Ischigualasto and Talampaya.

For the last few days we have been exploring two parks north of San Agustin del Valle Fertil on our route between Mendoza and Cordoba in Argentina.

Both parks are rightly UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

The first one, Parque Provincial Ischigualasto (also known as the Valley of the Moon) is where the worlds oldest predatory dinosaurs fossils have been found.

Reproductions of the bones of Herrerasaurus (a bit like the media hog T-Rex) are well displayed in a museum at the park entrance. The original fossils are on display at a museum in San Juan if you think you can appreciate the difference. Thankfully, appropriate t-shirts are available on site.

Tours of the park are in convoy, in your own vehicle, with a park ranger at the front. Tours last about three hours. Following advice we had been given, we waited until 16:00 to take the last tour, when the sun was at the best angle for photographs. It was still hot.

The main attraction of the park are the surreal rock formations. (Note the vehicle for scale at the left above.) In many places the combination of bizarrely eroded grey and red sandstone rock against a clear blue sky was breathtaking.

A detailed explanation of the formation of these round rocks (below) was provided (alas only in Spanish) but their origin seems to be organic!

One advantage of not understanding Spanish is that you don't have to listen to the fanciful names that have been given to each rock (i.e. the submarine, the monk, the egg whisk and the door knob*).

* I admit I made some of the names up.

We camped behind the museum (out of the wind) at S30.164018 W67.843403 at a cost of $1USA per person. Water is brought in by truck so don't count on it. Surprisingly there is a reasonable cafe and shop (that sells genuine Schweppes Tonic Water for your G&T). Even more surprising there is a free Internet terminal in the ticket office, and free WiFi if you park nearby.

The second park, Parque Nacional Talampaya, does not have 230 million year old dinosaurs but it does have 6000 year old petroglyphs, spectacular rock formations and signs in English.

Tours can only be made in park mini-buses and last either two or four hours. Again we waited till 16:00 for the best light.

That is Judy testing the echo (below).

We were able to park overnight at the splendid new visitor centre at S29.784813 W67.993888. (It is no longer possible to camp at the old visitor centre a few kilometres into the park.)

Alas no Internet but a good restaurant.

Stephen Stewart.

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