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Riding the train from Riobamba to Sibambe

Written on: Sunday September 16th, 2007

A journal entry from: Kevin and Julie's RTW

Authors: Kevin and Julie


Well, as wonderful as Banos was it was time to move on. Yesterday morning, we looked around at breakfast time and realised that we didn?t recognize anyone anymore. The changing of the guard happened without us knowing. Trying to figure out our next destination, we consulted our holy bible the ?South America on a Budget? by Lonely Planet. Many call it the ?Book of Lies? for it?s continuously out-of-date information or ?The Bible? for the useful details you wouldn?t know otherwise (like which bus station serves which destinations) or ?The Brick? for it?s weight. Thumbing through the book, we found reference to Riobamba and its famous train ride down the ?Nose of the devil? on top of the train car. We knew about it from previous research and discussions with other traveler?s but didn?t know when it ran and from where to where. Rumours going around was that ?no, it didn?t run anymore due to the track being washed out?, ?Yes, it ran but you can?t go on top anymore? or ?Yes, it ran but all the tickets are sold out?. We finally decided to go when we read that it ran only on Sundays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. We didn?t want to stay in Banos another 3 days, we had exhausted everything we wanted to do here so it was time to pack up and move on to our new destination. 

Immediately after arriving in Riobamba, after a 3 hour bus ride from Banos, we quickly took  a cab ride to the train station to buy our tickets before they sold out. Walking into the station, with our big packs, who do we run into but Anna and Alex from the hostel in Quito. They were part of the group of British students who had been conducting research in the rainforest. New to their group, was Anna?s boyfriend Solturk, visiting her from Turkey/England. While in line, waiting for the ticket booth to open, we caught up on what the other?s had done and where they were staying. Hearing we had just arrived, they recommended the Oasis Hostel and it?s wonderful little rooms. One more thing less to worry about. Tickets bought, we took a taxi to our new hostel to settle in and catch up on our sleep and write our blogs out for our week in Quito. The Oasis is an interesting place, firstly it?s in the backyard of an older couple?s home, secondly it?s decorated in only what can be described as kitsch style. The walls are a combination of faux rock walls and yellow/orange concrete walls. All the doors and windows are stained-glass in a yellow, orange and purple grid pattern.

Sure riding on top of a train is adventuresome and daring but we were not allowed due to previous incidents involving the death of two Japanese tourists.  At first this was a major let down, but in retrospect the photos that we took of the landscape between Riobamba and Sibambe were simply stunning.  The train left the station at the break of dawn and we scrambled to find seats with Anna, Solturk and Alex in the first car after the engine.  The interior of the car was a pale yellow and the cushions in the leather seats were worn from use.  The atmosphere was friendly as people snapped photos of the train and conductor in his cap and jacket. 

At 7:01 am the train pulled out for its 5 route through the Ecuadorian countryside.  Pastures of yellow wheat, green clover and purple cabbage divide the terraine, and families are seen ploughing the fields by hand.  Occasionally the train makes a brief stop and someone will embark with a basket of food for sale.  Empanadas con Queso, Banana chips, Helados, Agua con/sin gas, and beans in a baggie are all for sale for less than 50 cents.  We try not to get distracted because passing on the right are two llamas, ?Quick Julie get a shot of that!?   But the train just drives by, its weight shakes the ground and frightened sheep scurry away before being choked by their ropes.   

Reaching the end of the line, we are curious to find out if we passed Simbambe or if we were actually in the town.  The only thing we can see is a white circular church on a mountain side and a small bridge.  It doesn?t matter where we are really, the passengers get off for a stretch, eat some lunch and to enjoy the view. 

The whistle blows and its time to get back on and stop at Alausi.  Rather than riding the train back to Riobamba, we decide to take a bus back instead and save ourselves 3 hours.


From Janice & Ronnie Poulin on Sep 18th, 2007

Wow guys! You're doing it! Just love reading your journals and I sure get a chuckle or two. Keep on having fun and keep on writing!!

From Jason G on Sep 19th, 2007

I'm in suspense...I wish you could get around faster -- LOL.

From Nicolas on Sep 23rd, 2007

J'aime beaucoup lire votre jouurnal.J'ai l'impression de voyagé avec vous.Continuer le beau récis.Je vous embrasse fort

From Robyn on Sep 24th, 2007

Hey you two, looks like you're having a ball. Just wanted to say hi.We'll miss you at Uncle Rory's bbq this weekend and missed you at Uncle's Leo's 70th. Kepp on truckin'!