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 rides the world's most difficult train passage, through the Ecuadorian Andes, with four retired engineers from Derbyshire, England.
Throughout the 80s and 90s the Devil´s Nose had become something of a traveller´s extreme-sport. Once the "train wagon" was an old bus welded onto a bogey and the thrill, of course, was to ride on the roof. Those giddy days are gone. Andrew says "Nowadays, it´s the history of the train line that gets us going: the epic rid, (sighs)... travelling by train through the Andes and meeting with indigenous highlanders and a Shuar community".
Ferrocarrile's 4 day scenic train ride, costs $990 and includes the voyage, food and accommodation. It´s a first class experience celebrating a train line that once united the newly independent nation of Ecuador.
This scenic Andean train ride takes you deep into indigenous highland territory, it´s life, Jim, but not as we know it. You go from Quito, the Ecuadorian capital (in the Andes) through Alexander von Humboldt's "Avenue of Volcanoes"; you stay in fascinating haciendas and visit a rose plantation and a cacao plantation. Deep into Andean God-knows-where, you're in an indigenous market that hasn't changed a blink in the last thousand years, and then you're moving towards the coast, meeting Shuar Indians and eating bananas fresh from the tree.
It's quite a ride! The train line was always a leap of faith. Somehow its development survived numerous governments, presidents and differing political ideology. It was made, stretch by stretch, from 1842 to 1908. And then a river flooded it, Peruvian's bombed it, there were landslides, torrential rains and (eventually) it got neglected, what with roads coming into fashion, and everything!
Back in the day, somehow the "people" booted out the Spanish conquistadores and became an Independent nation, Ecuador. Between the two largest cities (and between the highland and the coast) there was just a donkey path, and you (literally) took your life in your hands to walk it. This train line brought glacial ice to the coast to make fresh fish widely available and salt and fruit to highlanders who were suffering their deprivation.
Plucky President Raphael Correa named the railroad a "national cultural patrimony" and Andrew thinks it deserves Unesco World Heritage honouring.
Around 1901, the train line met its greatest nemesis – a 45 degree decline. Condor Puñuna was a sacred hill, the birthplace of the Condor. Legend has it that Rumiñahui (the Incan warrior and right hand man to Emperor Atahualpa) hid gold in the caves here.
The Devil´s Nose is a huge precipice; boulder shaped, belligerently challenging progress.
By a remarkable feat of engineering, great cuts were made into the mountain to form a controlled zigzag decline, where the train moves in reverse and even today the points are changed by hand. The Condors moved out during construction and never returned.
For the distinguished gentlemen of Derbyshire this was the highlight of their trip. Bob Laxton 68 is awe-struck by the engineering.
"It was an incredible accomplishment ...to drop down the face of a sheer cliff. Amazing really! There are all sorts of vintage railway systems in the UK, and I've ridden on a similar train ride from Chandragar to Simla through the foothills of the Himalayas...another of the great train journeys of the world, but nothing compares to this!"
In the sixties, Phil Laxton (66) had travelled some of this line straddled on the front of the engine wagon. Andrew asked him how the trips compared.
"I´d done some work for the railways and was invited on a special trip from Quito to Latacunga when the train very rarely was in operation. As we left the depot in Quito we ploughed, literally, through many people and their wares, vegetables etc. I stood on the cowcatcher on the front of the engine, it was done slowly of course, but eventually I decided that standing on the front of the engine wasn´t a good place to be after some angry comments from the people involved. This trip down the Devils Nose was more interesting. I´ve been intending to make the trip for as long as I had been in Ecuador, 42 years!!"
"What I thought was incredible," says Harry Harrison (68) was the cost of human life to build this. That's what I was most shocked by. I hear that people were brought over from Trinidad because they could cope with the heat. There seems to have been a cavalier attitude towards human life."
"They died mainly of malaria and getting hit by stones from dynamite explosions," adds Bob, "2,500 died. A lot of them were prisoners and were told they would get their freedom afterwards."
"It took ages getting the tickets..." said George.
No one actually knows why the Devil´s Nose is called the Devil´s Nose.
"Well, it´s shaped like a nose," explained George.
"And it´s a devil to climb!" says Phil.
Sometimes things really are that simple.
The accommodation on the trip is superb. The first night we stayed at hacienda La Cienega where we had a wonderful dinner listening to pan pipes and telling ghost stories. Phil had forty winks in an armchair in front of the fire. Bob browsed the family paintings around the cloister gallery. Harry checked out the chapel, and George contemplated the courtyard garden.
La Cienega has 34 delightful en suite rooms while Abraspungo, our next night's stop has 42. The beds were super comfortable and with under floor heating, cable TV and top quality bathrooms, it's not surprising that we all turned in early. Our last night was much later. Eternal Spring Hacienda has 34 quite basic rooms. We needed to douse ourselves in mosquito lotion for our 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.
Photos accompanying this release are available at: