Saturday, December 12, 2009

Argentina's Arizona

The cathedral, Talampaya. Photo: Aya PadrĂ³n

Argentina is like North America upside down. At the bottom you have the glaciers and frozen, inaccessible winters of Alaska and northern Canada. A bit higher, near Esquel, snow caps rocky mountains, their pine-sided slopes reminiscent of Colorado, Wyoming. I've never been up to Salta and Jujuy provinces, but in my mind their stand-in is the Chihuahua Desert of West Texas/northern Mexico.

And last week, on a five-day rental car roadtrip out of Mendoza, I found Arizona. Flat, dusty desert stretches, unexpected ridge passes wound by caminos sinuosos, ancient-cut canyons, colored rock photogenically eroded. So...maybe Arizona+Utah.

The best, of course, lay within protected parks: La Rioja's Parque Nacional Talampaya, and, 80km down the highway in San Juan, Parque Provincial Ischigualasto. I hit both in one day, which, although leaving no time for the more attractive touring options of mountain biking or trekking, did allow me to see the major attractions. Scroll down and you can too.


Between the walls of Talampaya's canyon--the only Pre-Cambrian canyon in the world that...something or other. The tour was in Spanish and geology is complicated.


A view up The Chimney, a vertical concave scoop in the redstone wall that produces some trippy echoes when you yell in it.


Out of the canyon. The right-most formation is "El Monje" (The Monk). In the distance, the outline of a chain of 6,000m+ nevados that predate the Andes by a few hundred million years.


Ischigualasto (more commonly known as Valle de la Luna) was slightly underwhelming (could have been the 100-degree heat). But its contrasts with Talampaya, despite being so close, were fascinating.


"La Cancha de Bochas" (The Bocce Court)


The Valley of the Moon's two most notable features: eroded yellow pillars and the long, low redstone ridge that runs along the eastern border.

*Note: For more, keep your eyes on Matador Trips, where I hope to publish a guide on these two and one other western Argentinean park in the coming weeks.

16 comments:

crfranke said...

Spectacular! I love Arizona + Utah, so to see this in Argentina is exciting. As if I needed another reason to go to Argentina... Thanks for sharing this. The photos are gorgeous.

Kathy Amen said...

Looks a lot like Arches in Utah--amazing!

hal said...

Thanks Cathey :)

hal said...

@Kathy: Yeah, there actually was one little arch in the second park--almost included the shot here.

Abbie said...

Looks cool - graet pictures!

valeriewng said...

These really are spectacular photos! I had to keep reminding myself that I was looking at pictures of Argentina and not Arizona or Utah.

Candice said...

Whoa, the chimney one is freaking cool.

hal said...

@Candice: Yeah, that was my favorite too. And of course, the photo nowhere near does it justice.

mistiparnell said...

nice blog..................................................

Christine Garvin said...

Wish I had read this yesterday...in my piece over at BNT about the future of green travel, I talked about the jutting rocks of Arizona, and looking at these pictures brought my imagination and memories to life! Only the Argentinian version...

yesthereissuchathingasastupidquestion said...

Holy Man! These are terrific. Quite jealous as I freeze my toes off - in Kentucky? Go figure. Want to see more!

hal said...

Thanks Kate. I'm now freezing in Maine, so I feel your pain. Was happy to come and look at these again when I got your comment. :)

Sabina said...

Once again, I think your photos are just spectacular. Of course the subject matter helps. I love the natural bocce court.

hal said...

Thanks Sabina, and everyone else, for your generous comments.

realworldmeetsgirl said...

Hi Hal! Your photographs of the Mendoza landscape are enlightening, never would have imagined such contrast as I am familiar with Argentina's glacial south. Just curious what you thought of Mendoza city?? I currently live in Buenos Aires, but thought about relocating there for a time. Thoughts/comparisons/advice? Thanks!

hal said...

@realworld: Thanks for your comment. Compared to BsAs, Mendoza is the definition of tranquilidad. I liked it, but if you're a big fan of the big city, it might be hard to adjust. Pretty cool that it's in striking distance of the mountains, though. And MUCH less humid!