Reflections 2015
Series 15
August 18
Ecuador II: Train I – La Danesa – Cacao - Hats – Quinoa – La Andaluza


Tren Crucero   And we're off! It's a morning in late May and Sunday, Train Day 1 of the four-day, three-night trip on the Tren Crucero from Guayaquil to Quito, with marvelous adventures on the way, despite a bit of heat down below and the altitude up top. I arranged with the tour company for a transfer to the station, since I didn't want to be chasing down some taxi at the last minute, and wanted everything in place, ready to go. The train leaves Durán at 8:30, we have to be there at the latest at 8:00, and so the tour company says they'll be at the Sheraton at 7:00. They always allow for a lot of fat, although this isn't like the even earlier pickup in Puerto Ayora. The Club Lounge with its included meal opens at 6:30, so everything fits in well. At 7:00 the woman is there with a driver, and off we go. Copy and paste:


Durán, versus Guayaquil    It might seem odd to some that the Guayaquil rail station is not in the center of town, but across the Guayas River in Durán. Remember that Guayaquil is on the west bank of the river, with the Malecón at the bottom of the map, the airport north of that, and the Sheraton near it on its west side. Durán is on the east bank, connected to Guayaquil by a bridge to an island, then a second bridge. The station is immediately to the south of the bridge exit, labeled on this map Estación del tren Durán. There was originally a rail bridge planned between Durán and Guayaquil. but it was never built. I understand there was, years ago, a ferry that brought rail passengers across the Guayas to the Durán station, but today, you have to get there on your own. In any case, Durán is an integral part of metropolitan Guayaquil, and it's not far.

 There are at least two other prime examples of a waterway blocking rail access. Long distance trains coming to San Francisco from the east, north, or south, arrive on the Oakland (east) side of San Francisco Bay. Traditionally, passengers would then take a ferry to the west bank and San Francisco. Today, with the Bay Bridge available, Amtrak has a free shuttle bus that brings passengers across the Bay.

The Hudson was traditionally a major barrier to rail service to New York. Rail lines ended on the New Jersey side, and ferries brought passengers across the river to Manhattan. That changed when the Pennsylvania Railroad tunnels under the Hudson opened in 1910 to service Penn Station. As only one example, I still see out my window, across the Hudson, the spectacular Central Railroad of New Jersey Terminal (Photo by Ingfbruno), now a museum, but still with the old ferry slips in front. It's a gorgeous building and wonderful reminder of rail travel to wake up to every morning.

We're there in no time, and the reconditioned Durán station is abuzz, which surprises me, since I didn't know at the time about the Tren Ecuador local excursion services. At first the guide and I waited at the ticket counter, but then we found out that was only for the local train, and instead, Tren Crucero registration took place at a podium right outside the front entrance. This is where I met Adeline.


She was one of the most efficient people I've met. I never heard her pronounce her name, which I read on her name tag, but assuming it was Spanish, it would rhyme with "Tina". At first I thought she was station staff, but she turned out to be a main guide on the train. She checked me in, and, since others hadn't arrived yet, I asked to see the list. That's how I found out there'd be 13 of us, and had a preliminary look at where everyone was from. I also had a shock. Something I'd never come across before, everyone's ages were listed as well. No problem, except that, aside from the teenage daughter, everybody was in their fifties and sixties, leaving me, at 75, the oldest one in the group. And later, I found that the second coach had Ecuadorian teenagers, and the crew was middle-aged at the very most, I realized I'd be the oldest one on the entire trip. It's not that it bothered me personally, but that I found myself without age-peers on the trip. I suppose it's something I'm going to have to get used to.


Since it was early, I walked around the station with its single platform. The Tren Ecuador train backed in, and at that point I assumed it was ours. But it had standard coaches, and rapidly filled with the locals waiting for it. It would have been that Tren de la Dulzura ("Sweetness Train"), going to Bucay ahead of us for the day, with the people coming back by bus. It left with what seemed to be a lot of happy people. Yay rail.


A sign on Durán station pointed out that we were at 4 meters, about four yards, of altitude. I knew that we had 446.7 km (277.6 mi) ahead of us to Quito. So you can follow, copy and paste these two links to maps we've seen before. The first is the good one (click), the second is touristy, but attempts to approximate how far we get each day:


We can all relive the beginning of this journey in this YouTube video (3:47) of the departure by steam from Durán. Let me walk you through it.

0:00 The train starts out having to be repositioned. Waiting for the first train to leave, it's been on a track slightly out from the platform and gives the elegant flashy show that steam imparts, with steam shooting in every direction, as #11, dating from 1900, leaves the station area. Notice how it's pulling out onto a regular city street, just as a streetcar would do.

0:54 Ecuador is very proud of this train, and it says on the side "Nominado a los [Nominated for the] World Travel Awards". I can confirm that when I rode the train, it had been repainted "Ganador de [Winner of] World Travel Awards 2014".

1:05 It now backs in from the street to the track next to the platform. Notice how diesel-electric 2408 is attached to the rear, backwards, behind the observation platform. Later watch normal city traffic passing by out in the street again.

2:15 The view from the street, again with regular traffic, of the departure. The big, beige building is the reconstructed Durán station, with the river and Guayaquil beyond, to the west. You'll be able to see again that the diesel-electric at the back is going backwards behind the observation deck. Also notice that we're doing a street run, down the middle of a road, with cross traffic, although on a separate right-of-way.

 Street runs were not uncommon with early railroads, sometimes with a separate right-of-way as here, but sometimes blending in with traffic, the same two choices that streetcars have always had (the former being preferable, of course). In 2008/16 we discussed the Bernina Express leaving Switzerland for Italy, and as it arrives in Tirano there's a very quick clip of the street run that I clearly remember. We also discussed New York City's High Line, which was originally built to replace an extensive street run down Tenth Avenue, which was so dangerous that a man on horseback was sent in front of the train as a warning to pedestrians and auto traffic (see 2011/8, Ctrl-F "Tenth Avenue Cowboy").

The steam engine stayed with us for an hour or so, until we reached Yaguachi (see both maps). We all got off at the little station, fully restored and functional. It was right next to a river, with a bridge crossing to the other side, so we walked round the station, bridge, and river while the engines were exchanged so that the locomotora a vapor (steam engine) could return to Durán. It was still early in the day and the heat was not a problem.


It was not all that far to Bucay (bu.KAI, last syllable as in "Kai[ser]") and it was obvious that we were in the tropics, since we were surrounded all the way, as regular PA announcements informed us, with coastal plantations for bananas (as above), sugar cane, mangoes, and pineapple, as well as rice paddies. During this time, Adeline checked with each passenger what choices they wanted for lunch, as she did throughout the whole trip for lunch and dinner. She presumably phoned the totals through to the restaurant up ahead.


As we ride through these fields, you might like to review this other YouTube video (1:54). While the beginning shows steam, and a crowded street run that I did not see, I suggest you start at 0:34 to walk the length of the interior of the Tren Crucero through all four cars, end to end, from the lockers to the observation platform.


