Home > Ecuador > An Exciting Guayas River In Ecuador’s Coastal Plains

An Exciting Guayas River In Ecuador’s Coastal Plains

It is early in the morning and the Guayas River sparkles under the sun rays which filter in spirals through the scattered clouds beneath a clear blue sky…  We have arrived to the bustling city of Eloy Alfaro, more commonly called “Duran”, right across from Guayaquil.  The big city’s skyline and Waterfront can be neatly seen behind us, separated by the mythical River yet united over the same by two long bridges….

We enter the Rail Complex which was inaugurated in 1887 and saw the departure of the first train to unite Ecuador’s main seaport city in the Pacific, with the capital city of Quito, high in the Andes, 300 miles and fourteen hours away, in June of 1908. The complex, which spent some years abandoned in oblivion, has been totally recuperated and refurbished this year and we are ready to take the first stretch of the coastal ride which began to operate just a few weeks ago. As natives of Guayaquil, Maura and Alex rave at the reconstruction work which has been done in the station as I try to bring back childhood memories of having arrived from Quito to that same station, together with my Mom and brother for our annual vacations in the coast…..

Male and female local actors, dressed in early 1900’s costumes recreate the ambiance of the Station when it was the departure (or arrival) point for entire families who travelled from sea level to the Andes and vice versa, bringing fond memories to senior citizens who lived the experience decades ago.  The Station today has comfortable ticketing counters, waiting areas, even some Wi-Fi zones available for computer buffs…!! There is a Train Cafe and a Train Souvenir Shop.  The entire place is filled with memorabilia from the “Glory Days” of Ecuador’s legendary Trans Andean Railway.

We now board one of two red train wagons, modern and comfortable inside, but keeping the antique look and forms outside.  A shining black steam locomotive will pull the cars along the recently rehabilitated coastal portion of the railway, the first of a five million dollar and more than 300 miles of reconstruction, undertaken by the currently State-owned Ecuadorian Rail Enterprise. The railway employees and train crew wear their traditional uniforms and the world famous rail-people’s black caps.  The locomotive whistles loudly, announcing the departure.  Meanwhile dozens of Ecuadorian tourists along with some American and European explorers settle down on the assigned seats and prepare for the exciting ride.  The large picture windows allow for unobstructed panoramic views of the scenery outside…. Destination of the trip is Yaguachi, an old and historic rural town of the southern Ecuadorian coast, 25 miles away inland, east from Guayaquil.

As we leave Duran and its colorful houses the train gains a bit of speed and rhythmically choo-chooes over the tracks and across the verdant coastal plains.  Much of the ride crosses by banana, coffee and cocoa plantations. We can see how the coffee grain and the cocoa beans are air-dried along the railroad, in the same fashion as it was done a century ago.  Sugar cane fields bring in more green and yellow tones to the countryside scenes which escort our passage aboard the train… The friendly inhabitants of the rural areas, wearing their traditional white outfits and wide brimmed straw hats wave at us and give a festive atmosphere to the trip. The aroma of freshly brewed coffee fills the train carriage and soon we are offered the hot and delicious tasting drink, together with typical-of-the-area, homemade cookies…. Maura asks for more coffee and reminds us that Ecuador is now exporting a variety of gourmet coffee to several countries around the world.  Alex adds that the cocoa beans we keep on seeing, will be treated and then exported, mainly to European countries, as the raw material for some of the finest and most delicious quality chocolates in the world…. My remaining comment is: “this is Ecuador, folks”…….

Huge and never ending rice fields now appear into view and, alongside, flood lands where great bird activity can be seen: white egrets, herons, ducks and cormorants, amongst the easiest to identify…  The railroad goes now through a narrow “boulevard” lined with bushy mango trees and the large and impressive bread-fruit trees, both of them bearing their respective fruits. The terrain is totally flat, no ups and downs, we are on the coastal plains and they are bountifully rich in food products and luxuriant vegetation, not exempt of interesting wildlife….. The story will continue on a second part, on the following issue……

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