Adventure Travel Abroad

Traveling Ecuador by train | DW Travel Documentary

Traveling Ecuador by train | DW Travel Documentary

our railway adventure begins in the colorful port city of Guayaquil located on the Pacific coast it's home to more than 2 million people one of the city's few historic buildings is the Cathedral there are quite a few iguanas here they're free to roam around and they multiply prodigiously I like to feed them ten years ago I brought my iguana Marco Antonio here I can still recognize him by his colors like your uncle al our journey will begin in a few minutes the train is waiting in Tehran a suburb of Guayaquil train manager Karin Escobar is here to welcome us a ticket costs the equivalent to 17 euros sales are still a bit bureaucratic this line only resumed service in 2013 rail travel in Ecuador is experiencing a renascence right now the railway was completed more than a hundred years ago when aloy Alfaro was president it made him a national hero but up were hard away a kill Akito back then the only way to get from Guayaquil de Quito was by horse and it took a month we urgently needed a better connection between the coast and the Highlands and the route was so dangerous that travelers used to make a will because they didn't know if they'd be coming back alive por que no se hace una rata sorry [Applause] the journey is still in adventure a few security guards on mopeds have joined us there are no railway gates on the roads so the guards will secure the crossings for us when the railway was completed in 1908 it became a symbol of national unity today its reconstruction serves the same purpose the project has become known as a patriotic challenge that aims to unite Ecuador's various ethnic groups the trans ecuadorian railway is 450 kilometers long and runs from the pacific coast eastward into the andean highlands it's widely seen as south america's most spectacular railway line but Ecuador's lifeline was blocked for 15 years 250 kilometers of track were affected by landslides and general neglect we're very proud of the reconstruction effort it takes us back to the days of President Arroyo furrow rail travel used to be normal here when older people board the train now it's a touching experience for them they have tears in their eyes they remember when they and their children used to travel from the coast to the Highlands the railway has even inspired a popular love song la cancion pains that first amo primero se llaman Rumble sore it's called rumba it was written by be Santeria Palma and originally sung by one another it's a very popular song it's about the railway that runs between Guayaquil and Quito antigen temple so Nava way aqui Depot [Applause] in the early 20th century Ecuador was an economically underdeveloped country but the rail line changed all that bringing crops from the fields to market nowadays for instance Ecuador is the world's largest exporter of bananas the fruit is still harvested by hand then the bananas are transported by a cable car these bunches of bananas are heavy and it's hard work to haul them around the teams are the legal minimum monthly wage which is equivalent to about 220 euros this is the plantations logistics center here the bananas are separated from the stalks and then sorted according to varying export standards Ecuador's climate is ideal for growing bananas all year round the bananas are washed carefully to remove any traces of pesticides the nominal Ellis Arnall aforethought bananas that ever soft-skinned are not exported especially trained personnel make sure that only high quality fruit is sent to export markets we don't want any complaints about overripe bananas you have to export them when they're still green that is not yet ripe 3300 crates full of bananas are harvested here per hectare per year and exported to Germany Japan Russia and the u.s. reconstructing the railway was almost like building a brand new line the project cost the equivalent of 220 million euros an enormous sum for a country like Ecuador the trains have only recently started running again and we're still dealing with a few problem areas it'll take a while before we get that under control we're always doing maintenance work so that the train can run as efficiently as possible and transport freight and passengers without any disruptions we're moving slowly uphill now the vegetation changes with the elevation one characteristic of the transition from the coastal region to the Andes Mountains is the cloud forest a natural primeval paradise that's also one of the world's most endangered ecosystems we were about to meet a local tribe of indigenous people the schwa they're performing a ceremony to determine where the strangers are welcome here today if they're not they'll have to leave those who are allowed to visit are greeted with ritual dances an important shoe our custom is drinking teacher an alcoholic beverage that's known as spits beer it was well known even in the times of the Incas those who drink chicha are considered friends thank you don't our enemies the schwa didn't treat their enemies kindly in one sacred ritual the tribal princes would cut off the heads of criminals this took place near a sacred waterfall prayed to the god of nature are you done and used a combination of herbs to shrink the heads the people here believes this waterfall is our rotom's temple this is the final part of the welcoming ceremony it's a purification ritual designed to remove negative energy from strangers