Haciendas and Hosterías    We use the word hacienda in English. It describes a manor house, in the Spanish style and tradition. But it can also be something more modest, a glorified farmhouse or ranch house—even a plantation house. Thinking about this, I can't help going back to the recent trip to Mississippi and Louisiana. Those antebellum manses were manor houses and plantation houses, although not always on the plantation itself. And I've mentioned that the plantation house Laura in Louisiana is really quite modest, considered a wooden Creole house, and is just as worth seeing. It seems that, in more ways than one, if we take the concept of a manor house and shift its venue from the US Old South to the Hispanic world, we'll have a pretty good image of a hacienda. But we'd also have to go further back in time. While one hacienda we'll visit is 19C, in the time period of those in the Old South, the other two are well earlier, with parts dating from the 16C-17C-18C. The Spanish have been in Ecuador for a long time.


The Spanish word hostería corresponds directly to the English word "hostelry". That's an old word we hardly use anymore but can see in it the words "hostel" and "hotel". Yet that's too modern a concept, and Spanish uses "hotel", anyway. We feel that the older, more charming word "inn" might apply better, and since all three places we'll stay at are out in the countryside, "country inn" sounds even better, and more accurate.


So what's going on? As I can now analyze after-the-fact, the third place we'll stay in is a hacienda used as an hostería/country inn. The second place is a hacienda built into an adjacent hostería/country inn that's almost as old. But the first one we'll stay in tonight is just an hostería/country inn. But have no fear: we'll be visiting a hacienda during the day, for lunch and entertainment. It's also close to Bucay, and, while one has nothing to do with the other, in my mind they're paired together within the same framework of our Bucay experience.


As the train moved through the farmland, we were told we'd go for lunch to a hacienda named La Danesa, and spend the afternoon there. I already knew that we'd spend the night in the Hostería D'Franco. I just didn't know where they were around Bucay, but did know that it would involve the bus. I've now checked out just what is where. The train stopped at a small station in Naranjito, which is not on either rail map. We got on buses, and that was the end of train travel for the day, since the train then went on to Bucay, where we wouldn't see it—or Bucay station—until the morning. The tourist map shows a place called San Rafael. That must be where they went last year—I've said the itinerary is a work in progress—because our bus this time paralleled the tracks on the main road, which Google shows me is route 488, and La Danesa was just off it, across the tracks and on a dirt road. Afterwards, the bus did take us through the not-too-exciting town of Bucay to the Hostería D'Franco beyond, on route 487 up in the hills. In the morning it was back-tracking to Bucay to get the train at the station.


La Danesa    We pulled into La Danesa and were met by its Director, a young man with the very Danish name of Niels Olsen, whose parents own La Danesa. He explained that the hacienda was founded in 1870 by his Danish grandfather, Helge Olsen, putting it right after the time frame of some of the houses in the Old South. The grandfather acquired the property because of his love of raising cattle and farming, and succeeded in making it into a traditional hacienda of 500 hectares (1,236 acres). That it's near the train tracks is not a coincidence—it was purpose-built next to a former little station. Pondering this reminds me that the rail line had been built on the coastal plain early on, and it was only at the turn of the century that the G&Q rehabilitated it and proceeded into the mountains.


Niels spoke, aside from Spanish, an English that was so perfect that it belied having lived abroad, but he didn't comment on that. He however did point out that, despite his name, he doesn't speak a word of Danish, which a recent Danish tour group found quite amusing. He gave his little talk as we all stood in front of the hacienda proper, which is apparently private and just used by the family:


While attractive, it is not palatial, but rather modest—yet a hacienda nevertheless. I was curious about the name and asked him about it. Knowing that a danés is a Danish man and a danesa is a Danish woman, I asked him what Danish woman La Danesa was named after. Can you figure out what my error was? (Even beginners should have known better!)


There was no Danish woman. The full name is Hacienda la Danesa, shortened to La Danesa. It's the hacienda that's grammatically feminine, with no woman involved. I won't make that mistake again when we stop at our next hacienda, La Andaluza.


You will be much more fully informed if you look at the website for La Danesa in another window. It's in Spanish, but I'll walk you through it:


I love that picture on the home page of the horse rearing in front of the hacienda. Click on "La Hacienda" at the top. I've already given you a summary of the history you see in Spanish. Right below that you'll see a picture of Niels Olsen, as well as his parents (who we didn't meet). Keep that tree-lined roadway in mind for discussion below. Niels's bio below his picture says he has a Master's Degree in Sustainable Tourism, grew up in the hacienda, and has traveled extensively internationally. He was the one who's extended the regular plantation activities to include welcoming guests for the type of events we were there for. There's a picture of the staff, and map showing the location on the Naranjito-Bucay highway 488.


Click on "Gastronomía" to see what's for lunch, then on "Actividades" to see what activities they offer. We'll expand later on these three we took part in, but for now, find the milk bottle. I learn right here after looking it up that ordeño does mean "milking", an activity we did have. The text says every day La Danesa is a traditional milk farm that produces 1,200 liters of high-quality milk from champion stock that's won prizes for several consecutive years. It says that while here you can milk by hand, like our ancestors did.


Scroll down to the folk dancers under "Interpretación Montubia", which we also saw. Check out the colorful costumes. I had to look up montubia, which seems to be limited to South American usage and means "country peasant", so this would be an Interpretation of Country Peasant [Dancing], an activity La Danesa wants to continue to support. Finally check out the tour of a cocoa plantation, showing a split cocoa pod, with others still hanging on the tree.


At the top click on "Eventos". I only mention this since it mentions "Matromonios", or weddings, and Niels told us he'd be getting married shortly with the reception at La Danesa.


The event area is to the left of the hacienda, and we went there to see where lunch would be and what their setup was. While it was warm, if you didn't move too much, the heat was tolerable. We all then went over to a lawn and sat down on chairs, fortunately in the shade, and we had a show on the lawn of local folk dancing that lasted about a half-hour.


It was then lunch time. The teenagers had seats near the lawn at umbrella tables, but the adults sat in the activity building at the above table. Typical of construction in the tropics it was totally open on two sides for ventilation, and you can see the lawn in the distance. I was also clever enough to find a seat under a ceiling fam. It was a good lunch, and I spoke quite a bit to an Australian woman. She was the one who had also just been on a cruise in the Galápagos, and who looked askance when I tried to promote land-based tours there, so I kept my mouth shut about that topic afterwards.


It was then time to go see the cocoa production, which is actually done on an affiliated neighboring farm, and we were told we'd walk there, then take the bus back. The walk was down the above beautiful path between rows of trees that we saw Niels's parents riding down above. It would have been a marvelous walk in the cool evening, but in the middle of the day it was hot, and those trees are beautiful, but don't afford much shade. The walk lasted about 20 minutes, enough to get me sweating for the first (and only) time on the mainland.


Letter Toss    Take a bunch of As and Os, throw in a few Cs, and put them in a shaker. Shake and toss out four letters. On this throw you get: COCO. At one time in English, it meant "palm tree", but we don't use it anymore. Yet it's left a trace of itself. The nut from this tree is still called a coconut. Go figure. Today we say instead that it's a palm tree that yields coconuts, and the two words don't match. To make matters more confusing, in Spanish a coco comes from a cocotera, so when English borrowed coco in the first place it used it for the tree where it had originally referred to the nut. What a mess. But just try to remember how to spell "coconut" correctly.


Put the letters back, shake them again, and toss four. This time we get: COCA. Again, it's an English word taken from Spanish, which took it from Quechua, the language of the Incas in the Central Andes. We've already discussed coca leaves and coca tea. No problems with this word.


Let's try it again, but toss five letters, and we get: CACAO. It comes from Spanish, which took it from Nahuatl. the language of the Aztecs in Mexico. It's end-stressed and pronounced to rhyme with "cow". Across the board, it refers to the tropical cacao tree that bears cacao pods that produce cacao seeds from which chocolate, cocoa powder, and cocoa butter are made.


