Five below freezing

Trip Start Apr 17, 2006
Trip End Jun 14, 2006

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Flag of Argentina  ,
Thursday, May 11, 2006

I got away early and started making my way up the road into the Sierra Grande, passing a police checkpoint at the bottom. A group of policemen with alarmingly big guns were incongrously friendly, and for some reason started quizzing me on the British flag. I provided a colourful explanation, but couldn't help wondering why they were so interested. Perhaps it was a ruse to ensure that I really was of that nationality that was behind the Falklands conflict, and as I made my way up the road they were going to shoot me in the back.

Such paranoias were unfounded - I was spared. I steadily plodded up through the mountains, and eventually made the top. Time to start looking out for that national park. I was rendered suspicious by a bus parked off the road next to a farm gate: I had been in Argentina long enough to know that just because something was a big tourist attraction like a national park, didn't mean it would have a sign at the entrance. Since by this time the road had started heading down the other side of the mountain, I decided that the gate warranted further investigation. Clues were not forthcoming. I stood around for a bit having a dilemma, and then a van pulled up the other side of the gate. Was this the park? Yes, of course it is. What, you were expecting a sign? Ha, ha, you foreigners!

The park ranger was a freindly, outdoorsy lady stationed a little way down the access road. I started chatting away to her in Spanish when we were interrupted by another guy, who she talked to in English. She spoke English! And yet I was speaking to her in Spanish! This delighted me beyond measure. She alerted me to the "camping areas" and forewarned me that I could reasonably expect the temperature to drop to five degrees below freezing tonight, before sending me on my way down a rocky trail.

This was hardcore stuff after forty miles of steep uphill, but it was wonderful to battle my way across the moorland amid wide, beautiful expanses of quiet nothingness while the sun set behind me. I found the camping area - a clearing in the scrub - and set up next to a big rock with a tree growing out of it. I cooked up some dinner and then put on all my clothes, wooly hat and all, to tackle the night - a clear, bright moon casting long shadows over the rough ground. After a couple of hours I awoke and reached up to see how much condensation had so far settled upon the inside of my tent. It was ice.

Fortunately, I was warm enough, making my as yet unneeded thermal clothes worth having lugged around. The rising sun quickly thawed everything out in the morning and I walked to the nearby gorge where condors teach their baby condoritos to fly (giving the park its name). I didn't see any of the babies but was lucky enough to see some magnificent condors circling above my head. At lunchtime, I made my way out of the park and down the mountains to my next destination.
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Ali Briggs on

Such a great blog entry! I really enjoyed it... Although was looking for some other information and I don't know how google found me this one. Cheers!

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