so that they can be brought into the schwa community after this uplifting experience we travel some 90 kilometers to the town of Buckeye it lies in the foothills of the Andes at an elevation of about 300 meters above sea level some local residents and traditional costumes are here to welcome the Train the tourists love it in 1998 the chan chán river burst its banks here the floodwaters tore out a section of the track and damaged a nearby train station and this fuel tank in 2008 on the hundredth anniversary of the railways completion President Rafael Correa announced that the entire line would be rebuilt but most people don't benefit from this new service this railway no longer serves a real purpose runs every 15 days rich people can afford tickets luxury train is not designed for poor people or retired railway workers they wouldn't be able to afford a ticket anyway he's talking about the Train crucero it offers the only continuous service on this route it runs once every two weeks and has room for 54 passengers well exam bienvenido cordial meant a suit ring Cruzeiro hello and welcome to the train crew zero as we travel across Ecuador I invite you to enjoy all the comforts that our train has to offer during the trip you'll see impressive landscapes and experience in a number of different climates the 4-day trip costs the equivalent of a thousand euros only wealthy foreign tourists can afford to travel on this train this small Cemetery near the town of weaker recalls a dark chapter in the railways history thousands of workers died either in construction accidents or because they fell ill the Construction Supervisor John Harmon died here in 1907 probably of yellow fever this cross is dedicated to him this cross is for all the workers who died when no not for the MOA numeira relic and there are no precise numbers but the victims included a number of men from Jamaica especially in the area around the devil's nose a lot of them worked with dynamite didn't get caught in the blast due to the climate the local people from the Highlands were considered unsuitable for railway construction work so the managers recruited nearly 3,000 men from Jamaica who had experience in building railways this is the town of C Bombay where we begin the ascent to the famous devil's nose the origin of the name is part legend and part reality the mountain really does look like a nose but some say that the president at the time a toy Alfaro made a deal with the devil so he could build the railway Oh the heart of the world's most challenging railway line lies deep in the gorge of the chanchan River the Train zigzags its way up the mountain it moves forwards then backs up to the next higher section and then moves forwards again as it makes its ascent from here you can clearly see the devil's nose for the passengers it's always an impressive trip we're not going to yeah you go but I see one BMC Bombay we told the passengers that we'd be arriving soon at the devil's nose we're going to go all the way up and the passengers all said oh so we've served some liquor Munira day we wanted to calm the nerves of the passengers report the man drinkin said down the hatch at one time people were allowed to sit on the roof of the train but after several accidents the authorities put a stop to that one of the first passengers was president Eli Alfaro he wrote when we came to allow see and I looked into that terrifying abyss I closed my eyes and put my trust in the stars the town of a low sea is located two thousand three hundred and sixty meters above sea level that's five hundred and fifty meters higher than see Bombay and I'll see is an important market town for the locals tourists come to allow sea to visit the site of Ecuador's largest Inca ruins which are located nearby at ingapirca these seamless walls made of carefully chiseled stones are typical of Inca architecture the area around Inglaterra was settled by a local people called the Qunari who were conquered by the Incas in the early 16th century archeologists found a grave under these stones those pertinence here and six of em anyway eleven skeletons all of the deceased were women among them was a possible can yari priestess judging by her age and burial garments England aware that other women were lying in physical positions around her that's an indication that they believed that they would be reborn after death porque pensaron que como se nos a for being an SI Inga perco was sacred to both the Canaries and the Incas we return to the trend through cero this train reflects much of Ecuador's modern history caricature DNA on a beach car has its own design they're all different coach a dramatic or chase the car were in right now is furnished in Baroque style with colonial highlights you can see that in the wood paneling and the gold leaf that's attached to it we spent the morning crossing a semi-arid region called choke aha at an elevation of 3,000 meters we also have a car decorated in the pre-colonial style that is before the Spanish arrived where the rituals of our ancestors are evoked such as ceremonies dedicated to the Sun and the moon this region here was known as the middle of the world that refers to the equator so the north of here this steam engine will take us on the next stage of our journey it was built by an American company and was used regularly on this line until 1992 to operate a steam locomotive you need a lot of experience ideally is a stoker if you get the chance to become a train engineer