Last time, again with five letters, and we get: COCOA, a spelling that reverses each vowel of the previous word exactly. Worse, the A at the end is useless, since the word is pronounced just like COCO, and causes most people to want to misspell "coconut". This unfortunate, but very common word, was an erroneous twisting around in English alone of CACAO under the influence of COCO. The resulting frankensteined-together word is, however, really quite pleasant, describing cocoa powder, cocoa butter, and the hot beverage otherwise known as hot chocolate. Also, we have an unusual parallel in calling cacao seeds cocoa beans, using two different variations to describe the same thing. Or look at these words flipping back and forth: you grind cacao seeds aka cocoa beans and remove cocoa butter to make cocoa powder. What a mess! What an interweaving of words!


Cacao Tree & Cocoa Beans    That seems like such a mixed-up heading, but that's how you say it—although I'm sure there's quite a mix-'n'-match flexibility in the words. The cacao tree originated right here from the Central Andes, although the original range could have been larger, up into Central America. The trees grow in hot, rainy tropical areas (it was so appropriate that I was still sweating from the walk!), but only within 20° of latitude of the equator. Chocolate made from the processed beans was introduced to Europe by the Spaniards and became a popular beverage by the 17C.


With most fruit-bearing trees, the fruit grows from the branches, but cacao pods grow directly from the trunk or otherwise a large branch of the cacao tree, which makes harvesting much easier. While the literature says pods have a variety of colors, all I saw at La Danesa were the dark brownish-purple pods shown above, and also, as we saw, on their website. Yet I find that they can also be green (Photo by Marius Austerschulte) and other colors (Photo by Medicaster), to an extent dependent on stage of ripeness—they ripen all year round, so the harvest is constant.


The worker leading the tour in Spanish (Adeline translated) picked a pod from a tree and used a machete, as is usual, to cut into the thick, rough, leathery rind and expose the cocoa beans (Photo by Aude). Note the purplish hue of the somewhat soft beans. A pod can contain 20-50 beans (seeds) and about 800 processed beans are needed to make one kilogram of chocolate, and 400 to make a pound.


But as you look at the contents of the pod, you'll notice something that we are discussing now for the third time. The seeds are covered with a pulp that has to be removed before processing. We talked about the pulp that needed to be removed in coffee beans, and then in kola nuts. But there was one difference here. The worker broke the nuts apart, and handed one to each one of us, with instructions to suck on it. The pulp was not only edible, but sweet, with a taste like lemonade. And therein lies an irony. Long before the cocoa bean became popular, it was the sweet pulp that was fermented to make a beverage with a 5% alcohol content. That's what drew attention to the cacao plant in the first place, long before it was known for chocolate.


We then moved over from the trees to a work table in a nearby shed. It was explained that the beans, still with their pulp, are piled in heaps for 4 to 7 days to ferment and to dry out the pulp. In this way, the beans lose their purplish hue and become mostly brown in color. They end up with an adhered skin, which includes the dried remains of the fruity pulp. Then they are roasted (Photo by AlejandroLinaresGarcia). We didn't see any of this, but it certainly gives a sense of déja vu after seeing the roasting of coffee beans in the Galápagos. After roasting, the nut and papery skin (Photo by Glorgana) separate easily by rubbing.


But a the work table, we did see the following. Attached to the end of the table was a food grinder, and the worker put some roasted beans into it, ground them, with this result (Both photos by AlejandroLinaresGarcia). After this, there would be further processing into commercial chocolate products.


It was time to take the air-conditioned bus back down the treed road, and I was amazed that only a couple of us took advantage of it, the others choosing to walk back, despite the heat. We were then relaxing around the lawn, when all of a sudden, two workers brought a rather large cow to this garden setting. One stood at her head while she was being fed, and another held her tail, next to her tethered rear legs (yes, I've heard about cows kicking). Someone then started to demonstrate milking the cow, which was interesting to watch, but then, anyone interested was invited to take over. For a split second I thought "not me", but then I said, "why not?". As a child of maybe 4-5, my mother and I spent two summers on a farm that took a number of boarders at Otisville NY in the Catskills, with my father joining us by coming up on the milk train weekends. I was familiar with cows, as I regularly watched them come home in the evening from the fields, to be mechanically milked. While milking a cow was never on my bucket list, I mentally added it at La Danesa for immediate checking off. Few of us got the volume that the worker did, but it was a new experience. Still, I felt it was a gross personal intrusion on the cow!


The bus then drove us to and through Bucay, and up into the hills on the other side to Hostería D'Franco (above) at 289 m (949 ft) for lodging and dinner. It was a modest place, but very nice. When I said that to Adeline, she pointed out that, yes, it's the best in the area, but the upcoming two haciendas would be nicer. For this reason, I like remembering La Danesa in connection with it for our hacienda experience the first night. I tried, but never did find out about that odd spelling of D'Franco, with that apostrophe.


We settled in, and then came a tropical downpour in the early evening. The hotel restaurant was only a short distance away, but we took the bus, armed with umbrellas. And shades of Puerto Ayora, the wi-fi, available only in the lobby, went out with the storm. But it was clear the next morning when, after breakfast in the main building of the hotel, we were bused to Bucay on Monday, Train Day 2 to join the train at Bucay station to start our climb of the Andes.


As information on the previous posting showed, the first stretch cut right through from the higher end of the Hot Region and zipped us through the Temperate Region to the lower end of the Cold Region. In addition to our two route maps, we should have these two altitude graphs handy from that previous posting:


While we'll end up in Riobamba tonight (see tourist map), the bulk of our climb is in the early part of the day. The two extreme points of the ascent are the town of Bucay (lower than the hostería), with an elevation of 109 m (357 ft), and Palmira, that unimportant location just beyond Alausí; Palmira has an altitude of 3,250 m (10,663 ft) (second graph). As we said in that posting: That means that between these two points the train has to rise upward 3,141 m (10,306 ft), which is over 3 km and almost 2 mi (3.141 km, 1.95 mi). And it has to achieve this change in elevation in a distance of only 79.1 km (49.2 mi). Let's round out those numbers to make them more meaningful. Picture going 80 km while rising 3 km, or going 50 mi while rising 2 mi.


We also pointed out that the bulk of that rise is concentrated at the Nariz del Diablo ("Devil's Nose"). It starts at Sibambe, at 1,836 m (6,024 ft) and ends at Alausí, at 2,347 m (7,700 ft). This rise of 511 m (1,677 ft) is achieved in only 11.8 km (7.3 mi). This is done partly by the two famous switchbacks at the Nariz del Diablo/Devil's Nose, followed by the two Alausí loops, which are horseshoe curves. The engineering success within this short stretch is what has made the whole line particularly famous.


While the route climbs, steepness of the route becomes a particularly important factor. In the last posting we pointed out how the second chart shows the percentage of grade between stations, and said we'd talk more later. Actually, in the past, particularly in Switzerland, we said that the steepest inclines are surmounted by either cable, as in funiculars, or rack (cog) railways. Normal railways are called adhesion railways, another term we've used in the past, since it's nothing more than the friction of the wheels adhering to the tracks that allows movement.


