After leaving Cuenca we hopped onto a local bus for a four hour trip through the Andes mountains. Though the bus was pretty crowded and the roads were very, very windy, it was still a nice scenic drive. We gained elevation quickly and ended up literally driving through the clouds which made it hard to see anything but cool nonetheless. We arrived a few hours later at our hostel (one of only a few options we could find in town) which ended up being an amazing place that felt more like a hotel with awesome woodwork and no other guests. It was here where Elizabeth proclaimed “Say “Si!” to Alausi!”, unknowingly at the time providing this very blog’s name. Thanks Elizabeth!
The next day we had planned on taking a ride on the famous Devil’s Nose train route, THE attraction in town, only to learn that it was not running since the beginning of the pandemic. This was definitely a bummer but our hostel host told us we could do a hike following the train tracks in the valley so we elected to do that and it did not disappoint. The hike was called “The Devil’s Nose” (same as this section of train) and took us through a huge chunk of the valley. Unlike the train tracks however, the hiking trail was higher up in the mountains with an incredible view of the valley. Our host told us it was typically clear in the mornings here and the clouds rolled in around 1 in the afternoon. He was correct.
The hike ended at a small building at the edge of the ridge, where we met a local man and paid a small fee to contribute toward the maintenance of the trail. After some deliberation about whether the extra steps and elevation change was worth it, we took a few flights of stairs down to a lookout point on the side of the mountain. It was well worth our effort.
At this point we were already wiped having hiked much further than any of us had anticipated. We had some water and a took few minutes to rest before turning around and making the return trek to town. Starving after a 5-plus hour hike, we stopped at the local market to enjoy a delicious pork plate for lunch/dinner; Ecuadorians really know how to cook a pig. After our main course we found a local bakery where we tried fresh pan de yuca for the first time, which was delicious.
In the evening, after we spent the afternoon drinking coffee and playing cards, we headed to the grocery store to grab a few beers before heading home. It was here where we first ran into early store closures due to Covid curfews, arriving at 6:10 pm only to realize alcohol sales were stopped at 6 pm. Feeling a bit defeated and quite hungry, we pivoted and headed for a street meat cart in the center of town.
We found a few carts next to each other, one with sweet empanadas and the other with skewers of grilled meat and veggies, and got some of each for dinner. Just a few steps later, however, I dropped the largest piece of meat from my skewer onto the rain soaked street. Devastation. As a silver lining, though, a very hungry looking doggo came by and after a few seconds of tentative lingering snatched up the meat for his dinner. He was a good boy and deserved that piece of meat more than I did. Before heading home to sleep we decided to try our beer purchasing luck at a corner store and emerged with not only the beer but also some ice cream for the second course of dinner. So it all worked out.
We spent our last evening in town watching movies and woke up early the next morning to catch a bus to our next stop, Riobamba.