A train ride - now that's something new in my travel life. And this one is not ANY train but considered one of the most challenging in the world, up into the mountains to the Nariz del Diablo or Devil's Nose.
The train leaves Riobamba at 7 a.m. in the morning on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays and costs 15 US$. For the real experience you have to sit on the roof of one of the cargo cars. Actually it's the only way to ride the train in style. Be there early since everybody wants to sit on the roof. The locals really have a good laugh when they see the empty passenger cars and the masses of gringos crammed on the uncomfortable roof.
Our ride was somewhat special and to make a long story short> We did not even make it close to the Devil's Nose, not even to the town of Alausi which is four train hours south of Riobamba.
The reason: Massive rainfalls made the rails disappear. Just sand and mud ahead of the engine. But the train team seemed to have known about it since they carried (watch out, now things become unconventional) a BULLDOZER on the train. They managed to get it off the train and had it ahead of the engine after some maneuvering in the mud. And within two hours the huge machine cleaned the rails from the massive amounts of mud.
The engine moved on for another 500 meters until it the bulldozer's ultimate challenge: For about 50 meters in length the soil was completely gone and the rails were hanging in the air. When the bulldozer passed it even more soil broke away and the machine almost rolled down the hill. But our Ecuadorian friends continued and tore down way more of the hill to fill up the gap underneath the rails. However, the mission had to be abandoned when heavy rain set in but they definitely set up a good basis for the next massive landslide.
So no Nariz del Diablo for us but a lesson in Ecuadorian problem solving. And off we are in a bus south heading to Cuenca and the Peruvian border.