Today, a one-percent grade is considered steep. That describes an incline rising one unit (kilometer or mile) in 100 units of horizontal distance. A locomotive on a 1% grade can pull only half the load (or less) than it can on level track. The thing is, steeper gradients have often been built to avoid a lot of expensive engineering involved in trying to lower the grade. On the other hand, a steeper grade limits how heavy a train can be for a locomotive to pull it without slipping. And that's just uphill. Going downhill, the amount of braking ability is another factor.


It seemed to me at the time that the steepest part of the Ecuador line, variously reported at 5.5% or 5.2% just south of Alausí, gave it some exclusivity, but after reviewing a list of railways with high grades, I now see I've been on even steeper ones. In 2008/15, I reported on the ride on the Montreux-Oberland Bernois Railway (MOB) in southwest Switzerland, which has a grade of up to 7.3%. In 2008/16 in southeast Switzerland, the Bernina Express reached 7.0%. In 2006/5 the Flåmsbana in Norway reached the same 5.5% as near Alausí. Thus, the steeper grade on this line is not unique.


When the engineers reached the mountain known as the Devil's Nose in 1901, this nearly vertical wall of rock was the greatest natural obstacle they encountered during construction. It's unclear how it got its name. I've seen it said the mountain is supposedly shaped like a nose, which I think is nonsense. Others said it's the menacing way the rock looms above the valley. Whatever. But conquering it is considered one of the world's most difficult and unique railroading feats.


They could have gone through it, around it, or over it. Tunneling through it, even using a spiral tunnel, was rejected, as was going around it. So over the mountain it was. But how do you get a train up the vertical side of a mountain? The same way you get a car up the side of a mountain, by switchbacks.


Engineers have been building mountain roads for centuries. When the road comes to a slope, it goes to one side, then back to the other. Lengthening the road by doing this allows for a reasonable grade. These switchbacks are repeated until the top (or, in the other direction, the bottom) is reached. Look at this beautiful road with switchbacks in the Pyrenees (Photo by Ericoides). You build as few, or as many, switchbacks as you need to conquer the slope. Road switchbacks, of necessity, involve hairpin curves each time the road reverses. This works fine for cars and small trucks, but no one would be foolish enough to send a tractor-trailer up this road—it just couldn't make the tight turns. The same problem arises trying to do this with a rail line.


Now as we know, trains can maneuver VERY LARGE turns, known as horseshoe curves or loops, where two sides of a valley are needed to have enough room to build the curve. Very famous is the Horseshoe Curve of the former Pennsylvania Railroad, west of Altoona, Pennsylvania. It's described in 2006/10, and I've just added a paragraph that includes a map of the area and an aerial view, both very helpful in understanding hot it works, so it's worth taking a look at it. (Use Ctrl-F "Horseshoe Curve", and take the second click.)


So trains can struggle up steeper grades, and trains can go around large horseshoe curves. But how do they manage with less room, making switchbacks necessary? Where a car could manage a (relatively small) hairpin curve, a train couldn't possibly do it. It's simple. The train just doesn't turn around after it goes back and forth up as many switchbacks as necessary!. Now if you're picturing this correctly, you'll realize that this motion means that half the operation has to be done backwards. Now you're understanding why this gets so interesting.


In pre-researching Cusco in Peru, I found a series of rail switchbacks on the uphill line leading west. For some reason that I cannot determine after a lot of searching, they are no longer used and instead a bus circumvents them and brings passengers from the Cusco station to Poroy, a small station beyond what is called locally El Zig-zag, to start their journey to Machu Picchu. The literature says there are either five or six switchbacks there. The only map I can find is the Google map of Cusco, where I count four switchbacks followed by a loop, or horseshoe curve. I suspect I am right, since rail switchbacks need to total an even number, unlike road switchbacks, so that the train ends up going forward at the end of the series.


I was totally uninformed about the Nariz del Diablo switchbacks before I got there, and I remember asking Adeline how many there were. I will not forget the way she answered me. There are two, she told me, forming a Z, like Zorro, and her finger did a familiar triple swish-swish-swish of Zorro wielding his sword in the air to cut a Z. And sure enough, we climbed the mountain in a Z pattern.


I've done considerable searching to find a map of the rail layout on the Devil's Nose. I cannot find any individual map I could ask you to link to, but I did finally find a website. I don't ask you often to go look at another website—the last time it seems to me was in Nova Scotia when someone had some good illustrations about the tides—but I'll ask you now to link to this website of a transport museum in Ireland:


Skip the first three illustrations which are similar to what we have. It's the fourth that's the gem, even though the website is still unaware that the rail line is now open. This map is schematic, so it's not to scale, and is exaggerated, as you can tell by the way the river goes dancing about the sketch. But it does show how the system works.


The rebuilt station at Sibambe is shown at the bottom, where the still disused spur line from Cuenca joins the main line coming past the right of the station. Instead, look where we are, on the line coming from Bucay passing to the left of Sibambe station. Ascending the sheer wall of the Devil's Nose, the train pulls into the first switchback, and comes to a total stop at the bumper barrier at the end. A worker at the back of the train gets out and throws the switch to the next level of track. Now we enter the middle section of our Z for Zorro, and necessarily, we're going backwards! We do this all the way to the second switchback and come to a stop. A worker now goes to the front of the train and throws the switch to the next rail segment. We now go forward along the upper part of the sheer mountain wall. At this point we can swing around to the back of the mountain, where we can gain more altitude still by going around two valleys in two more horseshoe curves called the Alausí Loops. Also note there's a wye near Alausí should a turn-around somehow become necessary. Finally, grades are indicated at five different points, with one of them claiming more than I'd heard of earlier, 5.7%.


As the Tren Crucero approached Sibambe (si.BAM.bé), we stopped a short distance before the station, visible just ahead. We all got out onto a paved area to the right of the train, since this was considered the best viewpoint of the Devil's Nose. At this point I was well-oriented and, looking at the station building ahead, I recognized the disused Cuenca branch across the gulch to the right. At this point, Adeline introduced the train crew—we already had been working with the waiters inside—including the train driver (US: "engineer"). I asked him in Spanish about our average speed along the route, which was low, 30-35 km/h (17-22 mph), and how long it takes to traverse the Devil's Nose, which was, surprisingly, only 10 minutes to climb 200 m (565 ft) in 3 km (1.7 mi). Then the train proceeded to climb the wall of the mountain.


This is the type of magnificent picture a person cannot take on his own, since it's either from the top of an adjacent mountain or perhaps a helicopter. It shows the mountain called Nariz del Diablo (do you see a nose? I don't). At the bottom our track from Bucay runs between the stream and Sibambe station, and the disused line from Cuenca joins us right afterward. You can see how the whole switchback setup needs so much space that it wraps around the mountain. We cannot see the first switchback from here, but can see the middle of the Z coming back, all the way to the second switchback on the right, followed by the third level of the Z wrapping around the mountain again. This is the sheer wall we're climbing, after which the train goes beyond the mountain to the two Alausí Loops to gain more altitude still.


Pop Quiz: Is the train you see going uphill, north to Alausí and Quito, or downhill, south to Sibambe, Bucay, and Guayaquil? Hint: is it going forwards or backwards?


In any double switchback (Z for Zorro) the middle leg is always a back-up stretch. Since the red engine is in the front of the train, and it has to be backing up, it's going uphill. If it were going downhill, the engine would be at the other end.