you should take it it's a great job at this point I'm the only veteran steam engine driver in Ecuador all the others have retired it's time for some last-minute maintenance while that's going on we set off for a small chapel right next to the railway line the chapel was built in 1524 which makes it Ecuador's oldest church it was heavily damaged by an earthquake in 1797 the poro are the local indigenous people worshipped the moon and Mother Earth this chapel is dedicated to the Virgin Mary of Barban era it was built on a local ceremonial square that was used by the Indians after they became Christians they believed that the Virgin Mary would bless them and their grain harvest go screams record MSM in Paris yes it produces grandmas this was the start of the Spanish effort to convert the region to Christianity at full steam the engine cranks out a lot of horsepower and does it at 3,300 meters above sea level it's almost like watching a volcano erupt I wouldn't be here someday I'd like to become an engineer and drive a steam engine to the devil's nose that's my dream and I hope it will come true one day maybe I'll never become an engineer but at least I'd like to drive a steam locomotive through the mountains on this section of the route the trend crucero always uses a steam locomotive it's a nice change as we travel through the Andean Highlands we reach the town of Leo Bumba are pretty quickly when the skies are clear you can see several volcanoes from here some of them are still active the train crew Sarah will stay at Rio Bamba overnight now we're going to sample a local delicacy we've been invited to the home of a locomotive driver edgar rio bomba is known for a grilled dish made from guinea pigs it's called quiesce ro Edna's mother Maria keeps a watchful eye on the preparations just a few years ago to local people died of plague after eating guinea pig but Maria knows how to cook the dish properly with garlic onions and potatoes guinea pig was also popular among the Incas cuando viene me when my son gets home from work he'll eat a whole guinea pig your tongue as well but you can't always offer people an entire Pig even though they'd like one qui asado is often served on holidays it tastes a bit like rabbit it's not surprising that Edgar often enjoys a big meal train drivers can really work up an appetite the next day the Train crucero leaves Rio Bamba and makes its way into the mountains the security guards are still with us the observation car at the end of the Train provides some breathtaking views of the countryside Roosevelt Ramos La Ruta Rio Bombo Vina we're now on our way from video bomba to would be no this is one of the country's most impressive railway lines rising from 2,600 meters to 3,600 9 meters adore bina the station is located at the foot of the chimborazo volcano Ecuador's highest mountain and an important part of our ancient culture these llamas seem at home here in or beena this is Ecuador's highest railway station you might expect to see a cogwheel train here but the engine makes the trip on its own normal meant a zip-top aha become máquinas our poor miss team locomotive used to run in this line and if the train was too long some of the cars were left behind the station the rest of the train would proceed on up to Urbina and then go back for the other cars afterwards they'd put them all together again must have come a little later we meet a man who represents another part of Ecuador's cultural heritage Baltazar pushka is the Chimborazo regions last yarrow or ice merchant even here at an elevation of 4,100 meters there's still some grass to be found but as our makes ropes out of the grass so he can't I'd the ice chunks to his donkeys back the air is very thin up here 70 year old Balthazar and his donkey are doing just fine the ice mine is located at an elevation of 4800 meters Baltazar has been excavating ice here for 55 years when I was 15 I started working with my father my mother and siblings sometimes people needed so much ice that we had to make two trips and then take it to a dealer the dealer would sell it from house to house so the people can keep their food cold also sold eyes to the fish sellers at the local market but as our cuts the ice into chunks that weigh about 50 kilograms each it's hard work especially at this altitude then he wraps the chunks in grass to keep the ice cold he tied a rope around a bale of ice and then loads it onto his donkey now they'll head back down the mountain Chimborazo is the highest mountain in Ecuador at almost six thousand three hundred meters it's now late in the day Baltazar has returned to Rio Bamba he sells his big chunks of ice for the equivalent of just over four euros each Chimborazo ice is especially pure and dense but these days only a few customers appreciate those qualities connoisseur say the ice has a sweet taste some even claim it's good for the bones it certainly seems to have kept Baltazar in fine shape for all these years our journey on the train through sorrow continues northward it's clear the railway was rebuilt for the tourist trade the locals don't benefit much from it the Train continues to roll through the Highlands and the passengers seem to be enjoying the trip shows a bit of mouth warm I mean just look out the window I see things that I've never seen anywhere else it's fantastic and the people are very friendly only a few of them speak English and I haven't found anyone who can speak German but you can write down what you want or