Part 6: Sierra de las Quijadas, Argentina


Navigation Links
 Trip Home Page     


The Trip

Kathleen found us a room in a reasonable hotel in Portrero de las Funes.  The main street in Funes, as it turns out, is a racetrack.  Literally.  When we arrived late in the day, I was confused by the huge, stout fences that surrounded the extra-wide road that had no lane markers.  It was only the following morning that I realized what we were seeing was a Formula One-style racetrack.

We chose our hotel specifically so we would have access to a restaurant without having to get in the car and confront the parking-in-a-strange-town issue.  Our meal at the restaurant was a disappointment as their specialty was desserts and we wanted real food.  Somehow, we survived.  The plan for the following day was to make an road trip to a "nearby" national park called Sierra de last Quijadas.  We were not really sure what was there, but we were sure that it would involve almost 4 hours of road time (2 there, 2 back) in addition to the time spent at the park.  The weather was cool when we left but anything but cool when we arrived at the park.  We saw a variety of flora that was reminiscent of the Sonoran Desert near Tucson.

The Photos

The photos below are what we saw.

I woke soon after sunrise and got a nice view of our hotel from our second story room.

We piled into the car and headed to the northwest from San Juan.  The story here is not the fellow, per se, but rather his innovative headwear.  He has solved a problem that confronts any worker that is in the sun all day.  He chose a ball cap and then used a standard short sleeve tee shirt to put over it.  The head-hole was used for his face, then he tied the sleeves behind his head.  Voila, a head shield that provides sun protection.  By this time of the morning it was very hot and the sun was unrelenting in the cloudless sky.

After about 90 minutes of travel on a pretty good road, we arrived at the national park.  The turn-off from the highway was paved, but it soon became dirt.  The path took us toward the mountains to the west.  As the path entered a small canyon, we could see interesting rock structures resulting from erosion.

To me, the terrain was quite similar to the Sonoran Desert in southern Arizona and norther Sonora, Mexico.  There were a number of kinds of cactus, although none of them were the same species as the norther deserts.

I was idling along the dirt track and spotted something in the shadows of a nearby tree.  I stopped the car and went to investigate; what I found were Patagonian mara.  The mara is like a cross between a deer and a rabbit.  These can get quite big at 16kg and are much bigger than any rabbit-like animal in North America.  These mara were apparently unafraid of me, although I did not get that close for fear of spooking them before I got a photo.  There is a baby mara in the brush at the far right of the photo above.

I circled around to get a better view.  They watched me closely but did not move.  After a few photos we got back in the car and motored on.

When I was out of the car shooting photos of the maras, I spotted these epiphytes in a nearby tree.  The desert seemed dry and it was surely hot, but apparently there is sufficient humidity to support these epiphytes.  I was quite surprised.

We got to the end of the trail and headed out on foot to one of the viewpoints.  Along the way, we came upon these cactus which look similar to Prickly Pear cactus in southern Arizona.  But, these are a different species like nothing I had seen before.

Soon, we came upon a thorn bush, some kind of mesquite, with these vicious thorns.  I put my hand in the photo to give a sense of scale.   These are bad-ass thorns, long and strong and sharp.

There were other kinds of cactus nearby.  This looks like an agave, but I am sure it is not.

The cactus ranged from really small to medium sized.  This is one of the smaller ones we saw.

This is yet-another species with longer, dark thorns.

This little guy was one of the few plants we saw with broad leaves.  This whole thing was only 3" across.

Like the Sonoran Desert, there is creosote.  But, this is a different species of creosote.  The flowers were quite unlike the North American variety.

There appeared to be several kinds of beaver-tail cactus along the trail.  Note the thickness of this paddle; much thicker than the Sonoran types.

Some of the cactus clustered together.  Note how barren the ground is; no grass or ground cover.

A small portion of the plants were in bloom; here in Argentina, it is late summer so these were likely late to the party.

We did spot a few isolated patches of flowers.  This looks like verbena, but likely is not.

One isolated yellow bloom.

We finally got to the viewpoint and were not disappointed.  An uplift has created large cliffs in the sedimentary rocks.

In the distance was another range that showed similar erosion patterns.

In the valley below, there were some "wet areas" that clearly had more ground water.  But the greenery was very localized.

The bedding in the strata produced interesting shelves in the cliff.

The far range had rugged canyons in addition to the shelf-like structures.

We walked back to the parking area and Kathleen was not feeling well so she crashed on a picnic table in the shade.  I continued on to the higher viewpoint for some additional photos of the area.  The trail took me underneath some nicely banded cliffs.

The trail wound along the base of the banded cliffs.

One of the viewpoints provided a clear view of a different set of banded cliffs.

A closer view reveals intricate structure in the cliffs.

The far range had shelves that reveal the tilt of the bedding.  These cliffs are rugged and steep.

On the near side of the canyon, similar structures were present.  Note the huge chunk of the cliff that has sheared-off from the main cliff.

The return path back to the car passed underneath a huge ledge.

A parting view of the banded cliffs.

I shot and later stitched a panorama of the Sierra de last Quijadas.

We were walking to dinner around 2100 and I saw lightning on the western horizon.  We hustled back to the hotel, got my Sony A7RM3 and headed to the roof deck.  The thunderclouds were dark and there was not much light, but I was able to catch a lightning bolt in progress.  ISO 1600, f/2.8, 0.5 second exposure (hand held!), 35mm with image stabilization.  I took about a dozen shots but only 4 had actual lightning bolts.

Another bolt, perhaps the best.  f/2.8, ISO 1600, 35mm, 0.5sec (handheld).  The crescent moon was a bonus.

It was hot; I was sweating like crazy when I got back to the car.  We piled into the car, pegged the controls for the a/c and headed out the dirt road back to San Juan and Potrero de las Funes.

Next: Travel west toward the Andes Mountains and the city of Mendoza.

Navigation Links
Previous Adventure
Top of this Page
  Next Adventure
Trip Home Page  
Bill Caid's Home Page

Photos and Text Copyright Bill Caid 2018, all rights reserved.
For your enjoyment only, not for commercial use.