Let's take a peek around the mountain to see what we can't see here, the first switchback (Photo by Ljuba brank). We're looking at the bottom and middle segments here, but not all the way to the end of the switchback, behind us. While building switchbacks is cheaper than building tunnels, we can now comment on the limitations: (1) By its very nature, it only works with a single-track configuration; (2) Progress is slowed down by having to come to a full stop and reversing the switch each time; (3) Running a train backwards with the engine in the back of the train could be dangerous; (4) The length of the train is limited to what will fit on the shortest stub track on the zig-zag. However, I've seen a picture right at this point from back in the heyday, a period when a train could temporarily be split in two, with each half being taken over the top by a separate steam engine. The view at this switch had one train about to enter it as the other was leaving. So some limitations are surmountable.


This a view looking down back to Sibambe Station (Photo by Jan Pesula) from the middle segment coming out of the first switch. The first segment is below in front of us, and splits at the station with the disused line to Cuenca going out at the top, while our train has come from behind the mountain to the right past the station. Copy and past these links:


The first picture is an excellent view of the second switchback being maneuvered by the Tren Crucero. This train is doing the opposite of we're doing--it's going downhill. The engine is in the front while it's leaving the third level, which is a forward-direction level. Once it reaches the end of the stub it will back down the second level.


On the second picture, just look at the sheer wall of the Devil's Nose! All three levels of our Z are visible here, at least in part. Contrary to the first picture, this would be us, going northbound, since the engine is in the front and this is a forward-direction level.


Finally, in the third picture, we leave the Devil's Nose. We're up on the third level and see below us the other two levels, Sibambe Station, and the Cuenca and Bucay routes leading off into the distance around the stream in the middle.


We'll end this topic with a YouTube video. Be forewarned, that, since the video takes only 2:12, it runs in fast motion. Here's the Nariz del Diablo, but showing some yellow train that isn't ours. The most illustrative part starts at 1:04, where an uphill train goes around the bend to the first switchback (as usual, not seen); it then backs up the middle level to the second switchback, where it reverses to enter the third level; at 1:43 is a beautiful example of a downhill train reversing in the upper switchback. Again, this is high-speed photography!


It wasn't much further to Alausí (Photo by Jen) (say "allow", then stress "SEE"), where we stopped for a while to walk around the town, which was rather built up. I walked down part of that boulevard with palm trees from the station at the upper end (the gray building at an angle with two red roofs). Monday lunch we had on the train, at our seats, and was the only time we had a meal on the train. The salad was made with quinoa (KIN.wa), which was only the second time I'd had it, the first being at a Brooklyn restaurant with friend Paul. I mention it, because the subject came up later that very same day (see below).


The Indigenous Woman    When the train stopped in the small village of Colta, we took a bus ride a short distance away to Calpi. We were told quite blasély that we'd be met by an indigenous woman who'd show us around. I couldn't imagine what she'd be showing us and where she'd be doing it. We did not end up in any town, not even Calpi. The bus stopped along a rural road, and the woman met us at an intersection with a country lane. Our meeting with her was for an hour's walk up and down that country lane. When we came back, we went a few steps further to an cultural center that helped indigenous people, including selling homemade articles such as shawls and purses in a gift shop. The whole experience was one of the more interesting stops of the trip.


She was one of only three indigenous people I met in Ecuador, so I have to generalize from that experience, plus further research. That hour's walk now results in three topics to discuss. First the experience of her appearance:


None of these pictures shows exactly what I want, but if you make a mental composite of them, you'll see just what I saw. The first shows a woman in a field, with attractive mountain scenery in the distance. This places the experience on the rural road amid fields, although none of us ever actually entered a field. Note the felt hat, apparently a fedora. Note the shawl, fastened by a pin. But she's dressed very simply, if not even drably, so this picture isn't enough.


We did not see a marketplace like in the second picture. We did not see three women, just one. However, the bright colors of these women's outfits and the decorative embroidered edging are much closer to what our woman was wearing. Even the pins fastening the bright shawls are more interesting. So put these two images together in your mind.


We were in Chimborazo province, near the mountain, and this province has more indigenous people than any other, numbering about 250,000, and which is where I met two others the next day. This traditional Ecuadorian woman's dress is closest to the Incan costumes of the past. Specifically, we're talking about the rectangular shawl without a fringe; it can be secured by a straight pin, as we've seen, or knotted in the front; it can be worn over both arms, as we've seen, which is the Inca style, or it can be worn over one shoulder and under the opposite arm. We'll comment on the hats in a separate section below. The style of their costume instantly identifies them as natives of the region, and also marks ethnicity, social class, gender, age, and so on.


I've added the third picture above, which again shows a more simply-dressed woman, because she is spinning wool. This is exactly what our woman was doing. She had a wad of wool under one arm, and for the entire hour we walked along the path, including when she was lecturing, she spun and spun onto a stick as is shown. As a matter of fact, I still visualize her as having her eyes cast downward at her work, even as she spoke. It was a marvelous feat of multitasking.

 As we were walking, I commented to the group about her multitasking, which I am not good at. I was surprised at a response that I got. All along on the trip, I'd been moving between English and Spanish as needed, often spoke German with that couple, and on rare occasion said something in French to the Québecoise. It was the mother of the teenager in our group who commented that she couldn't imagine how I could switch between languages so easily. At first I was dumbfounded. If you've learned to speak a second language with any fluency, there's no effort in flipping back and forth—it's like you're speaking one language. It's this ease that causes some people to blend two languages into one something like with "Spanglish". Perhaps this woman had had no experience, or perhaps very feeble experience with another language. I also grew up with my mother speaking Russian to her parents and my father speaking Italian with his mother. At the time, I didn't speak either, but I witnessed bilingualism on a regular basis.

But then her comment brought me back to one specific incident, where I had felt the same way she did. It was 1957, and I was on my first trip to Europe at age 17. Hearing many languages around me in their native countries was already excitingly unusual, but I specifically remember stopping in the American Express office in Interlaken, Switzerland. There was a crowd around the receptionist asking many questions, and I remember the young woman turning from one customer to another in rapid succession and flipping between German, Swiss German, English, French, and very possibly Italian. How could she do it? She showed no effort whatsoever. This reflection made me understand what the mother meant: I'd turned into the Swiss receptionist!

The indigenous woman had been lecturing in Spanish, translated by Adeline. I had shortly before this above conversation asked the indigenous woman in Spanish what her native language was. I expected to hear, and thought she said, Quechua (KECH.wa), the language of the Incas. When I checked later with the male guide on the train, he told me I'd misheard that. The variety of Quechua, otherwise spoken in Peru and Bolivia, is called kichwa in Ecuador, so I stood corrected. I've since read that Kichwa is spoken by over a million people.

 I'll continue to gripe about how Spanish spellings make native words confusing for outsiders, and will applaud when the native spelling prevails. Spanish notoriously does not use K or W, except for foreign words like Kennedy or Washington. For that reason, kichwa, using Spanish spelling, comes out Quichua. In reality, the only difference between the names kichwa/Quichua and kechwa/Quechua is the I or E. All the rest involves the baggage of Spanish spelling. I'm happy when I see kechwa spelled in the native way as well as kichwa. (See kinwa below.)

When we went back to the cultural center at the end, I saw a small sign in kichwa and Spanish, with one short line in each. I wanted to hear kichwa spoken, so I asked the indigenous woman to read the kichwa line. But then she also read me the Spanish line, which showed she didn't understand my wanting to hear a language I'd never heard before. A line in the one language was just as worth reading aloud to her as the other. Which further illustrates my point about being bilingual. I bet she could start a sentence in Spanish and end it in kichwa, since both are so normal for her.


Hats   Before we, selectively, take the woman's tour down the country road, since we've already breached the subject of indigenous women wearing hats that outsiders consider men's hats, we should expand on that. The only information on the felt fedoras we've seen is that they were worn only by indigenous men through the mid 19C, but from the start of the 20C have been worn by both men and women.


Much more traditional within Ecuador is the Panama hat, which is a topic we should discuss in reference to both the ethnically European population as well as the native population. A Panama hat (Photo by Hex) is a traditional brimmed straw hat native to Ecuador, and can also be in the fedora style, as this shows. It's made of the plaited leaves of a palm-like plant. This shows a Panama hat partially woven (Photo by Superbass), still surrounded by the weaving materials. It's light-colored, lightweight, and breathable. Men usually wear them with a light-colored summer-weight suit. As a matter of fact, the stereotypical image of a South American gentleman has him wearing a white suit and a Panama hat, because of its tropical elegance. They were further popularized by many early 20C Hollywood film stars wearing them. I tried on a couple of Panama hats on display in an airport gift shop, but resisted the temptation. The display was much smaller than in this hat shop (Photo by Alex Proimos), where, if you click, you might find some styles for women.


Hat weaving has been thoroughly traditional in Ecuador since the early to mid 1600s. It evolved as a cottage industry all along the coast, and hat weaving and wearing grew steadily in Ecuador through the 1600s and 1700s. They're worn simply because of the intense sun, which I'm well familiar with on the coastal plain, by both the general population and the indigenous people. While English and some other languages call it a Panama hat, in Spanish and certain others, it's just called a panama. However, in Spanish, it can also be called a jipijapa (, after a town in Ecuador. Actually, the art of weaving this traditional Ecuadorian hat was added to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists, which define practices, traditions, knowledge, and skills that communities pass down from generation to generation as part of their cultural heritage.


Although I'm not sure if I saw an indigenous woman wearing a Panama hat as above, its use could be regional. This elegant lady's shawl and Panama hat distinguish her as to ethnicity and traditions. Note that she is wearing her shawl, as we said was also common, knotted, and under one arm.


Young indigenous girls do not wear hats of any kind. In fact, unmarried women don't wear them either. It's only after marriage that she's expected to wear a hat, to show her new status, and the color and design of the hat can also designate her native tribe, making a statement as to who she is and where she comes from.


Now I've obviously been avoiding the elephant in the room until the end. Why is a thoroughly Ecuadorian hat named after a place two countries to the north? That story alone would make the hat interesting, because it reflects regional history so thoroughly. Before the Panama Canal simplified things, passengers and freight could connect between the Atlantic (Caribbean) and Pacific in Central America only by taking a ship to one side of Panama and crossing overland, hoping to avoid yellow fever, to the other side to get on another ship. Before the Canal, the recently discussed Panama Railroad facilitated this, and before that, it was travel across the isthmus by road. As an example, I refer to how La Condamine and the French Geodesic Mission arrived in Manta by this route (2015/14). Thus products from the Pacific coast, such as Ecuadorian hats, had to go by ship to Panama, be unloaded, cross Panama, and then be loaded onto another ship. This gave the impression in Eastern North America and Europe that the products were coming from Panama, and, when the hats became fashionable, they were named after where people felt they were coming from. It's just the burden that this cultural artifact has to bear, being named after another country that it has nothing to do with.


The hats became even more popular in the mid 19C because of the miners of the California Gold Rush who were going to California via Panama. But then the Canal only heightened the situation. First of all, it's interesting that a product that eventually bespoke elegance started out as an everyday work hat. (Think of workmen's denim jeans eventually rising in the fashion world.) Day laborers building the Panama Canal wore these hats against that sun we talked about. The culmination of Panama's influence on the hat was reached in 1904 during Theodore Roosevelt's well-known visit to the Canal, especially via this well-known photograph of him wearing a Panama hat. This idiotic photo op of him sitting on a steam shovel not really doing anything but looking presidential helped further popularize the Panama hat he was wearing.


We'll end our foray into headgear by mentioning a hat that is not native to South America, yet still closely associated with the Quechua and Aymara peoples in the Central Andes, perhaps less Ecuador and more Bolivia (because of the nature of its origin). It's the bowler hat. I'm not sure I met an indigenous woman wearing a bowler hat (Photo by Tabea Huth at the German language Wikipedia) either, but it's a well-known womanswear style in the region, as seen on this woman in La Paz, Bolivia.


The bowler hat (Photo by Peloponnesian Folklore Foundation) is famously a hard felt hat with a rounded crown. It, too, had humble origins. The British soldier and politician Edward Coke (say "cook") was displeased with the top hats worn by his gamekeepers, which, because of their shape, were easily knocked off and damaged.

 The creation of top hats is credited to George Dunnage in 1793, a hatter from Middlesex. Within 20 years of their creation, they became popular with all social classes, with even workmen wearing them. The theme of hats being worn in humble situations seems to continue across the board.

In 1849, Coke commissioned London hat-makers Thomas and William Bowler to design a close-fitting, low-crowned hat to protect Coke's gamekeepers' heads from low-hanging branches while on horseback. The popularity of bowler hats in the Victorian era spread to all classes in the UK, the US, and beyond, with the image of bankers in London's City including a bowler and umbrella. Even Toulouse-Lautrec wore one.


The bowler, not the cowboy hat or Mexican sombrero, was the most popular hat in the American West. Both cowboys and railroad workers (working-class people, again) preferred it because it would not blow off easily while riding a horse or when looking out of a moving train. It was worn by both lawmen, such as Bat Masterson, and outlaws, such as Butch Cassidy. However, in the US, the bowler has more commonly been referred to as a derby, and a very famous Los Angeles restaurant (actually, a chain) was known as the Brown Derby. The first and most famous of these, on Wilshire Boulevard, was actually shaped like its namesake (Photo by Sba2). Some languages refer to the hat by its melon shape: French – melon; German – Melone; Polish – melonik, or as a "little bomb": Italian – bombetta; Spanish – bombín. Spanish aso calls it a sombrero hongo, or mushroom hat.


Beyond that, the bowler/derby became a trademark of many British and American comic actors, most notably Charlie Chaplin and Laurel & Hardy (Photo by Hilton Teper in Laurel's hometown of Ulverston, Cambria, England).


But finally to the point: how did the bowler--or bombín/sombrero hongo--reach Quechua or Aymara women in the Central Andes? It came about in the 1920s in Bolivia, which will explain that wearers are more numerous there. I've heard two versions of the same story, and again it involves laborers, in this case British railway workers working in Bolivia. A shipment of bowlers arrived in Bolivia for the railway workers, but was rejected. One version says they were too small, another the wrong color, brown. They didn't want to send the shipment back. One version says they were given away to indigenous women. The other, more likely, says they were sold to them by telling them it was the height of fashion for European women, thereby opening up a new market in women wearers of bowlers, and the style caught on. Thus we have felt hats, Panama hats, and bowler hats, all being used by indigenous women in the Central Andes.


Walking the Country Lane    Now that we've discussed native dress, including the variety of hats, we can get back to our woman taking us down the country lane while her hands were constantly spinning wool. She kept on stopping over the hour to point out one shrub or field after another, with uses for the various plants. It was fascinating at the time, but I quite frankly can't remember most of the details, only two stops that particularly impressed me, and those we'll discuss.


On the side of the road was an agave plant (Photo by Marc Ryckaert [MJJR]). The accurate pronunciation is a.GAH.vé, though some anglicize it in various ways (not recommended). What surprised me is that she did two things on the spot with the plant that I've since read online that one can do, and reading that gave me a déjà vu feeling, that, yes, it's really true. Click to confirm that the edges of the thick, hard, brittle leaves have spines. She knew just where along the edge of a broad leaf to snap off a spine with an adjacent brittle strip of leaf, and she pointed out that she now had a sharp pin that can be used for fastening. Then, while we were still trying to comprehend her little bit of magic, she outdid herself. She found a spot further down the edge of a leaf and, when she broke that "pin" off, it came with several long, strong fibers attached. She now had a rustic needle and thread, with which she could do her sewing. I've now had to search to find a picture showing the fibers inside an agave leaf (no attribution). The accompanying text told that "thread . . . and strong cords were drawn from [the] tough and twisted fibers; pins and needles were made from the thorns at the extremity of its leaves." You could also make pens and nails, and use the string, not only to sew, but to weave. And as I read this, I could confirm it, because I'd seen it demonstrated first on a country road in Ecuador. That's one reason I travel.


As we walked along, we'd get a distant view of Chimborazo. Then, at our final point before turning around, she showed us a field that looked like this one, Andean mountain view and all. Any ideas of what you're looking at?


This is quinoa (KIN.wa), mentioned earlier, as we'd had some for lunch on the train. The literature says that "its popularity has exploded in the last several years, particularly among affluent, health-conscious Americans." I find that it appears in restaurants that want to serve something au courant, or in health food stores. I'm not sure how many in the group recognized what they were looking at, since I don't know about its popularity outside the Americas. I only asked the German guy if he'd heard about it, reminding him we'd just had some for lunch, but he didn't know it—still, that proves little.


It's a grain grown for its edible seeds and it's low-calorie, gluten-free, and high-protein. As we just saw, the plant (called, oddly, the goosefoot plant in English) has broom-like purple flowers (Photo by MarkusHagenlocher). But surprise! As the woman pointed out at the time, if it's purple, it's green, in other words, unripe. Ripened quinoa seeds turn white (Photo by Kurt Stueber), which means that that first picture, showing both, involved a field that in was in the process of ripening.


This was a totally hands-on demonstration, since the woman broke off pieces of white quinoa and handed everyone a bit, which we rolled between our palms, as in this picture. The seeds detached with no effort, and we ended up with a handful of harvested quinoa. In actuality, though, harvesting (Photo by Dider Gentilhomme) and threshing (Photo by Michael Hermann & involve more work than that. The finished quinoa grain is cooked like rice or couscous, and looks like this (Both photos by Vi..Cult...).


This brings us to the name and to why most English speakers are put in a quandary as to how to pronounce it. As mentioned earlier, it's the fault of Spanish spelling of Quechua words. The Quechua name is kinwa, which is easily pronounceable. But Spanish spelling has an abhorrence of the letters K and W, which are only used in Spanish for words of foreign origin, such as Kennedy or Washington. So Spanish spells kin- as quin-. It works for Spanish speakers, but English speakers think of the name Quinn and want to pronounce it that way. As for the ending, English speakers know how to say Balboa, and want to pronounce Quinoa the same, because of that weird spelling. But it gets even crazier. Normally, -wa might be spelled –ua (which is why "Ecwador" is spelled Ecuador), if not the horrific –hua as in Chihuahua or Ushuaia. But here it's –oa, and we're stuck with it. Why can't we adopt the original Quechua spelling "kinwa" and not put the word through the Spanish pulverizer?


Quinoa originated and was domesticated in the Andean region (no attribution) between 3,000 and 4,000 years ago, Red on the map shows the original region of cultivation, and green the area it's now spread to. It seems destined to spread, as a finished product, around the world, like so much else has from the Americas. I've found online this interesting montage of New World domesticated plants: Clockwise from the top left: 1. Maize ("corn") (Public domain) 2. Tomato 3. Potato (2-3 Photos by Fir0002/Flagstaffotos) 4. Vanilla (Photo by B.navez) 5. Rubber latex (Photo by AxelBoldt) 6. Cacao (public domain) 7. Tobacco (Photo by Atilin). All of these are from the Americas, mostly Latin America, and heavily from the Central Andes, as follows:

Maize ("corn"): Mexico & Central America
Vanilla: Mexico
Rubber: South America; we talked in 2015/14 about La Condamine's work in Ecuador
Tobacco: North & South America; this is the only place where N.A. above Mexico appears
Cacao: Central Andes, but the range may once have been up into Central America

Potato: Central Andes; first domesticated in the region of today's southern Peru and closely adjacent Bolivia between 8,000 and 5,000 BCE; the Spanish introduced the potato to Europe in the second half of the 16C and was then brought by European mariners around the world.

Tomato: Western South America & Mexico-Central America; The exact date of domestication is unknown, but by 500 BCE, it was already being cultivated in southern Mexico and probably other areas. Native versions were small, like cherry tomatoes, and most likely yellow rather than red. The Spanish brought the tomato to Europe, where it grew easily in Mediterranean climates, cultivation beginning in the 1540s. The Spanish also took it to the Philippines, from where it spread first to southeast Asia and then to the rest of Asia.

In addition to this montage, we've talked about lemon verbena and coca leaves originating in the Central Andes (2015/14)

Furthermore, we can add that pineapple is believed to have originated in the area between southern Brazil and Paraguay.


Steam Again    Our buses then took us back from Calpi to the station at Colta for the short remaining ride to Riobamba for the night (see tourist map). But at Colta we saw that, while we were gone, a steam locomotive had been attached to the train for the second ride by steam of the trip, and it turned out to be #53, the one that had been moved to Riobamba. This YouTube video (1:46) shows #53 leaving Colta with the Tren Crucero. Pause it at about 1:15 to inspect the cab that I later got to visit, with the steep ladder going up to it.


It couldn't have been much more than a half hour to Riobamba station (Photo by Ekem), a terminus station (click). This next YouTube video (1:31) shows #53 arriving, but backing in to the station. We, on the other hand, pulled in forwards, with #53 up front. We were told we had about 20 minutes to look around, so some of us went up to #53 up front to take a closer look. but yellow crime scene tape had been set up all around it to keep people back, even as a couple of workers were still in the cab, with a couple more on the ground apparently keeping guard somehow. I was satisfied that I'd seen what I could, and went into the station, where a small museum had a model of the Devil's Nose. Then, one of the guys from the train—bless him, but I forget which passenger it was—came running up to me and asked me if I wanted to do a cab visit, since they're letting people in. I rushed back, and by indicating I wanted to see the engine, the formidable-looking worker simply lifted the yellow tape for me. It wasn't hard climbing straight up that little ladder, and I was in the cab, still with a couple of workers in it. If I ever was in a steam locomotive cab before, it was in a rail museum. While here, the train wasn't in motion, still, it had just been, and the heat from the still glowing firebox (pleasant in the cool mountain air) was a pleasure to experience. I didn't overstay my welcome, and it was a pleasant end to the day's ride.


