Where the canyons are pretty...

Trip Start Oct 28, 2007
Trip End Dec 29, 2007

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Flag of Argentina  ,
Friday, November 23, 2007

The internet is everywhere. Everywhere. These days, Argentina is not a rich or prosperous country nowadays, so when I decided to spend a few days in it's traditional rural areas, I figured - internet, now way! You must be dreamin'. These towns are only a few thousand farmer-types. Towns without proper paved roads, only a handful of cars, and definetly no KFC. Internet? Forget it. The Quebrada de Humahuaca region of Argentina is supposedly the poorest area of this poor country. Well, I was half right. The stuff about the towns - right. The stuff about the internet -wrong. Any romantic notions I had about travelling in an area almost completely cut-off from the rest of the world, of stepping back in time if you will, were shattered within seconds of stepping off my bus in the town of Humahuaca, population 6000. There, in front of me, clear as day, were 2 internet cafes. Internet - everywhere...

Quebrada de Humahuaca roughly translates to "Canyons of Humahuaca". The whole area is basically a heap of beautiful mountains, with small villages dotted around the place wherever they can fit, and heaps of cacti (cacti, cactus' - whatever). It's pretty stunning. Everywhere you look, you are confronted with beautifully colored mountains, the best example being the 'Mountain of 7 Colours' in the village of Pumarmarca. You are completely mesmerised by purples, reds, oranges, yellows, blues, whites and pinks. Brilliant.

I hit a few towns in the area during my brief visit. Towns the likes of Humahuaca, Tilcara, Pumamarca and Maimara. All these pretty and charming villages are small, 2000-6000 people, within a half hour bus ride of each other, and all remarkably similar in design. It's almost as if the pioneers of this region set a criteria for the building of a town. If they did, it would surely go something like this:

All villages in the Quebrada de Humahuaca MUST have -
1. a church - small, white, at least one bell tower.

2. a football field - grass not required.

3. houses that are primarily rectangle shaped, with 2 windows and 1 door on the front. You can choose the colour, but you must be different from your neighbour.

4. a plaza - so that, in the future, locals have somewhere to sell souvenirs to tourists.

5. streets must have the names Belgrano, Lavalle, Tucuman, Rivadavia and San Martin, at the very least.

6. A big cross on the closest, smallest hill overlooking the town.

Whoever coined the phrase, "It's as much about teh journey as the destination", clearly had the village of Iruya and the Salinas Grande in mind. Both places take an age to get to, particularly Iruya (70km in 3.5 hours...), winding along thin, bumpy gravel roads that snake up and down and around mountain after mountain. Not great for the ass, but truly spectacular scenery. Mind-blowing. Iruya itself is tiny, and built on eitehr side of a canyon, seperated by a  now dry river. It will surely get the prize for the most remote town, with a football field, visited on this trip. Salinas Grande is just a huge salt lake. Massive. Nothing more. Still wicked, but I gotta feel sorry for the dudes whose job it is to bag the salt...average.

In short, the last few days hopping around country Argentina have been wicked, and not quickly forgotten by this traveller. Andean life - tough, dusty and definetly not for me. But brilliant for a holiday.

I will leave you with two final thoughts from the Quebrada - one, llama is delicious, and two, you haven't lived until you've heard a hip-hop, Spanish version of  "Total Eclipse of the Heart". Pure pleasure for the ears.

I fancy a nice glass of red - Mendoza it up...
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