Argentina rocks!

Trip Start Sep 19, 2005
Trip End Mar 19, 2006

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Friday, November 4, 2005

I am just back in Mendoza after 2 adventurous days driving through the desert in a car with a leak in the petrol tank, with 3 Irish people and a slightly insane Argentinian.

Seeing the national park near ("near" as in 5 hours away) from San Juan was more difficult than I had thought. When I turned up after a couple of hours in the bus from Mendoza, I was the only person staying in the hostel, which was odd, but kind of nice as I got a room to myself for once! Anyway, Francisco and Ana, the owners, were brilliant and explained that as it was low season (clearly most people are not keen to go into the desert in Spring and sensibly come in autumn!) I could either wait to see if others turned up or head to another village which is only an hour away from the park and see if I could set up a tour there.

Luckily Fiona, Neil and Alan turned up the next day and we organised a taxi to take us to San Agustin de Valle Fertil, and from there we would go to the Valle de la Luna (aka Ischigualasto Park) and also get to see another national park called Talampaya on the same day. So a result all round.

Next day we drove to San Agustin, which is certainly not in a Valle Fertil as far as I can tell (it hasnŽt rained since April here although there was a freak bit of snow in September), where we spent the night before our desert trip. We rented an apartment and had a proper Argentinian "asado" (barbeque) that night (Jose Lui, our driver, took care of the cooking!) and felt very Argentinian going off to buy a big bag of meat, bread and wood for the fire.

Early on Thursday we headed off in the car to see the park. IŽll attach photos in a sec so you can see what it is like but basically it is a hugely arid area, where loads and loads of dinosaur bones have been preserved. There are two different types of rock, a reddish sort of sandstone and a greyer, more layered type. The heat, wind and rains have shaped the rocks into all sorts of odd forms, and they have been given names like:the sphinx, the yellow submarine, the ball court and the worm. IŽll let you decide if the worm and the submarine look like it says on the tin - I didnŽt! Pretty impressive though.

Anyway, it was all hugely hot and dusty, scorching sun and hardly any shade anywhere. After 3 hours we had completed the ciruit and headed off to Talampaya, gulping huge amounts of water. Apparently in summer it reaches 50 degrees at Ischigualasto but 34 was enough for me without a swimming pool and cold drink to hand!

An hour later we pitched up at Talampaya, were robbed of more entrance fee money, and went off on a tour of the park. This area is really part of the same landscape as the first park, and the main attraction in the park is a huge (REALLY huge) red sandstone canyon and the petroglyphs carved into the rock in about 500BC. More photos attached in a minute - in most I could barely get the whole of the cliffs into the picture they are so huge. IŽll put one on which has the minibus in it so you can get some idea of scale. The petroglyphs were cool too, there are lots of llamas in them and symmetrical figures etc, although the guide explained that we really donŽt know what they mean, it does give us clues that there were people passing through the area at the time, and were herding animals etc. The whole area was really amazing, quite spooky to think that its a place which has probably barely changed in nearly 3,000 years.

The journey back was uneventful apart from the part when smoke started billowing out from underneath the dashboard after weŽd come up a mountain via switchbacks(fixed in a jiffy though), and we arrived back in San Juan, knackered, at about 10.30.

Today i caught a bus back to Mendoza, but tomorrow I am undecided what to do. If I can face more driving, might head off to another place about 4 hours way from here to see a natural stone bridge formed in the Andes but if not will have a lazy day before heading to Santiago to see some more of Chile.

More soon, love Sarah xxxx

P.S Also now have photos to add to the last few entries as well - yay!
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