Monday, 15 December 2014

0172 Talampaya NP to Nr Calingasta

13th Dec

Remember the cry from Toad of Toad Hall in Wind in the Willows, when he tries to explain the joy of driving in his car on the open road ?  “Oh Joy, Oh Bliss – Oh……..Poop Poop” !   Today was to be one of those days !  A veritable Mr. Toad day.    We were already on a long detour due to roadworks, and today we were searching for a road that we had been told was fantastic – But did not even exist on our map !!  We were going in search of the invisible road, because it was supposed to be fantastic – If we could just find it !!  What an Adventure !   Poop poop. 

We woke up early as the sun came up and quickly heated up the pop top, and just after 8.30 we were on our way, just as the incessant wind (that had died down after dark last night) started up again, blowing sand and dust everywhere.  This National Park has excursions out into the desert to see Petroglifos (ancient rock etchings), a 150 m deep canyon, some botanical gardens, and a few other rock formations.  Since the price was not low, and the time for the tour was basically half a day, we decided against a tour, and set off in search of our own adventures instead.

Setting off across the desert like country, the first thing we spotted were some gauchos riding in to the road from the scrub.  They all waved to us as we passed, buy I only got one photo – of the eldest man coming across the dusty plain, wearing the most enormous animal hide chaps – And I can tell you they are needed.  Most of the scrub in the bush has the most enormous and sharp thorns, maybe about 3 inches long, and I am sure that without the chaps ones legs would be cut to pieces.  I didn’t see any protection on the horses legs, so I hope he was OK !!

Only a couple of minutes later we spotted some little Argentinian hares / Capybaras – Not sure which until I can look them up on the internet, but I am sure someone will tell me shortly once they have seen the photos !!   We then went through some more mountainous country until we finally reached Villa Union – Where we should have got to yesterday morning if the road had not been closed !  We went for a drive
through the town, but it wasn’t the most exciting place, so after a couple of circuits we headed back on our way west again, finally back on Ruta 40.   At Guandacol we turned south again and for an hour or so we were on some fairly flat and undulating country, where the many rivers that run down off the mountains to the west flow across the road in concrete washaways instead of them trying to build bridges over them all.  It is very obvious from the amount of small stones and damp silt that not only have there been some recent heavy rains, but also that when it does rain out here, they get some major flows in these rivers.  It would be interesting to be here during part of their wet season just to see how big the flows are.  We were to see evidence of the recent rains and the size of them several times during the rest of the day.

Then we started climbing up through a gorge, and the road got narrow – Too narrow for two vehicles to safely pass, that was for sure.  And the road was supported on stone walls in several places, as the cliff was just too narrow.  We got to the top quite quickly, and there was a spectacular view back down the gorge, and overlooking  a sizable finca that had been built next to the river.  Also got a photo of some yellow
blossom on one of those vicious thorn plants I mentioned before.  A lot of rock formation evidence of major water erosion from the rivers when in spate, and then we suddenly went through a very crude little tunnel through a mountain – You could almost still see the pick axe marks in the walls !!   We then went on through another gorge where, if you look at the photos carefully you can see little evidence of any Armco
guardrails, despite the sheer drop down into the gorge below !  If it is REALLY bad, then they paint a few small loose rocks white and put them along the edge of the road to warn you of the 100 ft drop !  And where there is any Armco, it is usually so battered and flattened from previous “hits” that it wouldn’t do much good anyway !!  Let me tell you, one goes round corners very gingerly, ensuring no one is coming screaming round the other way !!

We were heading for a large lake which we thought would be a good place to stop for lunch, and as we suddenly exited from the gorge, there it was.  There was a small dam in the mouth of the gorge, and some VERY muddy water was coming out of a pipe at the foot of the dam – The lake was draining after some recent heavy rain we had seen evidence of earlier, and one end of the shallow lake was almost dry.  Then, as we found the rest of the lake and started to think “picnic”, the wind hit us – It was amazing – With the windows open it blew my hat off my head even as I drove along !  In the photos you can see a cloud of sand and dust on the other side of the lake where the incredibly strong wind stirred up anything it could move – Even the lake was covered in waves and white tops.  So much for a picnic !!  So we drove on for another 10 mins or so towards Rodeo – Passing down an avenue of gum trees that really could have been anywhere in country Victoria or New South Wales !

Then suddenly a police car came the other way with lights flashing, on our side of the road, and waving frantically for us to get off the road – We did, and suddenly we had the Tour de Argentina all around us !!  It was Saturday and I guess the local cycle club were out in force.  After a few individuals on a breakaway passed us, we then had to wait while the main peloton came through, battling the wind, before we could continue. While we were pulled over, I noticed a nice avenue of trees off to the side that seemed relatively wind free, so we went up there and found a nice little car park for some National Park office where we parked and had a relatively wind free lunch !

We then set off south again, still in search of the invisible road.   After some time on a dirt road, and then on a very poor tarmac road, at about 3 pm we found it  - And it was not only there, but the road was better than most of the roads we had been on so far today – It was obviously fairly new, although I think our map was somewhat out of date.  Despite what looked like rain clouds
ahead, and we passed through a lovely river gorge, with the road perched on the side of the cliffs where they had obviously recently done a lot of work to prevent, or at least limit, further rock falls which frequently block roads around here in the mountains.  We were starting to think we might camp beside the road, but with the black clouds I wasn’t too keen to park in a river course !  Suddenly we saw what looked like a field office for something, with no cars parked outside – Maybe just a Saturday evening empty building ?  So we drove down only to be met by a barking dog – And then a man !!  Turned out he is the guard, and when we asked if we could stay for the night, he said Si.   So we parked up in the lee of the building so we were mostly protected from the high winds, had our supper, and settled in for the night !  We really have slept in some amazing as well as weird places on this trip – But it is free, so who cares !!

Photos are here :-

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