Sunday, September 15, 2013

If It's Saturday, It Must be Another Adventure! Alausi, Ecuador

Our final morning in Cuenca dawned sunny AGAIN!  A fabulous way to remember you by! And, off to the bus station we went. Within in moments of departing our cab, we were properly seated on a bus to Quito that has scheduled stops in several cities one of which is Alausi, our next overnight stay.

Alausi is home of the train ride down and up the world famous Devil's Nose.  In order to completely descend, you must stop and back up several times in order to make it to the bottom.  We were very excited about our 3pm scheduled trip on Saturday afternoon. 

The bus trip was beautiful and Mike clicked away on his camera, as always.  And, as always, the ticket collector would announce each stop.  We knew we had passed through a town that was before Alausi even though it wasn't a stop because we saw the town name banner so we began to get ready to get off. 

Various pictures along the route:

A hat for all seasons?


A smiley face house

 Shortly after, we passed a town that Mike thought was Alausi but the bus just kept on going.  The town of Alausi (5,500 population) sits way below the PanAmerican Highway and you must descend down to it.  But nope, not our bus.  We kind of sat for awhile thinking surely it must not have been Alausi because they would have stopped for us.  We told them when we gave them our luggage, we told them when we paid for our ticket, we told them when they announced another town  - Alausi!!

We pulled out our map when we passed another town and sure enough, we had not been taken to Alausi!!  Now, this really presented a dilemma since we had purchased tickets and had to be there by 3pm to catch the train.  There were no more stops being made until almost to Riobamba, an hour north of Alausi. So when the ticket collector came to announce a stop, I motioned for him to come to us.  I looked at him and said "Alausi?????!!!!!" and Mike spoke to him in Spanish about missing our stop.  The young man got a very shocked look on his face and said, in English, "OH, SHIT!!!". It was now 1:30pm with an hour ride back.  If we caught an immediate bus, we could make it.

The next thing we knew, we were told we could catch a bus back, so we did get off.  I initially thought it was just going to be a right off and we would just completely scratch off Alausi and spend an extra night in Riobamba.  But, we did get off and when no bus came quickly, we decided to hail a cab and see what it would cost us.  Let's just say that $30 more and an hour later at 2:55pm, we were dropped off in front of the train station in Alausi.

Funny thing was that when we got there, we didn't see any train.  Confusing to think that it would have left early.  Certainly not in a Latin country!!  So in we went lugging our luggage.  Oh, and Mike's handle on his big suitcase was breaking off and breaking the case, as well. (Sorry, just a little side issue going on!)  Anyway, this gentleman helped me with my suitcase and was trying to tell me something about the train.  He kept saying "slow down, no worries, the train is broken".

Well, it certainly was!!  After all we went through, we were told the train had broken down at the bottom and so our train trip was cancelled.  And, did we want to go Sunday morning at 8 or 11 or did we want our money back.  We couldn't believe it!!  All we could do was laugh.

A new Facebook friend, Elizabeth Johnson, had responded to my plea on fb for a good place to eat and recommendation for a good evening out.  Well, not on Saturday in this town!!  Saturday is dead, dead, dead!!  Since Sunday is their BIG market day, the day "off" is Saturday.  So we had arranged that she would call me about 5pm and we'd see about getting together. 

After the not making the train, Mike and I first had to make a potty stop as we were bursting from not having a stop since we left Cuenca at 8am!  Also, we were starved and thirsty!  But first we caught a cab to go check in at our hostal. Once everything was deposited into our room, off we went in search of a place to eat and drink.

Even though most places were closed just like Elizabeth had said, we did find a small restaurant that served good food and beer but I had to buy a whole bottle. Do you think I minded??!!  Ha, I was looking forward to drinking the night away after our day!

So we had a very nice dinner and drinks then went back to our room to catch up on emails waiting for Elizabeth to call.  At precisely 5pm, she called and we made arrangements to get together with her and her significant other, Dave, and her beautiful daughter, Amanda.  They live right in town so they just walked over to our place, which is on the main street in town.  We all decided it would be much nicer if we grabbed a bottle of wine and some beer and headed over to their place to sit on their terrace with stunning views of the mountains. So that's exactly what we did!!

San Pedro (St. Peter) just off the terrace.

Cathedral Domes all lit up at night.

A wonderful evening sharing stories and getting to know each other!  More good friends to add to our list.  We are so fortunate to be meeting so many incredible people! As it turns out, they talked us into staying an extra night here rather than spending Sunday night in Riobamba so that we can get together again.

After a not so restful sleep, we got up at the crack of dawn to get to the train station.  We boarded along with many others in the 5 refurbished antique cars that will safely take us down and back up Devil's Nose!  This is a world famous line because of the huge descent and the fact that the train has to stop and back up several times to travers the mountain.

All I can say is that the morning light was magnificent and the scenery stunning!  The pictures will speak for themselves, so enjoy them!!


This is the Devil's Nose that we just came down!

The shiny nose!

After an hour stop at the train station at the bottom, a bite to eat and drink (included in ticket), time to visit the museum up the hill, we were on our way back up.  So glad we didn't just scrap it!!  This is truly a highlight of our trip! 

As I mentioned before, today is market day here and boy did the town come alive!!  Being a gringo in a town full of indigenous short to very short fully dressed in their unique apparel is quite an experience all by itself.  Mike and I spent several hours after the train ride walking throughout town to mingle, smile, and say "Buenos Dias!!" many, many times over.  These people are a sight to behold and a delight!! THANK YOU for allowing us the honor to be with you today!!

So enjoy Mike's photos taken all over town!

These are the handmade skirts that all of the indigenous women wear. Beautiful!

A bit tired, Mike and I came back to our place to sit and rest while working on the blog.  I had also called Elizabeth to make arrangements to get together again.  It turns out she's babysitting for 2 little ones, so Mike went out for a hike into the mountains with Dave.  Some well deserved "guy time" that I know he misses.  We've always been together 24/7 since we owned our own business but without any close friends during this journey, guy and gal time are far a few between.  Can't wait to see his pictures!!

Mike came back looking like he'd taken quite a hike with Dave!  He had a great time! Several hours out on trails that overlook the town.

Beautiful, Mike, as always! 

So after Mike got back figuring out the hot water for his shower wasn't all that easy.  Turns out it was pretty much like back home - the hot and cold were configured backwards!  The more things change, the more they stay the same!! 

I called Elizabeth to see if they wanted to go out for dinner only to be asked if we liked mashed potatoes and meatloaf! OMG, did she ever hit a home run with me!  One of my favorite dinners ever - anywhere!! So Mike and I set out to find beer and wine.  Success.  And, we found our way to their place with no problem at all. Gotta love small towns and getting around.

A fabulous evening of getting to know each other even better.  And, the dinner that Elizabeth cooked was DIVINE!!  I'm so very stuffed!  THANK YOU!!  Will miss you guys but know we'll stay in contact no matter where we all end up!

Amanda, Elizabeth, Dave, & Mike.

Elizabeth, Dave, Mike & Me.
We've enjoyed our extended stay in this small town Ecuador that truly is the essence of this country.  I now feel we've really been to Ecuador!!
So tomorrow we're off to BaƱos where who knows what we'll experience. But I know it will be GREAT! 

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