Chapter 21::Table of Contents::Book 2 Back Inside Cover

Chapter 22
Riobamba
Train to Ingapirca

Thurs FEB 1,

Val and Frank woke us up.

They were going off to the market in Saquisili and wanted to say good-by. We did, and they went off. N. & I walked up to Su Cafe for breakfast where we met them again. We ate and said good by again. Then we walked up to the baths for one last hot soak. I took a hot shower at the baths for the 1st time. The water was so hard I couldn’t lather the soap to wash my hair. We came back to the res. and I had to re-wash in the cold shower.

We proceeded to fold up the tent and pack away the last of our stuff. Gordon came by and wished us a good trip. We finally got all our stuff packed into our packs. I’d forgotten how heavy the bastards are when full. My sinuses were killing me. About 1 we finally left the old Santa Clara. When we reached the bus stop we found the bus wasn’t leaving until 1:45. We sat around the park eating helados waiting for the bus.

We finally got underway to Riobamba. Our driver couldn’t have been more than 18 and was having a terrible time shifting the bus. The ride to Rio was bumpy and dusty. We finally made it to Riobamba and as we were getting off the bus met a fellow named Mathew from Canada. The 3 of us walked off looking for a residencia. After walking in a circle or 2 looking for the train station, we finally found it and a res. (Americano) near by for 40 S each.

N & I went off to try and find Maria, the girl I’d met in Baños with the wayward horse. [1] We found her apartment but nobody was home. We came back and got Mat. and went off to the Chifa China for an uninspired Chinese dinner. Mat came back to the room while N & I checked again on Maria. Some fellow answered the door and said she’d gone to Baños(!) but would be back tomorrow.

Coming back from Maria’s the second time we stopped and checked on the frogs. They were just getting ready to go out to eat. We walked along as they turned down one place, then another. Finally the 4 of them stopped in a pollo dorado place and ordered up 3 dinners. They split the 3 dinners 4 ways. We sat around talking about movies and disco until they invited us to their room for tea. They cooked us tea on their little Bluet stove and we talked about S.A. in general. They were headed out in the morning on the 6:30 train to Cuenca.

They retired early so N & I came back to find Mat also retired. He was leaving on the same train & had given instructions to the dueña to wake him at 5:30.

Tonite was the 1st time I’d slept in a bed for 3 weeks.

FRI FEB 2,

Awoke at 5:30 to the dueña knocking on the door.

I rolled over and went right back to sleep. Got up for good about 9 and went out for breakfast. On the way back I stopped and bought a new notebook and pen. Then we checked on the train to Ingapirca. Leaves at 6:30, costs about 30 S. The busses cost about 80; so tomorrow the dueña will wake us up at 5:30 and we’ll train it to Inga.

Back at the res. I started writing a long letter home. N went out about 2:30 to check on a IETEL office and the possibility of getting an onward ticket out of Peru. He came back and told me he’d found a place to sell him a $50 MCO. I took a break from writing and we went to the office. We asked if we could get $20 MCOs. The fellow said we’d have to wait for the boss. The boss came in and said he’d sell us 2 - $20 MCOs. I hustled back to the res, got 2 $20 checques, and suddenly our onward ticket problem was solved.

We checked on Maria again but nobody was there. Back at the res I finished the letter home. We went out to eat a typical marienda. We had to stand watching a soap opera waiting for the little girl to come back with change from our 100 S. She never came back. Finally the old lady behind the counter reached under her belt and took out some change. People are very stingy with their change around here. Even if they have change they make you wait while some little kid runs off to get your bill changed somewhere else.

After dinner we again checked on Maria. Her girl friend that I’d met before was there, but Maria was still in Baños, not to return until tomorrow. My life story. Then we went off to the IETEL office and N called home. Everything is fine in Duluth. We came back to the res to write and pack our stuff up for tomorrow’s train ride.

SAT FEB 3.

The knock came at 5:20.

We hauled ourselves up and walked across the street to the train station. Got our tickets without problem and sat down in a nearly empty car. There were 2 other Gringos in the car with us. One was a fellow from Calif. The other was the girl we'd met on our way back down from Quilotoa. She’s from Israel. The dog we’d seen her with that day by the lake had actually picked her up. It followed her to the lake and back and then abandoned her.

The train was not crowded for most of the ride. Vendors came thru selling everything from cigarettes to bread to shoe shines. The ride was thru some nice but rather brown mountain scenery. The Calif. went up on the roof to take pictures. There were people riding up there on the 1st few cars which looked only like freight cars. One stop was a lunch stop and almost everybody bought something, either thru the train window, or by getting off to eat.

