Alausí in detail

Other Features

The Devil’s Nose

Train buffs will be excited to learn about the illustrious rail system known as the Ferrocarril Transandino (Trans-Andean Railway), built around the turn of the 20th century, that connected Quito and Guayaquil. A technological marvel, it cut the journey time between the cities from two and a half weeks to just two days and was an economic lifeline between the coast and highlands.

Highway construction, along with constant avalanche damage from heavy rains, spelled the demise of Ecuadorian rail transport. However, in the last few years many lines are being restored and targeted specifically at tourists with round-trip service, narration, stops at small museums and more.

The best-known and most exciting of these is the section from Alausí to Sibambe down (and up) the Nariz del Diablo, a 765m sheer cliff of solid rock. In 1902 track engineers devised a clever way up this monster by carving a zigzag route into the side of the mountain (many lives were lost in the process). The train tugs a bit north, switches track, tugs a bit south and again switches track, slowly making its way up and down the Devil’s Nose.

Somewhere along the Nariz, the old choo choo occasionally derails. Not to worry, though! The conductors ask everyone to get off and by using advanced technology – big rocks and sticks – they steer the iron horse back on track. The entire ride should take about 2½ hours, with an hour stopover in Sibambe, where you are greeted by a local dance troupe and have the chance to buy some artisan goods. A guide accompanies every tour group. Adrenaline-seekers will be sad to hear that you can no longer ride on the train’s roof.