QUITO, Ecuador -- The Expreso Metropolitan, an antique Pullman
railroad car, is back on track for Metropolitan Touring's
sightseeing excursions through the Andes Mountains of Ecuador.
On two and four-day tours from Quito, travelers ride a car attached
to a freight and passenger train hauled by a diesel locomotive on
narrow-gauge tracks between Riobamba and Chanchan.
The refitted car has a rear-view platform, comfortable seats,
ceiling fans, large windows, a bar and modern toilets.
The affectionately facetious name Expreso Metropolitan conveys
the relaxed railroading style that combines with the thrilling
trans-Andean train route.
Most passengers prefer to leave the comfort of the car, climb
the narrow outside ladder to the roof, and, holding on to a hand
rail for security, sit and sway as the train lollops and lurches
along; the views are panoramic, and riding on the "roof of the
world" is exhilarating.
The constantly changing scenery is awesome: snowcapped Andean
volcanoes, cloud formations, breathtaking mountain passes, the
paramo (a stark, high, treeless plateau reaching up to the volcano
peaks), swiftly flowing mountain streams, patchworks of fields and
Indians tending their crops on steep slopes.
The big thrill is the Devil's Nose, an almost sheer cliff along
which a seven-mile section of track zigzags down on a ledge cut
into the mountainside, overhanging a river gorge.
The switchback, necessary for scaling this cliff, is between the
small towns of Alausi at 8,553 feet and Siambe at 5,925 feet; it
was featured in the National Geographic film "Love Those
Expreso Metropolitan tours have departures on Tuesdays,
Thursdays and Saturdays: two-day tours by rail and road that link
Quito with Riobamba, the country's most Indian city, and the
Pacific port of Guayaquil, and a four-day tour that ends in the
colonial city of Cuenca.
A comfortable autoferro, which resembles a bus with metal wheels
that runs on the train tracks, is used on some departures.
The route from Quito to Riobamba is along the Avenue of
Volcanoes -- Pinchincha, Atacazo, Corazon, Iliniza, Antizana,
Cotopaxi, Altar, Chimborazo -- where the highest volcanoes are
Each itinerary provides a different mix of sightseeing -- visits
to Indian markets (Latacunga or Saquisili) and craft villages;
Banos, the pilgrimage spa on the Amazon side of the Andes; Inca and
pre-Inca Canari ruins at Ingapirca; Ambato; Riobamba and
Dinner and accommodations are at either of two rustic country
inns, Hosteria el Troje or Albergue Abraspungu, in Riobamba.
When the train trip ends at Chanchan, passengers either return
to Quito overland; continue to Guayaquil by road and descend the
slopes as the landscape changes to tropical rain forest, banana
plantations and sugarcane fields of the Pacific coast, or drive
farther south through the Andes for a two-night stay in Cuenca.
The two-day, one-night Quito-Riobamba-Quito Expreso costs $290
per person, double; the two-day, one-night Quito-Riobamba-Guayaquil
tour costs $325, and the four-day, three-night Quito-Cuenca Expreso
Adventure costs $645 or $726, depending on accommodations chosen in
Choices in Cuenca are El Dorado or the Oro Verde, and tour
features include all sightseeing excursions, all meals en route
with one breakfast at a colonial hacienda, snacks aboard the train
and meals and accommodations at country inns or hotels.
The air ticket return from Cuenca to Quito is not included in
the package price.
To book, agents can contact the operator's U.S.
Phone: (800) 527-2500 or (972) 907-0414
Fax: (972) 783-1286