Just before reaching Sibambe where we had to change trains, there was a peak called the Devil’s Nose which has the world’s only zig-zag rail line. [2] The train pulled forward and stopped, the switch was thrown, and it backed down the hill to a point, another switch was thrown, and it went forward into the station. Like this: [3] . We got off the train about 10:30 and were immediately bombarded with water balloons.

We looked around for a place to eat. One fellow opened up a locked shop and proceeded to make us some coffee. N bought some cookies and we had a little snack. After coffee we sat on the bench near the station and watched the kids of all ages soak each other with water balloons. This is the custom around Carnival time. Anyone is fair game. Everyone from little kids to grown men were filling balloons, forming alliances and battle lines, and planning ambushes. One particularly creative fellow got a big red plastic pail and managed to sneak up behind another and douse him thoroughly. Thus we sat on the bench and watched the fun & games. [4]

We’d parked our packs inside the station to keep them dry. At one point a fellow, obviously drunk, came staggering across the RR bridge. He was threatening to stumble and fall thru into the river below. He was helped across and put to sleep sitting in a box inside the station, next to our packs.

About 1:30 the train to Ingapirca came along, but there were so many people waiting to get on the car due to another train just having pulled thru and unloading a bunch of transfers, that they went off to get another car. So we waited a little more. Then the steam locomotive came along. Your basic big black steam loco. still in operation, pulling freight cars filled inside and out (on the roof) with folks and goods. Belching black clouds of smoke it rolled into the station. I took several photos of this operational museum piece . It chugged out, up the switch back, just as our little car came along.

Everybody pushed and shoved to get on, and N & I wound up riding on the roof with baskets of pineapples and bags of rice. It wasn’t really a train, as there was only one car. It was more like a bus on a train chassis, complete with steering wheel, gear shift lever, and rear view mirror. Our first stop was to get gas. Soon the roof cleared off enough so N & I could stretch out, but then it started to rain. We pulled our ponchos over ourselves and our packs and rode for some time like that.

Finally it cleared out enough inside the car for us to move ourselves and our packs down. We sat inside and it really was like riding a bus. They even stopped for people along the tracks in the middle of nowhere. We were chased by dogs. At one point the second-in-charge-guy had to get out and throw sand on the tracks because they were slippery from the rain. We rode for a long time, asking various folks whether or not there was a place to stay or eat at Inga. Some said yes, some said no.

About 5:30 we pulled into the Inga. station, which consisted of a falling down shed and a concrete platform. We got out and started the steep walk up to the village 2 k away. We followed some little girls and some cows up the hill.

By the time we reached the top we were both tired. And hungry. At the village we were met by a fellow dressed in a suit and tie who turned out to be the “inspector”, or something, of the ruins. He offered to show us around tomorrow and explain everything. He also directed us to the restaurant and said we could probably sleep there, too.

To the restaurant. There we met a fellow who turned out to be the “curator” of the ruins. He also offered to take us out in the morning and explain everything. He told us there was a refuge at the site where we could sleep (on the floor) or else his wife could find a place for us there. Since it was dark we opted for the wife. She cooked us up a dinner of rice, potatoes, eggs, bread & coffee. Then she directed us to a room with a nice big double bed. We didn’t get the bed, however. That belonged to another fellow who might or might not be coming back later in the evening.

We laid out our sleeping bags on the floor and tried to fall asleep listening to some lady plunk away at a guitar. Nothing worse than trying to sleep with guitar sounds coming in your ear. Except perhaps a radio, which is what they turned on after she got tired of hacking at the guitar. I put one ear against my foam pad and covered the other with my wool jacket which was stuffed into my stuff sack. I finally fell asleep. Only to be awakened by the fellow coming home to his bed. Only he wasn’t one fellow, he was three. Three talkative Ecuadorians laid in the bed and giggled & made jokes while N & I laid on the floor right next to them. Finally they shut up and I fell fitfully back to sleep.


[1] On our way to find Maria the 1st time we ran into MaryAnn, N’s kiss on the cheek dance partner from a week or so ago. She was traveling with 3 frogs and we helped them find a room at the Colonial. On the way to dinner N checked on them but they’d gone out.

[2] so they say

[4] At one point, N put a 50 c piece on the tracks in front of the train, it was squashed flat.

Chapter 21::Table of Contents::Book 2 Back Inside Cover