Just a quick post to link up some pictures we took around Riobamba and of the “Devil’s Nose” train ride HERE.
As I’m waiting for my shower to heat up (it’s already been at least 30 minutes, I’m starting to loose hope. Sad.), I thought I might as well share a few more thoughts on Riobamba.
Mainly, a warning for anyone who cares: don’t bother coming here! It’s an alright city, but overall it’s boring and uninteresting. If you are really dead-set on the train, like I was, you can avoid coming here for more than to change a bus as well. Here’s what I wish we had done: gone from Peru to Cuenca, a colonial city a few hours south of here. From Cuenca, we could have taken a bus directly to Alausi, stayed there (maybe not as nice as some options in Riobamba, but I bet you’d have about the same experience), and rode the train. After the train ride (the whole thing takes only a few hours), we could have taken a bus to Riobamba, and transferred to a different bus on to Baños. Conversely, we could have stayed at the wonderful beach in Máncora one more day, to arrive in Riobamba on Saturday, ridden the train Sunday, and been on our way (the train only runs on Fridays, Sundays, and Wednesdays I believe). That’s my advice.
Meanwhile, in Riobamba, we’ve done a lot of sleeping and movie watching. Tyler’s been sick and can’t stray too far from a bathroom, and frankly, there’s not much else to do. I wanted to go to Chimborazo (a nearby volcano) but the weather hasn’t been that great and its a bit pricy even just for transportation out there to hike around. Plus, well, I was so sunburned I was hobbling along, and again, Tyler and the bathroom. We did find a really good pizza place, and several nice plazas and churches and things like that. But, that just makes for a nice walk for a few hours. We were excited to see that Chinese food is popular here, but then, it was not nearly as good as in Lima. The noodles were, and this is not a joke, spaghetti noodles. And the people running the restaurant were Chinese (we could here them speaking), and there’s real noodles in Peru, so how hard can it possibly be to get them? Strange. And then there’s Ecuadorian food…why can’t we find anything good? All we’ve seen is tons of pig face/various parts of roasted pork, and unappetizing looking starches. Over, my impression is just sort of “blah.” Don’t get me wrong, we enjoyed ourselves, it was just mainly in ways we could have enjoyed ourselves in any town anywhere; it’s just not a great travel destination, or even stop-over. But, as a side-note, our second hotel, El Tren Dorado,was totally awesome and has an amazing breakfast! I’m hoping, really hoping, it’s just this place and when we move on to the more popular town of Baños, and then to Quito, all things will improve.
And, there’s the business of trying to figure out the cultural differences here. People have been generally quite friendly to us. It’s been rare that anyone speaks English (which I love). But, from our bus ride experiences, people are also quite impatient, and extremely vocal. I mean, we watched a lady yell at a guy on the bus for ‘overcharging’ her (long story), block his way, had him call his manager where she snatched up the phone and yelled at him, meanwhile another passenger started filming the whole thing with a professional looking camera and when the lady noticed, started talking to the camera about how she’s being overcharged and it’s an abuse, blah blah blah. All over $1. And that’s just the worst example, but people always seem to be yelling at the bus drivers to hurry up and to leave already. It’s been very entertaining.
Also, things seem somewhat more developed here, and also more westernized in a way I can’t quite articulate. It’s almost like, in Bolivia, the people didn’t expect anything. They didn’t expect the bus to be clean, or on time, or to get good service. But they were honest, and shy, and fiercely held onto their traditions. Because of that, I always felt extremely safe in Bolivia, and like I could easily trust the people; they might try to overcharge you a bit if you’re a tourist, but they’re not going to completely take advantage of you, and they’re more likely to stare at you in confusion than think to rob you. In Peru, things were more divided. Since Cusco was still part of the strong Andean culture, it was much the same, except a few people had figured out that tourists don’t just look funny, they have money and expensive things you can take from them. In Lima, people were snobbier, more likely to be rude to waiters and taxi drivers, and more likely to complain about bad services (because they had come to expect things to be a certain way). Here, you can still see that the indigenous culture is strong, but it doesn’t have the same vibrancy as in Peru or Bolivia. People seem care more about image, and you can see a greater Western influence, but not in the same ways we’ve seen elsewhere. Basically, what it comes down to is first impressions, and we still haven’t ‘figured it out’ yet. So, more on that later.
On that note, I’ve given up on my shower and it’s time to back and get ready to go to Baños! More to come later.
Sharon and Tyler