On the map Irunya looks as if it is a half hour ride out of town. It is in fact a three hour ride that hits 4000 feet above sea level about three quarters of the way in. I was however prepared for this fact, thanks to a nice Norwegian a chap who was on his way to the village before Christmas. We were not (my Catalunian travelling friend and I) prepared for the fact that a large portion of the ‘road’ on this trip was in fact a river gorge. As such we were somewhat surprised to see the ticket conductor doubling as a road worker and literally constructing parts of our passage towards the village that had been disrupted by rain. Rivers, naturally enough, are always rather affected by rain. At numerous points it was necessary for us to get out to alleviate the weight of the coach or at one point to actually push the coach out of a particularly deep spot of river.
In short we arrived, four and half hours later about two kilometres outside Iruya – the river here had reclaimed its place over the ‘road’. There was undoubtably a sense of collective relief as we all got off the bus and I for one didn’t mind the walk to the village. Jordi strode out first from the bus onto the path to the village. Before I knew it he was knee deep in what looked like fresh concrete arms flailing around for something solid to grab hold of…I have to confess, upon realising his life was not in any immediate danger, to being utterly incapable of a straight face for some time afterwards. It’s fair to say, considering his trousers weighed three times there normal weight for the remainder of the day, he took it in very good humour.Eventually we had only about an hour in Iruya before we had to get the bus back. Enough time for some lunch and the briefest stroll around the village. Apparently there is only one road into the village so I have no idea how they were getting provisions in and out. On the walk back past the high altitude football pitch and the dead dog the weather turned worse. I had a vision of a white knuckle bus ride back to Humahuaca double the time of the outward journey….but the ticket conductor on the outwad route had clearly done a good job and the river-roads held out.