An alternative title to this post might be The longest day in a Volkswagen Gol, ever. Although that shouldn’t take away from the spectacular landscapes we passed through to reach Iruya, or the lovely people we met as a consequence of giving lifts to those whose car had broken down.
Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself, first we had to pass through the Quebrada de Humahuaca, a drive that takes in some of the most extraordinary and ridiculous rock formations you’re likely to see.
Eventually you reach the turn-off to Iruya, only 53km you’ll think to yourself, without realising that the road will be a real challenge in your Volkswagen Gol.
Iruya is a tiny village 53km off the main highway down a road that is made of rubble and passes over a spectacular mountain range. The thing about the road is, it is generally only wide enough for one vehicle, so when you inevitable meet another car or, God forbid, a local bus, you have only a couple of choices: reverse for 10km until you reach the last ‘passing place’, or squeeze past the bus with a 1000m drop off to the side if you misjudge things.
Iruya is beautiful Andean village, spectacularly perched on a mountainside at the end of a truly wonderous valley, which defies description as you drop over the mountain range en route to it. That said, after an hair raising journey squeezing past buses on mountain passes, if you arrive only an hour before sunset and the journey in has taken three time longer than you’d anticipated thanks to the road, you may find yourself thinking, “What am I doing here?”
People seemed genuinely happy to see us, although that may have been because we had half the village wedged into the back of the car thanks to their truck suffering a mechanical failure back up the valley. The village is very nice in a dramatic ‘clinging to the mountainside with cobbled streets’ way.
Something we’d failed to spot on the way to Iruya was passing over the Tropic of Capricorn. Despite the failing light we managed to see it on the way back.