Archive for the ‘Towns and Cities’ Category
After three years of absence Ecuadors famous Nariz del Diablo train has finally returned to Riobamba!
Here you can check out the routes as well as the Train Timetable and Prices
It has taken years and billions of dollars to renovate the old train tracks designed at the turn of the 19th century for steam engines.
Unfortunately being able to ride on the roof of the train, one of the biggest drawcards for tourists, is no longer possible with the new modern carriages. The reason may be due to why the Nariz del Diablo train closed down in the first place: the deaths of two Japanese tourists whose heads were accidentally severed when some thoughtless dumbass installed a cable over the train tracks.
The interesting thing about the inauguration was that the governor of Chimborazo Province gave the speech instead of the mayor of Riobamba, Juan Salazar, who is widely perceived as corrupt. This sparked a rumour that Juan Salazar is “quemado” or “burnt” and other politicians now consider it to be a liability to associate with him as well as the belief he may be removed from power soon.
This is fantastic news for the people of Riobamba who believe the mayor has plundered the city for too long, and it gives kudos to the innovative social media campaign against him called Caos en Riobamba Sr. Salazar.
If you are flying to Ecuador there is a good chance you will be arriving in Quito Airport, also known as Quiport, and Mariscal Sucre International Airport.
Quito Airport is one of the highest airports in the world and those flying in at night are in for a treat when they see the valley of lights of Quito stretched between the Andes mountains. The airport services 6.2 million people every year and is one of two departure points to the Galapagos Islands (along with Guayaquil)
Taxis to and From Quito Airport
After leaving the airport you can save money on a taxi if you walk to the main road on the other side of lanes and parking places reserved for the airport.
From Quito Airport to the Mariscal, one of the most popular lodging places for tourists in the city, a taxi costs $5 and takes about 20 minutes without traffic.
A great place to stay in the Mariscal that is two blocks from the Plaza Foch is Kingdom Kichwa Guesthouse. The hostel is run by indigenous Kichwa which gives curious travelers an interesting insight into the first people of Ecuador.
To the Terminal Quitumbe, or South Terminal Bus Station (where many buses leave for Riobamba, Cuenca, Guayaquil, Coca and most other places in Ecuador) expect to pay around $15 for an hour ride without traffic. Quitos Northern Bus Terminal costs about $2 in taxi but services only a select few places like Mindo.
Safety in Quito
Quito can be a dangerous city especially in the night. Use your common sense and stick to highly populated places and don’t wander down dark deserted alleyways. It is recommended you book accommodation before you fly in instead of searching for a place when you get here.
Ecuador is one of the biggest exporters of the Cocao bean to make Coco and Chocolate in the world. The plant which comes from South America was even used as a common currency throughout this region before the Spanish invasion.
What might surprise you when you get to Ecuador is why its so hard to find good chocolate in a country that produces 130,000 tonnes of Cocao a year. Its because all the Cocao is for export and monstrous corporations like Nestle control the local market.
But chocolate lovers dont despair just yet, there is an oasis in the desert.
Salinas de Guaranda
Salinas de Guaranda is a famous little town in the Ecuadorian Andes that is about two and an half hours by bus from Riobamba. What makes the town so popular amongst both Ecuadorian and foreign tourists alike is its cheese and chocolate factories as well as the great variety in hand-knitted llama and alapca wool clothing.
A Swiss man called Father Antonio Polo used his knowledge in how to produce Swiss Chocolate and Cheese to set up a cooperative run by the people of Salinas that has literary pulled the entire community out of poverty.
The delicious swiss Chocolate they make in Salinas melts in your mouth and include the famous Blue Bird “Pajaro Azul” Chocolate named after the local moonshine alcohol and my favorite hot chocolate laced with chile powder.
Now with regards to the Cheese if you have been in Ecuador and South America for a while you will know that the omnipresent fresh, white, and tasteless stuff they have over here leaves a lot to be desired compared to our aged cheeses back home.
But the cheese in Salinas de Guaranda is every bit as good as the chocolate – so good that they are both sold on the international market along with all of the handwoven alpaca wool clothing.
How To Get There
The Conventional Way:
From Riobamba take the “Arenal Guaranda” bus that leaves in the morning from the main bus terminal. (The G in Guaranda sounds more like a W) It will cost about $2.50
Between the 17th to the 24th of April the entire city of Riobamba will be celebrating the Fiestas de Abril. During the week there will be 95 events ranging from the academic and cultural to the artistic and musical. There is also a three day street parade full of marching bands and great music and colorful clothing. In the night all of the drunken youth of the city go to Macaje to see live bands from all around Latin America.
The celebration marks 189 years since the Battle of Riobamba on the 21st of April 1822. The battle is considered by historians as one of the most brilliant combats in the war for South Americas independence from the Spanish crown. The independence movements decisive victory against the royalists in and around Riobamba was instrumental in the Republic of Ecuador gaining its independence a month later on the 24th of May in Pichincha.
Here are some photos I took from last years Fiestas de Riobamba: