And finally we roll into Humahuaca, a small but vibrant town that brings us back to reality. Here we glance back at the railway that has been our home for three days; that has given us an insight into another era.
Boom and bust, nationalisation, privatisation and economic collapse has been the story of our railway, and of the region as a whole. Cash crops, tobacco, sugar cane and petroleum have played their part in shaping the lives of locals here and their economic successes and woes too. But as we freewheel through Humahuaca’s cobbled streets, we realise that around us life goes on: people hurry to the market, others chat idly on corners.
“Boom and bust, nationalisation, privatisation and economic collapse has been the story of our railway, and of the region as a whole.”
We check into a small hotel and order yerba mate tea followed by beers in a town that has seen more than its fare share of boom and bust. The streets are busy with backpackers and tourists buying trinkets and booking jeep excursions to see the colourful Quebrada. Tourism offers some hope for the economic future of the town, but its railway is a forgotten chapter in history.
There’s talk of reviving it, of rebuilding its embankments, of sure-ing up its collapsed bridges, but having seen its state of disrepair we agree it’s a very long shot. We raise our glasses to this now relic of a bygone era in Argentina’s history. All it can offer now is the most unusual mountain bike adventure any of us will possibly ever do.
DO IT YOURSELF:
You can fly to San Salvador de Jujuy, the capital of Jujuy Province, from Buenos Aires. Aerolineas Argentinas operate regular flights from £250 return.
TAM Airlines fly from London to Buenos Aires via Sao Paulo from £680 return or British Airways fly direct from £1,081 return.
Bikes & Guiding:
As the first to ride the railway line, Dan’s group was self-guided but received assistance from Jujuy en Bici (jujuyenbici.com.ar) who can organise multi-day guided bike tours in the area, including bike rental, safety gear and accommodation.
For the latest tours and pricing check jujuyenbici.com.ar/en/precios