Cuenca, Nariz del Diablo – The Devils nose

grey Cuenca, Nariz del Diablo   The Devils nose

Banos means toilet in spanish, why would you call a town that? Where are you from? The toilet…. Fortunately Banos was not the shit of a town I expected. Banos sits below a very active volcano and boasts hot springs, it’s main attraction. Along with the Devils nose train line

Travel ing with three friends on our first night in Banos we made an informed and unanimous decision to go out and get drunk. Our first stop, after the best Italian food I have tasted since my days waitering at the Mona Lisa, was a spot called the Crazy Leprauchan. The bar man met us with the promised free drink. Unlike other free drinks offered this was not a 30ml watered down beer rather a very potent shot called the Bob Marley. We skulled the firey and flaming shot then found a comfortable spot downstairs. I cannot begin to describe just how ecclectic and interesting the decor of this place is. Hung brass band instruments compete for wall space with old style pushbikes and paintings and murals of Leprachauns and Faeries. A central courtyard area boasts a huge fire surrounded with wooden benches with a four meter water feature behind. We settle in for a very relaxing night of talking, them teasing my bad accent and planning the next time we can catch up. Victor and I are surprised to learn that we both plan on visiting Jakarta next year. Me to visit my sister and her family, Victor to do a fifth year placement.  grey Cuenca, Nariz del Diablo   The Devils nose

Skip to the next morning and we are walking to the hot springs in the heat. Our very chilled out night ended at 2am at the hostel thankfully with neither dancing or singing skills being displayed. The hot springs are situated at the bottom of a very green and tall cliff boasting a veritable fruit salad of cloud forest fauna. Unfortunately the hot springs also boast dirty white pools, lots of litter and crowds of people trying to escape the heat.

We had a quick dip in the brown soup that was the main pool, dodging latinos, avoiding getting our ears wet for fear of infection and what was that slimy slippery thing I stood on?!

After a laze in the sun we went to the hostel to pack for my first non-tour big ticket item of the trip, the Nariz Del Diablo, the Devils nose train line. I was very excited about riding on the Nariz Del Diablo, it is an historic train line which winds its way south through the andes and passes Chimborazo. Chimborazo is a 6000 plus meter mountain and one of the more stunning hills in Ecuador. We had planned to climb onto the roof of the train with a bottle of champagne and to really sign off on a great time together in style. Dave our american friend was bussing in direct from Quito to catch the train at the 6:30am departure time. We did not double check, in true Ecuadorian style when you are a little late, the train left half an hour earlier than advertised. Despite Victor and I near lying on the track to delay the departure. The train trundled through town and we felt like true VIPs with people at each crossing stopping the traffic.

grey Cuenca, Nariz del Diablo   The Devils noseThe final stage of the Nariz Del Diablo was closed due to recent land slides. As the track is undergoing repair the old style steam train was not being used, rather we trundled along for three hours right next to the highway in a bus converted with train wheels. I will not say that the trip was a let down, rather it was not quite what I had expected. We did see the oldest catholic church in Quito and a beautiful town hidden amongst the hills. Friendly locals waved, and the excited american lady waved back, as we passed. I tried to convince the guide to let us onto the roof. Due to an accident involving two Japanese falling off the train to their deaths the company had banned roof top travel. Looking at the safety rails and seats on the roof I think they maybe should have banned Japanese who manage to fall off the roof.

Even me asking him, with the help of a $10 note if he would really see us sneak on the roof did not help.

grey Cuenca, Nariz del Diablo   The Devils nose

 

Our next stop was the beautiful city of Cuenca. The favorite pastime in Cuenca is eating icecream and playing guitar in the many colonial building encrusted parks. With Dave in bed sick, maybe too much icecream, maybe the chicken, Victor, Vincent and I went for a day walk to Parque National Cajas. We narrowly survived the taxi ride out. Our myopic driver resembling Mr Magoo seemed hell bent on hitting every pot hole, he sped up for each corner and even played a game of chicken with fully laden bus.

grey Cuenca, Nariz del Diablo   The Devils nose

I can only imagine he had some serious money problems needing avoiding. Rubbing blood back into our white knuckles we took in the view and enjoyed a short walk around the lagoon. Without a word Vincent raced off on a whim and tried to climb a nearby mountain. I was wearing totally inappropriate sandles and shorts so Victor and I went to the hilltop cafe to drink coffee and play ‘spot the Vincent’. Hitchhiking back into town with the policeman was another bare knuckle ride but at least our new transport had more agreeable background music with which to fear for your life.  grey Cuenca, Nariz del Diablo   The Devils nose

When we arrived back in Cuenca we had one last night drinking together. It is still a novelty for me to be able to buy a bottle of whiskey over the bar. I did just that. Then a bottle of Bacardi. Then I shamelessly danced and sung “Yesterday” at Karaoke. Then an undefined period of time later, bed.

Suffering a shocking hangover I saw the boys off on their way back to Quito and ultimately the real world, bought a $1 DVD and curled up into bed to lick my wounds.

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