Quebrada Humahuaca, El Aguila

ihana.com - big trip - diary - argentina - april 2003

Coloured hills...

...beside Maimara

Cemetery with colourful backdrop

Sunday 20 - Monday 21 April

Leaving Purmamarca and, for a change, buying a few cheap souvenirs, we returned to the main road and followed the valley north. Beside the village of Maimara the hillside becomes waves of colour so we drove the landy onto the almost dry riverbed to get some good pics.

Continuing northward towards the Bolivian border, we arrived at the small town that gives its name to this valley, Humahuaca and filled up with diesel, using all but 15 of our remaining pesos. Taking a narrow dirt road west into the mountains, the landy chugged higher and higher around the winding cactus covered hills. The scenery was breathtaking, as was the altitude.

Narrow track...

...winds through the mountains...

...and valleys

Casa Grande village...


...seemingly deserted

Just before we descended slightly to the village of Casa Grande, we came across a family with some loaded up donkeys. The man waved us down and asked for some water. His mouth was all gummed up from chewing coca leaves and he stank of booze. We filled a plastic bottle that was in our rubbish bag and gave it to him after taking his pic. He said it was going to take him four days in total to reach Humahuaca - we'd just done it in two hours, don't know where he was starting from!

Drunken wanderer

El Aguila

The highest point on this dirt track (well over 4000m) is the mining town of El Aguila. Everything was quiet as it was a Sunday and we drove past the rows of terraced miners houses, much like an English mining town might have started off as.

Camp near Tres Morros

Cemetery beside...

...this tiny village further on

By the time we'd descended to our old friend route 40 it was getting late, so we pulled into a deserted village beside a salt lake, just before the still inhabited village of Tres Morros. The landy fitted nicely into what was once a large workshop complete with inspection pit. At these altitudes as soon as the sun goes down it gets cold and three layers of clothing are needed, in the day however, a t-shirt is fine.

The road is dusty gravel and we passed through desert-like landscape dotted with domesticated llamas and wild vicuñas which are similar but smaller and more nimble. The villages are all tiny with adobe dwellings under thatched roofs. No crops grow here as it only rains a few times a year, must be a hard life.

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