1. Depending on who you talk with, the former president Rafael Correa was great or horrible. In any case, as I understand it, he improved some roads and promoted tourism in select depressed areas such as Salinas (the one near Ibarra, not the beach Salinas).

This town was established in the early 1600’s and was home primarily to Afro-Ecuadorians. Apparently it was very depressed but there was a train track that ran to it from Ibarra, less than 18 miles away. I’m not sure how good the track was and what the town was like then.

Now there are several new buildings including an area by the train track where a number of young women perform native dances balancing a wine bottle with a little fluid (probably water) on their head. There is a fresh area where native crafts are sold, an area where you can buy chocolate or pina colada (we bought both), an interesting area explaining the production of salt, and a dining room.

For less than $50 per person (even less for us seniors), we had the round trip from Ibarra, the performance, the tours, and lunch. The track goes through 7 tunnels that were all hand carved. The area becomes drier as you approach Salinas, an area famous for the production of salt.

On the way, we stopped at one tiny depot that sold hand made ice cream. I had something fruity, I think it was passion fruit, and the other scoop was avocado. The avocado taste was very mild, not my favorite but ok.

How the salt was made was very interesting. Starting with putting dirt in a raised area and adding water, letting evaporation occur, eventually getting salt with lots of minerals, especially iodine which was so prevalent that it was removed (look at your salt container, iodine is added to most salt today, albeit in smaller amounts). The finished product tastes like salt that is a milder amount of saltiness. Long ago, salt was used as a type of currency.

This train is quite different from the Durango Silverton train. Instead of just getting off in Silverton and wandering around shops and eating, I enjoyed that there were planned activities (dancing, tour, food). Also, train crossings were secured not just by railroad arms. There were a number of people on motorcycles that raced from crossing to crossing to make sure that no cars passed when the train was approaching. Given that this was only days after the train wreck with the Senators in the USA, it didn’t seem so much like overkill as it might have. nn

The day was quite enjoyable and worth every penny. I even joined in the dancing as you can see in gallery below.

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