robot priest in the desert...

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South America » Argentina » Jujuy » Humahuaca
May 25th 2011
Published: October 4th 2011
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We wandered up to the bus terminal. We had intended to catch one of the big comfy tourist buses, and had, in fact, enquired about tickets the day before. Luckily we hadn't bought one; as we approached a local bus pulled up. It seemed to be going the right way, so we jumped on. For much of the short hour long journey we were the only passengers. Sure, it was slow, but it was cheap at 8 pesos each.

We had been told that Humahuaca, one of the larger towns on the route, was a bit boring. It was, in fact, pretty nice, not that there wasn't that much to see or do. This simply meant you had to pace yourself and not do everything at once, and, in this, my public service training would come in handy. There was a nice town to wander about in, food to eat, beer to drink, and a couple of sights.

First, we checked in at the Hostel La Soñada. Pretty good, although at the pricey end of the spectrum. On the way station the highlight was the worst depiction of Ché I've ever seen – he looked like an unkempt Greek
The most photographed thing in ArgentinaThe most photographed thing in ArgentinaThe most photographed thing in Argentina

no, I don't know why either
man in a floppy hat. Points for effort though.

Right in the centre of town was a giant monument, almost with a bit of the Eastern Bloc about it – big statues of martial looking gents with horses and such, We went up and had a closer look. Yep – still tacky up close. Right next to it was this old mud brick steeple thing which was reportedly the most photographed attraction in Argentina. Without quite knowing why, we took the picture.

It was a dusty, cool day as we walked up to the Virgen de Medalla Milagro. This was another sight, if you could call it that. The road wound its way through the backblocks of Humahuaca, all two of them, two and a half if you were feeling generous. As attractions go, it was supposed to be fairly underwhelming, so there was no particular anticipation, simply a walk and a wander in the sun.

After 15 minutes or so we had found our way along the dusty road to the blue painted depiction of the Madonna. This was it. They were right – somewhat unprepossessing. The landscape looked interesting nearby, though, and I found a place we could scramble to the top of the Peña Blanca hill for a nice view of the surrounds. Klaire followed, if somewhat reluctantly. As I scrambled about the place, taking oh-so-artistic photos of cacti and rocks, Klaire contemplated, sitting on a rock.

I asked her what she was contemplating, after a while. She gave me a bemused look, and pointed out the stairs we could have taken to the top, as opposed to the dusty scramble up a wash. Clearly her sense of adventure needed work.

Back down in town we observed a sizeable crowd in the square, outside the church. I had not realised that there were that many tourists in Humahuaca, but there they all were. Some were part of tour groups, and this was a stop on the tour. We were somewhat confused, until I remembered reading something about a robot monk.

Sure enough, in a truly weird display of Catholic tackiness the robot monk popped out of the church window on the stroke of noon, raising one hand like a punter at a Megadeth gig, slowly, slowly pointing back beyond the crowd – the other hand clutching a crucfix. Then, it finished, and everyone clapped. I'm not sure what they were clapping; perhaps themselves for having endured the wait for such an inspiring show.

Then, the town emptied as the tourists piled back on their tour buses and continued on. Marvelling at the sort of tour that would include one of the world's truly tacky Catholic attractions in a one horse town in the Argentinian desert we found our way to a brilliant little café just off the main drag. There we had a great menú del dia which included the excellent local soup.

It was here, too, that our paths once again joined with the older travellers, and we arranged to meet the next day, in the freezing desert morning, to head to Bolivia.

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