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Sun 28 Oct: arrive Salta (1170m)

Notes: Salta is a colonial town with some pleasant buildings. We stayed at El Lagar which is recommended if you can afford it. The food in Salta is surprisingly unsophisticated compared with nearby places: Colin’s top recommendation is El Bedouino on Dean Funes.

Mon 29: rest day

A colossal storm in the afternoon stripped leaves and twigs from the trees.

Tues 30 morning: Salta – Jujuy (1310m) (95km, 780m ascent)

Forested hills

Sunshine. Route 9 runs north connecting the capitals of the two provinces, but it is a corniche road through wooded hills and carries little traffic. Getting out of Salta is no fun, but after that the riding is pleasant. We met a French couple who, after asking what had happened to our tent, likened the scenery to their own country. A pass (1545m) is reached after 37km. At 60km you rejoin the dull plains. Our first impressions of Jujuy were not favourable, but we stopped there for lunch.

Tues 30 afternoon: Jujuy – Yala (1515m) (17km, 210m)

The road north from Jujuy is no more interesting and it bears a little traffic, though not enough to constitute unpleasantness. We got as far as the village of Yala and turned left to stay at the Casona del Camino Real a km from the main road.

Weds 31 morning: Yala – Purmamarca (2310m) (52km, 1030m)

Easy riding to Leon,

Co. de 7 Colores

then a stiff climb into the wind followed by a 100m descent to Volcán. Then easy gradients but no supplies until Purmamarca.

As the road progresses northwards the amount of vegetation diminishes, by now restricted to the valley, and eventually becoming very scant. To compensate the route enters a region famous for its startling multi-coloured rocks, one of which, the Cerro de Siete Colores, dominates Purmamarca.

It is a delightful colonial village reached by turning left at a junction and climbing 100m in 3km: this is the start of the ascent to the Paso de Jama, the only tarmac crossing to Chile in these parts.

The seven-coloured hill draws a great many tourists, who may also find attraction in the church, and who possibly spend more time browsing the ethnic goods on display in the main square.

Notes: we ate in La Posta. There is a tourist office and an ATM. There are also good hotels, though we never managed to stay in any.

Rocks

Weds 31 afternoon: Purmamarca – Tilcara (2450m) (28km, 360m)

Wavy lines

Easier going, now helped by the wind, and with very little traffic. There are many attractive rocks along the way. The colonial Posta de Hornillos is worth a glance (but has no supplies); Maimará a little later sits beside wavy coloured rock strata and has most facilities.

Notes: Tilcara is a pleasant tourist town with an ATM: we stayed at Con los Angeles.

Thurs 1 November: Tilcara – Humahuaca (2910m) (46km, 580m)

Uquia

A morning’s ride. Attractions along the way include the church at Uquia and the Tropic of Capricorn where you may buy fridge magnets. The frescoes in the church, portraying archangels as dainty courtiers, are a delight.

Notes: Humahuaca receives quite a lot of tourists but the hotels and restaurants are disappointing. One of them gave us a gyppy tummy. There is a bank.

Fri 2: Humahuaca – Iruya (2675m) (78km, 1440m)

It’s best to regain the main road by leaving Humahuaca to the north (though this is not what we did). The road soon leaves the river valley, gaining a plain to its west.

Iturbe

After about 23km (or 26 if you take the wrong exit) a signpost visible only in the opposite direction points to the wrong road to Iruya, and adds to the insult by giving the wrong distance. A little later you come to the correct junction, more conspicuously signposted. (The misleading signpost could send you on the road to nowhere. See the GPS readings elsewhere.)

The ripio turnoff undulates for about 6km until it regains the river vallley at the traditional village of Iturbe, with a derelict station and a couple of shops. Take the exit for Chaupi Rodeo, reached after a further 8 km by a small climb and a descent. There may be a small shop there.

After Chaupi Rodeo the road follows a valley, crossing the stream a few times, and climbs steadily into the mountains. The scenery here has a Moroccan feel. The Abra del Condor (3850m, 13km beyond Chaupi Rodeo) is followed by a giddy 21km descent

The road to Iruya

cut into hillsides, weaving across a sloping plain, dropping into an impressive gorge, and finally following the Iruya stream.

We were both very tired. The ride hadn’t been excessive, but felt worse because of our ill health.

Notes: The Hostería de Iruya above the village is the place to stay. Good food, stylish rooms, a sun terrace with loungers, and a reasonable price (£25). Iruya is a peaceful and attractive village in the colonial style. But its highlight is certainly the view of the church on the way in. It catches the light only in the early morning. There is no ATM.

Sat 3: rest day

Sun 4: Iruya – Humahuaca (75km, 1570m)

Mon 5 morning: Humahuaca – Purmamarca (72km, 335m)

Mon 5 afternoon: bus to Jujuy (1½ hours)

Notes: Those buses with sufficient luggage room are happy to carry bikes.

At Jujuy we stayed at the newly opened Posada del Aribo near the Panorama business hotel. We’d noticed the Posada on the way through and been perplexed that it didn’t feature in any accommodation list. But it’s a lovely old colonial building: tidy, well kept, friendly, and with a pool; and costing the standard £25 for nice places. You need to ring to gain entry.

We ate at the Marazaga, also good.

Tues 6: bus to Salta (2½ hours)

Weds 7: rest day

Our stomachs were now returning to normal.

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