use hand gestures and you'll get along fine Ecuador is famed for its roses and exports 2 billion of them every year the local climate and high elevation offered near perfect growing conditions this is the Nevada roses farm 52 species of roses are grown here on a total of 35 hectares red roses are in demand all year round 500 workers most of them women sought and packaged the flowers even for people who work here every day roses are something special they're the most beautiful gift you can give a bouquet of roses symbolizes love affection and appreciation we're now on the last stage of our trip it's time to say goodbye to our security guards this is latacunga the city has been destroyed several times by earthquakes and damaged by eruptions from the nearby cotopaxi volcano after each disaster the city was rebuilt the Hacienda La Cienega has survived intact for more than 400 years it's hosted a number of prominent guests including the German geographer and naturalist Alexander von Humboldt State Nazi Micah while he was doing research on cotopaxi this was a good place for him to work because on clear days you can see the volcano from here was able to make detailed visual observations over an extended period of time the party at the muchos anos case over opportunity with a party this is the room where Humboldt stayed in 1802 nowadays visitors can stay here Humboldt's work created the basis for his mountain research but he never did climb cotopaxi the National Park that surrounds the volcano is home to a number of wild horses we wanted to find out how they ended up here in the shadow of the world's tallest active volcano nattokinase Nakata policy exists a location the horses that live in the National Park broke out of nearby farms and we're never around they've gotten used to the cold weather the elevation and the wilderness that's why we refer to them as wild horses they say for Verona lo que es una población de caballo single parque nacional cotopaxi cotopaxi is known as the Matterhorn of the Andes the summit is often obscured by clouds the final part of our journey takes us through an area that Humboldt called the Avenue of the volcanoes the time from cero is too heavy for the tracks to make this part of the trip so we've switched to the trend a loss for carnies which is lighter this is also a tourist train and it makes trips to Quito at the weekend [Applause] the trans ecuadorian railway was once much more than a means of transport it was a symbol of national pride but a lot of the freight traffic was moved from the railway to the pan-american highway still the legacy of the railway remains it's the simple law where this era Yago and this national symbol was created during the administration of President Arroyo Faro he was our country's greatest citizen the rail project overcame enormous difficulties in the end this new transport system helped to move goods and services between the coasts in the highlands for decades the system was a symbol of national unity unfortunately it no longer is our goal is to restore this national symbol and its cultural heritage but can that be done with a railway line that caters mostly to tourists we arrive in Quito our final destination this is the world's highest capital city at an elevation of two thousand eight hundred and fifty meters Quito was one of the twelve original UNESCO World Heritage Sites the list was first compiled in 1978 Alexander von Humboldt enjoyed his stay in Quito he wrote that the city simply breathed sensuality and opulence nowadays Quito is considered by many to be the country's party city one popular way to celebrate a festive occasion is to pile the guests in to achiever bus and drive around the city traditional versions of Chivas are often used in rural areas where the roads are bad these souped-up party buses first appeared in the capital 20 years ago a tour around the city takes about two hours we get a lot of tourists people celebrate birthdays here or like these people our graduation ceremony we also host bachelor parties and lots of other events people love it okay let's have some fun

Reader Comments

  1. Este documental también está disponible en español / This documentary is also available in Spanish:

  2. Very nice, but… the constant background noise overlain with music reduces clarity. Evidently, producer takes clues from NPR, where environmental sounds are more important than spoken information.

  3. A superb documentary of a beautiful country that I love. Ecuador, .Superb people..The quality of the documentary is just super,,I love all these south American countries which all remained harmless and beautiful in this world.The music resembles "El condor Pasa" and other Shamanic music.

  4. Ecuador should liberalise the rail service so other operators could run train services here. Having such a long railway with only a single train every two weeks is beyond silly.

    People should also know that Ecuador produces absolutely top grade chocolate, and much of its cocoa bean production is sold to Swiss chocolatiers – and not because it’s cheap.

  5. If you be a backpacker with no much money, you can make this trip in a bus!! And stoping in every place if you want….

  6. thanks everyone who are behind this video, it's fascinating for me to travel even in books especially this kind of film … we learned a lot ,how our brothers and sisters on their day to day existence … good morning GOD BLESSES US ALL

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