and to travel in the roof, Mister, that it is the fun of the train", recommends, orders or demands, one of the dozens of salespersons "of everything" that swarm in the station of Riobamba, in the previous minutes to the metallic yawn of the locomotive.
Stairways crowded with people. It is necessary to go up quickly "to win a piece of the roof", because if one arrives late or takes too long, then will have to conform to travel in the boxcar of comfortable seats and what is even worse, will have to resign to only watch through the windows the splendid landscapes that skirt the route of this legendary train that has become one of the main tourist attractions of the Ecuadorian mountain.
Yes indeed, to survey the Andes from the roof of a boxcar, is a unique and fascinating experience, because not only the magnificence of the nature that is appreciated makes special this trip, but the feeling of the knocking wind, the cold that goes through the cracks of the clothes, the fickle rain that starts and stops, the shy sunbeams that don't decide to shine completely.
Everything can happen in the roof. A man selling machinist caps or ice colds "vielas" (beers)... and for not falling in his acrobatic walks, he requests a "manito" (hand) to their possible buyers; a girl draws the legs of the travelers and going from one boxcar to the next one offering tortillas of bananas, hot coffee and empanadas, but one of their "colleagues" -with a moustache and a few friends' face- quarrels her and she asks him to be calm and to stay away of her business.
In the journey through the mountain lands, the railroad of the ghost boxcars picks up the greetings of the people of the field... and a lady leaves her straw bundle to say good-bye to those "crazy tourists that travel in the roof" and a boy -dark skinned, very dry cheeks, greasy hair - comes closer to the edge of the rail and extends his little hands in suppliant expression. They throw him some goodies, the boy runs, jumps, falls over the field. He cannot catch them, the river eats them.
Sales continue, the train advances, nobody falls, everybody give a "manito" ... and in the horizon the distant lines of the station of Alausí appear. The locomotive whistles again, celebrating its imminent victory, there is only 30 or 45 minutes left to arrive to La nariz del diablo, a deep depression profiled in the heights.
in the roof. The trip finishes. The train is empty
in the station of Alausí. Nobody runs anymore, nobody is
late, nobody stumbles. The locomotive rests, because it has defeated
once again, the challenges of some of the most difficult routes
of the world.
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