Valle de la Luna and Cafayate, San Juan

ihana.com - big trip - diary - argentina - april 2003

Sphynx

A moonscape valley

Fossiled footballs...

...and leaves

Tuesday 15 - Thursday 17 April

San Juan was reached in time for lunch followed by a stroll around the quiet main plaza. Driving out of town we got a bit lost and, while asking a bloke with a pickup the way, it turned out that we would have gone totally wrong. On the right track, we passed through sparsely populated dry landscape until we reached Valle Fertil where things were briefly all green and lush. Filling up with diesel, we drove through more desert as the sun set with just the occasional fox crossing the road. The park ranger at the Valle de la Luna told us there is a tour leaving in the morning at 9am so we camped for the night beside the entrance.

Going through the valley with around seven other cars who appeared just in time for the tour, the guide explained various features of the famous valley which many Argentinians had recommended to us. It was nice enough but not particularly stunning, we've seen similar stuff recently.

Landying through...

...mountainous and cactus strewn...

...Sierra Sanogasta

The 'nice enough' suspicions were confirmed as we headed north through an impressive red rock gorge which came over a pass into a wide valley covered in the large cordon cacti. These look like men marching up the hillsides, the wood of these looks a bit like sponge and is used a lot in this area as there aren't many decent trees about.

Chanchos

Mad wasp hitches a lift

Gauchos and their dogs

The night was spent in an empty riverside campsite and the following morning we continued up the famous route 40, passing great scenery, sometimes on tarmac but mostly on corrugated gravel which fills the landy with dust. We passed through tranquil villages with names like Londres and Belen. The latter we stopped to get a drink and were the main attraction for a group of local schoolgirls who thought we were well wicked. At least somebody does!

Quiet villages on the route 40

Cafayate

Loony builder's dream house?

Cafayate was the target for the night and we hoped that it would be full of friendly dorises too. Unfortunately its a bit of a tourist trap with the inevitable distance between the locals and the visitors. Never mind, after fielding questions about the trip to various people checking out the landy in the main square (including a Michael Caine lookalike and the proud parents of the next Maradona), we found the municipal campsite and parked the landy next to a couple from London. We got talking and ended up spending another day chilling out and in the evening T drank hideous amounts of local wine and beer. A holidaying family beside us in the campsite were really nice, giving us some bread for breakfast, a local speciality meatball type thing for lunch and B a go on their daughter for tea!

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