Part 10: San Jose del Jachal to Nonogasta, Argentina


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The Trip

Our hotel room at the "Plaza Hotel" was as basic as they come.  I splurged and got a room with a private bath.  It was old, worn and could have been a tad cleaner, but it met our needs.  There were no other places within 100km and it was near dark, so a hotel room in the hand is worth 10 rooms down the road.  Finding food service was a challenge, but we eventually found a place that was serving.  Next morning we broke camp and headed out toward the national parks to the east of Jachal.

The Photos

The photos below are what we saw.

Just to the east of Jachal we came upon these huge "flatirons" produced by uplifting and erosion.

From the crest of the ridge we got a great view of a huge peak to our east.  I doubt this is Aconcagua, but whatever it is called, it is HUGE.  Just 2 days ago, the mountains were barren but yesterday's thunderstorm brought snow to the high country.

I was told by a close friend that had spent many years in Argentina that coming from Southern Arizona I would feel "right at home".  True enough.  The terrain was very, very similar down to the tall cactus.  But, these are cardon cactus, not sahauros that are found in the Sonoran desert of SoAz.  But, they look very similar but do not share similar internal structure as we will see in a later photo.

The road took us past a huge range of mountains with rugged cliffs.

The road wound up the face of the cliffs to the summit.  Near the summit, I spotted movement in the brush along side of the road.  At first I thought it was a deer, but a closer inspection revealed that they were llama (or at least I assume they were llama -- they could be alpacas or vicunas or guanacos.  But llama is the best guess).  I pulled over to the side of the road and the llamas went on high alert.  They made a warning cry like nothing I have ever heard.  The two above are totally focused on me as I slowly walked toward the fence to get a photo.

These two, part of the same herd, were more focused on the actions of their alpha male.

I made a smootching sound and they went to red alert status.  They eventually decided it was safer to head for the brush and that is what they did.

Further down the road, we spotted another herd on a distant ridge line.

We took the turn-off to go to Parque National Ischigualsto and we spotted yet another group of llamas.  These bolted at the sound of the car, but for whatever reason they ran TOWARD us rather than away.

Near the entrance to the park there was yet another herd, this time on the roadway.  This group seemed less annoyed by the car, presumably because they see cars every day.

I spoke earlier about the internals of the cardon being different than the sahauro.  The internal skeleton of the sahauro has long slender ribs, the cardon has a mesh-type morphology.  This structure is more akin to what is inside cholla or prickly pear.

Some of the places we passed had nice stands of cardones.

As we drove through another park, Talampaya, we could see huge sandstone badlands in the distance.  There were no trails that went in that direction, so we continued on the asphalt road.

Toward the center of Talampaya we got a great view of the huge peak to our northeast.  This is a big mountain.

We stopped at the Talampaya visitor center and saw this Thor-clone.  It seems that the only way you can get into the backcountry areas of the park is via a tour in one of these 4x4 Mercedes trucks.  This truck is much newer than Thor and has a longer wheelbase.

We exited the north end of Talampaya and Kathleen suggested a "short cut" which turned out to be dirt.  No matter, it's a rental, right?  We did a bio-break and spotted these tiny flowers in bloom.

Where is the f***ing road?  We had to take a detour around this wash-out.  Many of the arroyos showed evidence of recent rains.  This arroyo took a direct hit; even the bridge abutments were gone and nowhere to be seen; it would have normally gone from left to right.  I am not sure what roll that piece of pipe in the lower center of the photo above played in this drama, but it is useless now.

The terrain, flora and fauna is indeed similar to SoAz, right down to the palo verde and mesquite trees.  To be sure, these are not the exact same species as found in SoAz, but they look very similar.

Ah, my little spiny friends.

We hit the main highway again and headed east where we spotted this interesting rock formation.

The road went up a steep grade through dramatic red sandstone cliffs to the top of the pass, a place called Punto Alto at 2020m.

After the pass, the road headed down the opposite side through a steep-walled canyon.  The canyon was SO steep that the road was essentially a bridge built into the cliff.

This was an expensive road to build given the road cuts and concrete bridging.

The river at the bottom of the canyon was flowing past a nice rancho at the base of the grade.  Note the red cliffs in the distance.

The sandstone bedding had been tilted at wild angles resulting in "flatirons".

Our path took us right past Posada del Olivo, a boutique inn.  We stopped to see if they had space and they did.  Done deal.  The room was nice.

The group area and dining room had a nice stone fireplace.

Outside, there were antique machines used at the farm.

The main structure was shaded by old-growth trees.

To gain access to the main structure, we had to cross over an aqueduct that flowed fast through a hand-laid stone channel.

Several of the trees had hanging vines that were in bloom.

A slice of the water from the aqueduct was channeled into a pond where we saw these odd flowers.

This flower was preparing to bloom.  Perhaps it is a water lilly.

An antique wagon was next to the weeping willow tree.  I believe the local name for willow is "sauces".

Near the irrigation ditch was a nice bunch of pampas grass in bloom.

Despite the suspect accommodations the prior night, this drive was great.  The scenery was breath-taking.  We were happy to have found at "room at the inn" that was nice.

Tomorrow, we continue north toward Salta.

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