Monday, 7 May 2007

Village in the canyon

Friday afternoon I hopped on the bus up to Humahuaca. Only a 5 hour journey, but I am getting used to the long bus rides in this the eighth largest country in the world, and the express busses are really comfortable.

I overnighted in Humahuaca in exactly the same place I was in just two weeks ago. Had llama stew for supper.

Early the next morning I took the 3 hour battered old bus to Iruya. The road there is a rough dirt track, and stops at Iruya, as it can go no further. The first half of the journey was over rock strewn rounded mountains. The second half was the most stunning journey I think I have taken. From 4000m the bus hairpinned down the steep mountainside, heading towards the deep canyon, far below.

I do not think I have ever taken so many photos out of the moving bus window.

Reaching the canyon we followed the road high above the sheer river cliffs. One false move by the driver and it would have been curtains for all. The rocks here, as throughout this part of the Andes, are a riot of colour and texture. Cathedral like spires of grey rock, amongst splashes of red, pink and green.

Iruya is located at the end of the canyon, perched high on the cliff. It's church dominates the view. It has featured on many Argentinian calendars.

The village itself is tiny. Cobblestone streets, too narrow for cars, run up and down its steep slopes. Here donkeys carry the goods to restock the shops.

Really glad I opted to stay the night here, as it gave me time to explore the village and walk up and down the canyon.

Iruya has become one of my favourites so far on this trip. It is so remote, so timeless and so utterly beautiful. Despite the 8 hours of travel to reach it, I am so glad I did.

My guidebook says very little about it. Chris and Delfina encouraged me to visit. A big thanks to you both for doing so.