"I think I kind of expected this," says student Victoria Yunez, who had heard about the legendary ride from friends. "You come to South America and weird things happen -- bus tires pop, trains derail, you know, you've got to go with the flow. I get a sense it's kind of part of the adventure."
With a little wheezing and little lurching, the train is ready to roll again. But not for long. Moments later, there's another derailment. Yet again the train crew scramble to get it back on track.
There are a total of three derailments on the journey. By the time the last one happens, the frustration on the faces of the train crew is obvious.
"We derailed because the wood is very deteriorated," the conductor says. "It's old and it needs changing."
This is clearly not a trip for travelers who are easily upset by delays and discomfort. "I'd say in any other part of the world [the train would] be condemned," Bob Graham of Vancouver, Canada, says as he squats on the roof next to his wife, Lisa. "I've ridden on buses in Egypt that are just about as bad as this train. If you're scared about what's going to happen to you, you'd never leave your house."
After six hours, the train has traveled a mere 40 miles. But surrounded by the spectacular mountain scenery, the passengers are in no hurry.
Finally, the train approaches the famed Devil's Nose.
It is an area of the Andes so steep that builders in the 1890s had to design a switch-back system so the train could zigzag its way backward and forward down the sheer mountain face -- a steep 4,500 feet down.
Fortunately, the train doesn't derail on this part of the trip. At the bottom of the valley, the tracks end, and so does the journey. A little sunburned and a little stiff, the adventurous tourists have an unforgettable story to share with the folks back home.