Reconstructed Inca ruins

26 02 2010

On the morning we headed into the main square of Humahuaca to have a quick look around the town that we’d not really seen yet and Jola also wanted to get some cash out. Unfortunately her card didn’t work in the machine there (it seems to be a quite common phenomena that your card only works in certain machines). We then hopped on a small bus to Tilcara just down the road. Someone at breakfast had told us that the “Inca” ruins there were well worth visiting.

Town centre of Humahuaca

Because the guide-book told us that the ruins didn’t open until 4 o’clock we dropped off our bags at a luggage storage place at the bus station and spent our time wandering around the local markets and an interesting cemetery. After killing some time we went and got some lunch – it was possibly the best yet. I had some llama stew and I think Jola had a salad that was really fresh – unlike the rest of Argentina the lettuce was green!

After our lunch we headed up the hill to the Inca ruins of Pucará de Tilcara. In the market just outside the ruins Jola bought a new bombilla (straw) for her mate gourd (for some strange reason when she left her gourd behind in Córdoba she also left the straw behind). It turned out that the ruins were open all day so we hadn’t needed to wait for so long before going there. We even bumped into the people from our hostel on the way who’d recommended it to us – the guy was going there for the second time. Jola and I were deeply disappointed, however, because it turned out that it was a monument built sometime late last century dedicated to the archaeology team that had been investigating the Inca ruins. Also the nearby houses had been built in the 1960’s.

Pucará de Tilcara

Afterwards we got on a really small local bus to Purmamarca. Since we’d paid so little for the bus ticket we couldn’t really see why the bag boy should get a tip but I worried that our bags wouldn’t actually be on the bus for most of the way there. The bus seemed to stop all over the place and at one point I thought we were the only gringos on the bus but I noticed a couple more as we got off at our destination.

There isn’t really a bus station at Purmamarca: it’s just a little street leading to the town centre. The town centre itself is literally one square with a few streets leading off it. The whole town sits in the shadow of Cerro de Siete Colores (the seven-coloured mountain) and is really quite cute. We headed to the tourist information centre and he marked lots of places to stay on the map but most of them were either expensive 4-star establishments or hostels that were such dives that even the cockroaches wouldn’t stay there (and that for a price of more than 90 pesos). Another guy showed us a place that we could stay at but it was effectively his house so it was a bit dubious. After wandering around for an hour we were just about to go back to one of the places that had offered us a room for 120 pesos (and wasn’t prepared to negotiate even though it was late in the day and there were unlikely to be any other customers coming through) when we bumped into a guy who gave us a card for a hotel that offered us an en-suite room for less.

Unfortunately when we got back to his hotel there was no one there and we couldn’t get in. We were just about to give up on that too when suddenly he turned up and showed us the room. It was by far the best and most reasonable option that we had seen so far so we were very pleased. After grabbing a shower we headed out to the main square where we had arranged to meet Lea and Rachela the previous day. They didn’t show up so it is possible that they had struggled to find reasonably priced accommodation too and given up on Purmamarca and headed further afield.

Jola and I found a cheap restaurant just off the main square and had our first tamales and humitas. It was good food but I think we were the only customers there for the whole evening. The town seemed deserted even though we were expecting some carnival celebrations somewhere. As such we headed back and called it a night.