Train

The only service out of Riobamba is the famous ride down La Nariz del Diablo (see the boxed text, below). The schedule changes somewhat regularly, so inquire locally for the latest information. Your best bet is to call the train station (@296 1909; Av León Borja at Unidad Nacional), which is also where you buy your tickets either the day before, or the morning of (starting at 6am) the departure. You must have your passport to purchase a ticket; if you're buying tickets for friends, bring their passports as well.

The train ($11) leaves Riobamba at 7am Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. It picks up more passengers in Alausi and goes only as far as Sibambe, immediately below La Nariz del Diablo, where there are no services. From Sibambe, the train ascends La Nariz del Diablo and returns to Alausi, where passengers can spend the night, continue on to Cuenca by bus or return to Riobamba by bus. Riding on the roof is, of course, allowed.

Getting Around

North of the main bus terminal, behind the Church of Santa Faz (the one with a blue dome), is a local bus stop with buses to downtown, nearly 2km away. These buses run along Avenida León Borja, which turn« into 10 de Agosto near the train station To return to the bus terminal, take any but marked Terminal' on Primera Constituir ente; the fare is $0.25.

Three long blocks south of the main bus terminal (turn left out of the front en« trance), off Unidad Nacional, is a s mal lei terminal with frequent local buses for Caí jabamba, Laguna de Colta and the chapd of La Balbanera. Buses for Guamote alw> leave from there.

To visit the villages of Guano and Santt Teresita, take the local bus from the stop at Pichincha and New York.

guano & santa teresita I

These small villages are a few kilometer« north of Riobamba and are easily reachcd by bus. Guano (population 6872) is an int portant carpet-making center, and although most travelers won't have room in their packs for a couple of souvenir carpets, it't interesting to see this cottage industry. To see some carpet stores, get off the bus U| Guano's central plaza, and then walk down Avenida García Moreno. There are no hotel» and only a few restaurants. Look for tht

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THE DEVIL'S NOSE

The most exciting part of the train ride south of Riobamba is the hair-raising descent from Alausi to Sibambe, down a death-defying stretch of track called La Nariz del Diablo (The Devil's Nose). The run is the only section of track still functioning of the once spectacular Ferrocarril Transandino (Trans-Andean Railway), which ran from Guayaquil to Quito.

Construction of this historic line began in Guayaquil in 1899 and made it as far as Sibambe, where it met a steep Andean slope of nearly solid rock, no less intimidating than the devil's nose itself. To reach Alausi a series of switchbacks was carved into the rock (and many lives were lost in the process) that would allow the train, by advancing and reversing, to ascend nearly 1000m to Alausi at 2607m. The completion and first ascent of the Nariz del Diablo in 1902 was the most incredible feat of railway engineering the world had seen.

The Ferrocarril Transandino reached Riobamba in 1905, later crossed its highest point at Ur bina (3618m) and finally reached Quito, after its magnificent wind through the Avenue of the

¡Volcanoes, in 1908.

Landslides caused by the torrential rains of the 1982-83 El Niño, and further damage during the 1997-98 El Niño, effectively closed the entire run, and only the stretch from Riobamba to Sibambe has been repaired.

The steep descent after Alausi is still accomplished by a series of switchbacks down the steep mountainside. Occasional rickety-looking bridges cross steep ravines, the train regularly derails (a minor annoyance and part of the fun), and everyone rides on the roof. Actually, the greatest hazard is probably the train's emission of steam, soot and cinders during the ride, so wear clothes that you don't mind getting dirty. Dress warmly and bring a spare dollar to rent a cushion. See above.

litpiary garden with El Altar rising in the fc u kground - a pretty sight.

From the main plaza, you can continue by |us to Santa Tereslta, a few kilometers away. At the end of the bus ride, turn right and 1 • ad down the hill for about 20 minutes to \\ c balneario (spa), where swimming pools Ire led by natural springs. The water is quite < -ol (22°C or 72°F), but the views of Tungu-Mhua and El Altar are marvelous. There is a basic cafeteria and camping is permitted.

Local buses to Guano and Santa Teresita k ive Riobamba from the stop at Pichincha #nd New York.

SOUTH of riobamba ir 03

About 17km south of Riobamba, the Pan-imericana rolls through the wee village of Ujabamba, the original site of Riobamba until N was devastated by an earthquake in 1797. 1 he quake started a landslide that leveled the ••>wn and killed most of the several thousand *ho died in the disaster. You can still see a huge scar on the hillside as you arrive.

Every Sunday morning, just south of »own, one of the highland's most traditional rural markets takes place in the open fields lust off the highway. Indigenous traders lay out their wares in neat rows, transforming the bare fields into a bustling but surprisingly orderly throng of people who buy, sell «ml barter produce.

l-'urther south, and just off the Pan-mnericana, you'll pass the little chapel of t« Balbanera. Built on the site of the earliest <iuirch in Ecuador, the chapel site dates tiom 1534, although only a few stones at the front survived the 1797 earthquake. Inside, lisaster paintings immortalize the event. About 4km south of Cajabamba is Laguna Colta, whose blue waters are often choked sith reeds. The reeds form an important rop for the indigenous Colta who use them i » make their famous mats and baskets. Trait lonal Colta women dye the fringes of their 'uir a startling golden color. If you have the time or inclination, you could walk around tie lake in a couple of hours and take in the thulous views of Chimborazo. You can easily visit this area on a day excursion from Riobamba by taking local •uses or by hiring a taxi. Most of the buses from Riobamba head down the Panameri-ina through Cajabamba, stopping at the

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