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Meredith’s Travel Diary

Tuesday, 27 Feb 2007

Location: Guamote, Ecuador

MapEl Niaz de Diablo (the Devil´s nose)

As quick as you could say "health and safety regulations", we are sitting on the roof of El Tren, about to descend El Niaz de Diablo.

El Tren chuffs through the agricultural heartland of Ecuador: one man, one cow, one plot. It passes tiny farmlets planted with spring onions and potatos, sheep hobbled together to stop them wandering onto neighbouring land or the train tracks, women swaddled in purple cloth bent double scything grass and hoardes of children sprinting alongside.

The Devil´s Nose appears to be so named because the tracks slice across the mountain in sharp hooks. Twice the train stops and reverses onto the downward track. This feat of engineering is part of trans Ecuador railway that was started but never finished by the spanish colonial government.

After a few hours El Tren descends beneath the clouds into The Middle of Nowhere. For once the ic-cream-peanut-kebab-anything-you-want sellers are nowhere to be seen. The roof riders joke about breaking down in this wild ravine and someone reads aloud from the LP: " Breakdowns are are all part of the fun".

And then, of course, El Tren comes to a shuddering holt. "Una hora a qui" the conductor annouces in a far too perfunctory voice. Speak of the Devil I suppose !