The school run to Machachi
Trip Start May 05, 2013
42Trip End Nov 06, 2013
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As we set off on the bus to the train station, the clouds come in and it starts to rain and pretty much carries on for the whole day. With the rain our chances of seeing some of the most spectacular scenery in Ecuador disappears as the clouds roll in.
Arriving at the train station we see our train, a motley collection of carriages of all shapes and sizes, alongside a converted bus on rails?? For some reason we have to be at the station 75 mins before departure so after a coffee in the restaurant, we head off to the waiting room which is jam packed with schoolchildren on a day trip, all extraordinarily well behaved I might add
After a while the bus on rails leaves with some of the kids aboard, leaving only about a hundred to travel on our train. We board the train in second class (too mean to pay the extra $10 for first which provides the luxury of a table??). We are immediately followed by 30 or so children, all very excited about their day trip and, somewhat bemused as to why there are two extranjeros on their school trip. It later transpires that the the train passenger list consists of, we two at the front and 6 university lecturers from Oklahoma State at the back and in between, around 80 hyperactive kids.
We have a female train guard who is also a guide and, as we will later discover, an accomplished children's entertainer. She explains the route we will take and what we will see along the way and off we go from the station. The first thing she explains to us is that we will be accompanied by a police pickup truck and two motorcycle outriders, not because of bandits etc., but because Ecuador does not have any level crossings. They will stop the traffic at every road we cross, of which there are many ( I really want that job!). One of the first roads we cross is the Pan American highway the major route all the way from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego. A sight to behold to see all the traffic backed up as far as we could see during the morning rush hour ( reminds me of the M25 back home)
A few minutes into the ride and the kids are getting very excited (and will stay that way!)
As we travelled down the avenue of the volcanoes we pass many interesting sights, the suburbs and industrial areas of Quito, Kichwa people working the fields and herding the livestock but not one single volcano. It turns out that we have picked the worst possible day to travel as it is more or less constant drizzle and the low cloud means no volcanoes!
Never mind, the real entertainment is the children. The school trip is really good fun and we would not have missed it for the world. The guard asks us if we would like to take the two spare seats in first class on the return trip and when we say " no thanks " and that we would really like to stay with the kids, she clearly thinks we have lost our minds
On arrival in Machachi we are greeted by a band playing tradition folk music which was great but we were expecting the station to be in the middle of Machachi , not 2 kms outside of town. There is nothing here, So what are we going to do for the next three hours? We are invited to join the guys from Oklahoma on their trip around the hacienda close to the station followed by lunch. The Ecuadorian guide is one of life's true characters and although the trip around the farm is all a bit touristy, he is great fun and not only shows us around, but conducts a group meditation session and, over lunch serenades us accompanied by his guitar. It is a small world as we discover over lunch that one of the guys is from Wisconsin and used to work at the same university as our Finnish friend Mona!
After lunch we pick up the train which has now been to Latacuna and back and meet our young travelling companions once again. By now they are exhausted and the teacher and the guard, even more so. As soon as we board, the fizzy drinks and lollipops are out and 10 mins later a group sugar rush and mayhem ensues (teacher and guard manage to sleep through most of it).
Eventually, we continue back into Quito, once again in rush hour and once again our police outriders stop the traffic. No one seems to mind much as most passers by are waving at the kids on the train.
In all a very enjoyable trip even if we didn't see any volcanoes. We now both have the greatest respect for primary school teachers, police motorcyclists and train guards..