The Devil’s Nose is part of the rail journey to Sibambe from Riobamba and has been extended to be the name of the entire journey which is now solely for tourists.
There used to be a railway that ran from the northern coast to Ibarra through Otavalo, where we walked along the abandoned rails, on to Quito, then Riobamba to Alausí-Sibambe and finally to Durán near Guayaquil, where we started our journey through Ecuador. It was hundreds of kilometres long.
It was once considered one of the most spectacular journeys in the world due to the views, and one of the most amazing feats of engineering of the time – it travelled through mountains and valleys with an inclination never more than 5.5%. Now though, the only part of it that is in working order is the stretch from Riobamba to Sibambe and is a tourist attraction.
We had bought our tickets the day before. The train was leaving at 7am and we had to be there at 6:30. When the train did leave, with us travelling inside but with some travelling on the roof in the rain wrapped in plastic, it was a little after 7. The views were good – clouds rolling over green mountains and pristine villages until we reached the town of Guamote. Here we had a few minutes break before we continued on our way.
Some minutes after leaving Guamote our pass was blocked by a small rockfall. One of the guys who worked on the train had to get off to clear a path. Little did we know this was not the only one caused by yesterdays rain. Another 20 minutes later we were forced to stop by a much larger fall – something there was no hope of getting through. The train staff shrugged their shoulders and said we’d have to go back to Riobamba – 2 hours backwards with a total of 5 hours wasted in total and missing the famous Nariz. It was either that or do as they suggested – get out and walk to the nearest town Alausí – a tempting 5km further along. When we heard that the Panamericana was only 2km away (one kilometre of which being vertically up a mountain) we decided that walking would waste the least amount of time.
What happened next.