Being 25 years old and not having ridden a train ever before in my life, it had gotten to the point where I really felt like I needed to choose an epic track to go clacking down in a train car for the first time.
The Nariz del Diablo train route drops 1,995 feet in the span of 1o kilometers. To reach the bottom of a valley, the train traverses a series of switchbacks in which it has to go forward down the first switchback, change tracks, and go backward down the next.
I knew this was the epic track I was looking for!
The town of Alausi, Ecuador is small, clean, and quiet. And it’s clear that the reason people come here is for the train ride.
The train tracks in Ecuador were originally constructed to make the journey from the coast to the mountains of the sierra easier. The route opened for the first time in 1873 and by 1875 40 kilometers of railway had been constructed.
The owners of this railway brought about 5,000 workers from English colonies in the Carribean, as well as 500 prisoners from these colonies that were promised freedom if they survived the construction of the railway.
The original switchbacks of the Nariz del Diablo mountain were conquered in the early 1900’s and the train first arrived in Alausi in 1902.
The difficult topography of the Andes, lack of labor, and the rainy weather conducive to landslides and disease, made the TransAndean Railway the most difficult in the world.
It used to be that you could go from Alausi to the coast, but now stretches of this railway are no longer in use and the Nariz del Diablo route is sold as a tourist attraction rather than a practical means of transport.
Standing in line at the Alausi train station, I was bouncing around like a little kid, trying to peer around the patrons in front of me to get a glimpse of the train cars. After we boarded and started clacking down the tracks, my excitement grew. No one seemed concerned about all the passengers sticking their heads out the windows for pictures and better views.
Listening to classic sound of the train on the tracks, and taking in the vibrant green valley below I was ecstatic to have chosen Nariz del Diablo for my first train ride.