The last big adventure of our trip was riding the train to Huancayo! The Ferrocarril Central Andino (Central Andean Railway) is one of the highest railways in the world with 340 km of tracks linking the coastal city of Lima and the Andean city of Huancayo!
The route passes over 58 bridges, through 69 tunnels, does 6 zigzags (switchbacks), and passes through many station stops, including Galera Station at 4,781 meters/15,686 feet above sea level!! While significantly longer than going by bus, the 13-hour journey gives you a unique opportunity to take in the varied landscape from the arid coast up to the snow-covered Andean peak of Ticlio. And, for the train buffs, it gave an opportunity to ooh and ahh over the construction of the railway (imagine 60-year-old men behaving like 5 year olds!).
Video of a zigzag – the train buffs went bananas when this happened.
Video of the landscape after passing by the snow-covered Ticlio peak, the highest point on the railway
More video of the landscape passing through a small town on the way into the Mantaro Valley. This was actually Chris’ favorite section, as we passed through the river valley adjacent to Huancayo’s at dusk. Do you see the people waving?
The train only runs about once a month in the dry season (June-October) and draws a significant amount of tourists from all over the world, who come to Peru for the sole purpose of riding the train. When not taking tourists, the railway is used to haul raw materials from the many mines in the Andes down to the coast.
We departed bright and early from the Desamparados Station in Lima and were greeted by the train police band (that’s right, the train not only has its own police force, but they also have their own band). The station sits smack dab in the center of the city, right behind the Government Palace.
There are two classes on the train–classic and tourist. The tourist section (where we were) comes with a comfortable, reclining seat, breakfast and lunch, a cafe car (and a ticket for a free pisco sour!), and an open car where you can stand and take in the views. They also have a variety of activities throughout the ride, including traditional dances that reflect the area you happen to be passing through at that moment (e.g. the marinera when you’re still near the coast).
Though we have traveled this route many times by bus, the views are so much more impressive from the train. Not to mention the trip is less nausea-inducing than the bus, by like a factor of a thousand. We planned our entire trip around the limited train departure dates and we were not disappointed. If you ever have the opportunity to take the Ferrocarril Central Andino, you will not regret it!
Here are just a few of the many, many beautiful vistas from the journey.
And, finally, a video of the train entering Huancayo. Note the lack of safety measures even though the train runs right through the middle of a main road in the city of 500,000 people… no fences, no guardrails, people just walk across the tracks and cars pass through at intersections without any special warnings!
…And that wraps up the adventures from our latest journey. Now it’s time to get back to living la vida huancaína (the Huancayan life)!