A love that only grew into being because our eldest child LOVES trains. In fact, it is possible that the conversation [announcement] about picking up and moving to South America for a year may have involved some assurances [bribes] in the form of promised train rides. Now that we’ve finally kept good on that…um…promise, Bo and I are both wondering what took us so long. It was incredible. Stunning scenery, beautiful people, music, dancing, warm breezes and a heart-stoppingly pure smile on Vaughn’s face that followed him into his sleep.
We went to buy our tickets at an unusually beautiful depot in Ibarra just before 8am because we believed the train to be leaving at 8:30. Our info on that was wrong, which of course never happens to us here, and the train didn’t leave until 10:45*; and the tickets to the standard train were sold out already so we ended up buying seats on the “Truck-Train” instead. As far as I can tell that is just a single train car with a truck facade and it fortunately still met with Vaughn’s approval, thankfully then helping us to bring one of Luke’s big interests into the day as well!
We walked across the street to the several city blocks conglomeration of ramshackle tin-roofed booths that make up the Ibarra mercado in search of breakfast and distraction. Wow. That sensory experience alone could have been enough aventura for one day, but 10:30 found us back at the depot watching Vaughn bounce on his toes with excitement as the train backed into our track and began loading. The ride itself lasted about 2 hours and ended in the small rural town of Salinas which is a climate and culture so far removed from the Ecuador we know here in Cotacachi we felt we had to have traveled much farther than that amount of time could have allowed. That place is probably the poorest we have seen here in Ecuador, but the town is SPOTLESS and it’s people have a smile and dignity that we were so drawn to and humbled by. Salinas means “Salt Land” and it’s occupants are Afro-Ecuadorians that have been salt and sugar-cane farmers for generations. We were greeted with performances of their traditional music and dance, taken on a tour of a salt-mine, given a demonstration of just how one gets table salt from dirt, shown to the town’s only restaurant for almuerzo, and then loaded back on to the train for a sunset ride home.
This is a post that really needs more pictures than words, so here ya go!
*For our Ecuadorian friends wanting to take this trip: Buy your tickets a day or two ahead of time if you want the standard train ride, either in person or you can try online here, the cost for either train is the same, $15.00 for adults and $7.50 for kids.