Quebrada Humahuaca (Tilcara, Purmamarca, Humahuaca)

Day 1: July 21, 2010 – Tilcara
We made it to Tilcara in the late afternoon. It was dark by the time we got off the bus. We saw a hostal just across the street from the bus terminal and thought we would inquire about the price. It was cheap but it was also rather ugly and uninviting. We thought we would ask around before we make our decision. On the way to the center we came across a nice looking hostel but it was unfortunately fully booked. The lady however pointed us to the local tourist office. We made our way there and asked about accommodation. I was very surprised when the hostel prices they gave us were ridiculously high. We asked what would be a cheaper option and they pointed us to some family run accommodations. Mario went looking for one and I stayed at the office with the bags. He came back after a while saying he had found one and we went to leave our bags. When I saw it I thought it was rather adventurous to say the least. The room had a comfortable double bed and the walls were painted in wine red which created a warm, inviting atmosphere. Apart from that though the floor was bare concrete covered in dust and there was no brick wall above the door, instead there was a light ‘wall’ made of bamboo sticks. We wondered whether it would be warm enough at night but eventually our worries were all in vain. We slept just fine. The bathroom though was another story. To quote Mario ‘You feel dirtier after you have been to the bathroom!’. Couldn’t agree more. We didn’t shower that day.
We went out to get some dinner and found a really nice restaurant that was unfortunately full. We went around looking for another place but really none of them appealed to us as that other place did. We decided to go back and wait for a table. We sat outside and the owner came out with two glasses of delicious liquor and some peanuts. Time flew by. Both Mario and I had fun with the dog of the owner who was a very friendly, happy, fat golden retriever and loved plastic bottles. We played ‘catch’ with her, that is if we managed to get the bottle out of her mouth. The lady had a very strong grip and sometimes would get very excited. A bit too excited about our safety. Anyhow, we didn’t have to wait too long and we were soon having a lovely meal. After dinner it was bed time.
Day 2: July 22, 2010 – Purmamarca
We got up and headed to the bus terminal. We caught a bus that was to take us a nearby town famous for its colorful mountain (Montaña de los Siete Colores). The ride only took about 20mins and we were in Purmamarca in no time. We started by exploring the handcrafts market arranged around the central plaza. So much color and shape, so much tradition and custom. Lovely! I like a few things but decided to hold off the buying until we got to Bolivia since the same stuff would be much cheaper there.
Since we hadn’t had any breakfast we were pretty hungry and it was already lunch time so we found a small, family restaurant and sat waiting for a waiter. It took a while before anybody brought us the menu and even longer before anybody brought us food. At the end we had spent more than 1.5h there which was beyond our idea of a quick bite. The food was worth it though. I had a locro – a lamb stew traditional of the region, and Mario had a llama stew. Finger-licking-licious!
We then headed to the top of a hill that served as a lookout point for the colorful mountain. It was super windy and I nearly lost my hat. We took a couple of photos and headed to a path we had seen from the top. We walked to another lookout point before we decided to climb up a rock that revealed views of the whole valley. We carefully made our way to the top and went down the sandy path with even more care. The strong wind blowing in our faces wasn’t helping. On the way down we stopped at a shop where I bought a small present for a relative and then headed back to the center. We decided to have some freshly squeezed orange juice before we left since we had some time to kill anyway. At 4.00pm we were back on the bus to Tilcara where we had to take another bus to Humahuaca.
Luckily, there was one in about 30min so we just took a taxi back to the hostal, took our backs and boarded on time. An hour later we got off at the bus terminal in Humahuaca. That’s when Mario realized he had forgotten his guide book along with its case and a CD at the restaurant in Purmamarca. Unpleasant but not the end of the world. We headed to the center but before we had progressed too much a guy stopped us offering real cheap accommodation. He said there was a very nice kitchen as well as a new, clean bathroom. Even double rooms! It was too cheap to miss and e decided to check it out.
The house was organized around a clean, square courtyard with an old in the middle of it. The kitchen was indeed very nice, and the bathroom was amazing according to local standards – white tiles, clean shower curtain and a new shower with hot water and amazing water pressure were worth it! The sleeping quarters were a lot less impressive but would still have to do. There was a mother travelling with her two teenage daughters and us two. They got a simple dorm room and upon some insisting we got the ‘double’ room. What was it like you wonder? It was a double mattress thrown on a bare concrete floor in what was more of a storage room than a bedroom. We were separated from the dorm by a thin curtain. Well, for $4pp we couldn’t complain. We had plenty of blankets to keep us warm so we were happy. ‘You gotta admit we have stayed in some pretty adventurous places’ I told Mario. Luckily, he had his sleeping bag with him that we used as a bottom sheet since there were no sheets or pillow covers. Again we slept well. One of the best nights we have ever had as a matter of fact.
We showered and went out for dinner. Before we reached the center we got stopped by a guy advertising a nearby restaurant that offered a live music performance. The menu looked alright, so did the prices and we went in. Mario decided he felt like playing backgammon and went back to get the board. I ordered some snacks, some wine, and more than 20min later I was still sitting alone. I wondered what had happened to him. Why wasn’t he coming back? Eventually he popped his head through the door. It turned out that he had gotten lost. I was so relieved to hear that as I thought he might have gotten mugged or something. He got back just in time for the folkloric performance. He had a horsemeat steak (first time we ever saw it on a menu) and I had a llama one. We enjoyed the music and then to our surprise there was a second act. This time a man and his young daughter were reciting local poetry. Mario wasn’t impressed and rightly so because they really weren’t that good. But we couldn’t be too mad at them; they were just trying to make a living.
After dinner we went back home and slept. We were getting up very early to catch a bus to the border.
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