QUITO, Ecuador, Aug. 14, 2013 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Posicionarte, a travel media agency, was invited to discover the brand new Ecuador´s cruise train trip 4 days 3 nights from the Andes to Coast, it´s travel editor Andrew Taylor, riding a train through the Ecuadorian Andes contemplates life, the Universe and the celebrated explorer Alexander Von Humboldt.
"I am lounging on a sofa with Ecuadorian illustrator, Liliana Gutierrez" Andrew begins. "I have a cushion that is so big and squishy that I have to confess I want to steal it. I also have a delicious hot chocolate in my hand and I am watching the Andino (or Andean) countryside through a ceiling to floor window, and I am happy."
It seems like Liliana is drawing everything she sees, never once looking at the paper and in genuine, ecstatic sketch-flow.
"O, que lindo!" (How beautiful!) she cries, as Andrew licks the froth from his moustache.
For Lilliana this is a very special trip because her Grandfather worked on the railway, first laying the tracks and later as the train´s bouncer, quite literally throwing people off who had jumped on without a ticket. She speaks of how railway rules became part of their family values:
"You know how most Ecuadorian´s are "by nature" unpunctual, our lives were set by the clock!" she says.
A lovely memory she shared with Andrew was a day when her father "borrowed" her Grandfather´s (railway issue) headphones and wired them up to a home-made radio. The Grandfather was furious that someone had dared to touch railway equipment in his trust, until finally they sat him down and he listened to "wired" music for the first time, and he wept.
They departed the Incan city of Quito, at 8.a.m. on a Tuesday from the charming station of Chimbacalle.
They are following the steps of the celebrity explorer and scientist Friedrich Alexander Von Humboldt. He too travelled with an illustrator and was a meticulous (gadget loving!) measurer and collector. He seemed to have a scientific vision based in some form of holistic faith. He said:
"Nature herself is sublimely eloquent. The stars as they sparkle in firmament fill us with delight and ecstasy, and yet they all move in orbit marked out with mathematical precision."
They lunch at a house built around an Incan chapel, watch a thanksgiving folk dance to the Sun, the Earth and motherhood and dine and sleep at stunning Hacienda La Ciénega, A Humboldt bust sits in the cloisters and the talk around table is about colonial culture and the ghost. Most of the staff is direct descendants of the original servants.
Humboldt adored the Andes, describing the Nevada as:"The perfect place for artists and poets".
He was a curious character who collected thousands of specimen's in silk lined boxes, clearly a man of independent means. He loved the indigenous nationals he met and was a courageous critic of slavery and the cruelty of colonial oppression. It´s said that he managed to grab something of the language of the then extinct Atures (?) nation by spending time with a surviving parrot that had lived with the tribe.
In his epic scientific revelation The Cosmos, he demonstrated the unity of nature, proving his theories by uniting meteorological, biological and geological data. He showed the world that there was a reason that some plants grew in some places and others did not. The Cosmos represented a renaissance in scientific thinking at the time and became a (relative) blockbuster. He became one of the most famous people in Europe and although he had little political aspirations, was something a human rights advocate within an Imperialist society.
Liliana and Andrew are taken to a mysterious indigenous market and the next day visit a Shuar community.
"O, que lindo!" cries Liliana, "muy, muy lindo!"
The children perform a hunting dance and the adults teach us about their beliefs and culture. Each boy of fourteen becomes a hunter (and therefore a man!) by spending a month alone in the jungle where each and every plant, river, insect and animal has its own spirit. We watch a (female) shaman perform a healing ritual and we're shown their garden where only woman can tend and collect the plants, believing that men will somehow intoxicate the crop if they touched it.
Humboldt attempted to climb...what he thought was... the highest volcano in the world, Chimborazo mountain. He didn't reach the summit due to respiratory difficulties and the effects of the high altitude sickness soroche. Chimborazo is not the highest mountain in the world from sea level but it is the highest mountain in the world from the Earth's core.
Humboldt made sense of the world. He proposed that the continents were once all joined together. He proved the intensity of magnetic fields at the North and South Pole, and the scarcity of magnetic fields at the equator. "He also discovered the intense fertilising nutrients of guano, which I, personally, think is bat poop."
While Humboldt wrote consistent and regular journals of his observations and findings, some explorations he left out. Humboldt never married or had children. Indeed, he left his fortune to an old servant of the family, Seifert. Very little is known about his personal or domestic life. It is documented, however, that his life was blessed with the companionship of other explorers like himself.
Finally, Liliana and Andrew are swept away down the centre of a main street, monitored by patrol scooters, everyone waves, the traffic grinds to a halt and people stare at us or film us on their mobile phones. The newly restored Train Crucero is once again the Pride of a Nation (and yet only foreigners can afford to go on it!) As a finale, the motor wagon is exchanged for a steam engine and they trundle towards Duran, a band come aboard and all the passengers do the conga through the wagons.
The Tren Crucero is a really fun, friendly educational experience. For more information browse around the website at: http://www.ecuadorbytrain.com/trainecuador/crucero/web/ecuador-train. Humboldt stayed at all the haciendas that they visited during the trip. The accommodation on the trip is superb. The first night they stayed at hacienda La Cienega where they had a wonderful dinner listening to pan pipes and telling ghost stories. La Cienega has 34 delightful en suite rooms while Abraspungo, their next night´s stop has 42. This is a modern hotel. The beds were exceptionally comfortable and with under floor heating, cable TV and top quality bathrooms, it´s not surprising that they all turned in early. Their last night was much later. Eternal Spring Hacienda has 34 quite basic rooms. They needed to douse ourselves in mosquito lotion for their poolside dining. The salsa band stole the show and many of the passengers of our trip got up and danced the night away under the stars.
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