Hostería La Andaluza    The buses then drove through Riobamba and off into the countryside. We'd been told that we'd be staying at the Hostería La Andaluza, which turned out to be absolutely marvelous, but as ever, no one ever gave more precise information, at least, not to the degree I like it. Was it in town? Near town? Way out of town? North or south on the main highway? East or west into the hills? Why does no one care about that sort of thing but me, just following the leader like sheep? Only after returning home did I have time to find out where we'd been. La Andaluza is about a half-hour up along the main road to the north, then off to the right, so we were actually paralleling the train track we'd be using the next day, which in turn means that the bus ride in the morning will be backtracking to Riobamba. No problem. I just like to know.


But it also means that La Andaluza is closer to Chimborazo, and to Urbina, the highest rail station in Ecuador. That implies that La Andaluza has some significant altitude. If you look up the altitude of Riobamba on the second route graph, you'll see there's a substantial drop from where we'd been in Colta, and a substantial rise to Urbina the next day. Riobamba station is listed there at 2,764 m (9,068 ft), which is some serious altitude. But how was I to record for my list of records the altitude where I spent the night? This is where I first found use for when I got home. Only then did I learn that Hostería La Andaluza was at a significantly higher 3,287 m (10,783 ft). It was to be the highest overnight in Ecuador, higher than the hacienda the next night, and higher than Quito. It's second in elevation for me only to the hotel in Lhasa, Tibet. We were going significantly into the mountains out of Riobamba, and that's what I'd wanted to know.


I'm delighted finding this and the following pictures on the internet. This picture shows exactly what we saw on arrival. It was late afternoon and the light was weakening, just as in the picture. The building was wood, wood, wood, and you see the entrance marked Recepción, whose desk is located behind those large windows. We were about to enter a cozy world for the evening, warming us with its glow. It's possible that Chimborazo was visible from somewhere near the property, I don't know. We'll see it tomorrow. Tonight, our world is internal, and made of wood.


To wit, the lobby, with its fireplace, burning bright in greeting, and contributing the scent of burning wood. The reception desk is off to the right, and other similar lounges are in he background. You can see immediately that the atmosphere of quiet charm is supplemented by a quirky design feature: you're looking at three antique cash registers. There are also old typewriters, wind-up phonographs, adding machines, and more, all across the series of lounges.


The minute we got our keys, a waiter met us at that little blue table near the fireplace with a huge tray of cups of a hot beverage. If we had been in the US, it would have been hot cider or grog. The waiter told us in Spanish what it was, but no one caught the name, including myself, the only Spanish speaker among the 13 of us. As the others finished their beverage, they moved on to their rooms, but I had to continue to enjoy the fire and savor my drink. Finally, I was alone with the waiter, and asked him again what we'd been drinking. As he answered me, a lady came over from the desk. She introduced herself in Spanish and gave me her card. She was María del Carmen Borja, the Manager. She noticed my interest, explained about the beverage, and offered to give me a tour as soon as I settled in to my room.


While I'm putting my bag away, let me tell you what I looked up afterwards, once I had the name. We were drinking canelazo (, which I find is a very typical welcoming drink of la Parte Alta, which, as we learned in the Galápagos, means The Highlands. It's typical of the holidays, was invented in Ecuador, and is popular throughout Central and South America. Here, have a cup of canelazo yourself (Photo by momentcaptured1). It'll warm you up nicely against the chilly night air.


It's made by boiling sugar in naranjilla (na.ran.HI.ya) juice, and adding a cinnamon stick, and sometimes cloves. It's then topped off with a sugar cane brandy called aguardiente (agua+ardiente, literally "burning water"). The naranjilla (Photo by Fibonacci), literally "little orange", is a subtropical citrus fruit from the Central Andes. It looks outside and inside like a tomato but tastes like a citrus. The juice is green and it's often used in drinks. I'm supposing that it's the cinnamon, canela, that gives canelazo its name. The dictionary also tells me that figuratively, the word canela can describe a "lovely thing", which would add punning value to the name of the beverage.


There must be a lot of interest in the history of La Andaluza, because the rooms have a laminated history page about it. I took a quick look, then met the Director back in the lobby. She took me around to places of interest, including this sitting area near the lobby:


There was also a fire going here in the grate, and you'll notice two more antique cash registers, and possibly some sewing machines. But the general décor was like a mountain lodge, as shown here. Finally, she took me to a most unusual place. We went out the back of the building and I found myself looking at a hacienda in the moonlight, with a large flight of stairs going up to the entrance. But of particular interest was the half-dozen or so white rabbits hopping about the lawn, their whiteness standing out in the darkness!


Now you have to picture this differently, because it wasn't in daylight, but moonlight, and I had a different point of view, since we'd come out of the hostería on the right, looking up the staircase to the left. After her tour, there was time before dinner, and I kept finding handfuls of people I knew, including some students, and asking them if they wanted to see the rabbits. Everyone was eager, and at least that way, I got them to see the historic part of the complex.


But with all the information I got, with gratitude, it still wasn't enough. What was the building with the staircase? What was the rest of it? Were they connected into one building as this picture might indicate? And what about the hacienda/hostería business? I gleaned more from their website that I came across later (You might want to click on "Fotos"—the later ones are better.):


Notice the full name at the top. Hostería La Andaluza / Hacienda Chuquipogio. I believe now I've figured out what I wanted to know, taken from multiple sources. There is no reason that anyone else on the tour found out about any of this history. The building with the staircase is the Hacienda Chuquipogio, although I never heard that name used while I was there, even from the Director. The extended building on the right is the main part of the Hostería La Andaluza, which I now know includes the Hacienda as part of the complex. I now know that there are hotel rooms in the Hacienda as well, although I didn't know to go visit them.


The ownership of the land goes back to the Incas, and the name Chuquipogio goes back to a Peruvian tribe, the Chuquis. In 1551, Hernando de la Parra got the land from the Spanish crown. After two more owners, it was bought by José Villavicencio, brother-in-law of the scientist Pedro Vicente Maldonado of Riobamba, so that would be somewhere in the early 1700s.

 Maldonado is known to have received many times the members of the French Geodesic Mission, surely including La Condamine, as his family estate in Riobamba. However, there is no indication he ever brought them here, to the property of his brother-in-law.

Later on, José de la Rea became the owner in 1771, and built an inn and tavern for travelers because of the proximity of Chimborazo. This would be the extended building on the right of the picture, which is now the main part of the Hostería La Andaluza, so that structure is still quite venerable in its own right. In the 19C, the hacienda was the scene of repeated events during the independence movements of the day, with Spanish authorities and republican troops passing through. Then, as the Director herself told me at the time in sort of a "George Washington slept here" moment, that Simón Bolívar himself stayed here in 1830 when he was traveling in the area. In 2012, Hostería La Andaluza/Hacienda Chuquipogio was declared to be part of the Cultural Patrimony of Ecuador.


The southern province of Andalusia (Andalucía) is the most famous province of Spain, and provides the stereotypical image of Spain. An andaluz (rhymes with "loose") is an Andalusian man and an andaluza (the Z is still an S) is an Andalusian woman. But I didn't make the same mistake as I did in La Danesa, by asking who the Andalusian woman was. It's the Hosteria that's referred to.


We then had a very pleasant dinner in the dining room (1st and 2nd pictures, but picture moonlight in place of daylight) and the following morning had an excellent buffet breakfast (3rd picture) before the buses retraced our steps back to the train in Riobamba. It was hard to believe so much had happened on the train in the first two days, and we still had two days to go before Quito. And the only chore remaining was to try to remember to pronounce "quinoa" accurately.

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