Talambaya & Ishigualasta
March 27, 2010
Our next stops on the list are the national parks of Talambaya and Ishigualasta. We had read a lot about them in the guidebooks and were looking forward to checking them out… both from a photographic and natural history perspective. The first thing we noticed was the temperature… it was HOT. We didn’t realize that the parks are really desserts in disguise! We grabbed a quick lunch at the cantina, and then hopped into a van with a few other folks for a guided tour of the Talambaya.
The park is famous for it’s petroglyphs, which are 500+ year old rock carvings that were drawn by the native inhabitants of the region. The petroglyphs show the lifestyle and culture of the people, and were used as markers for trade or migration routes in the area.
The rocks here are massive columns that rise straight up out of the ground, leaving interesting fissures and designs all around. The colors were vibrant red and orange. Occasionally we would spot a condor flying above us.
Panorama showing a slice of the park, and a wider view of the surroundings.
More interesting rock formations that dot the dessert.
Lucas taking some shots of the scenery
The resident population of Talambaya Park, the Guanacos. They look like a mix between a llama and a deer! I bet they are tasty! However, the park ranger told us they are a protected species, and that they are no longer hunted. Bummer… I wouldn’t mind a big Guanaco steak!
We wanted to see more of the park, but our guided tour was only 3 hours. We discovered that you can see the park on foot or bicycle if you plan in advance. In fact, many people take a couple days and camp in the park, but it requires a significant amount of preparation, as there are no services here. No water, food, etc. It would have been fun to know this so we could have purchased all the necessary things in advance to camp here. We considered going into the nearest town to buy supplies, but it would take us nearly half a day to drive to the closest town and back. So, we decided to continue on to Ishigualasto national park.
The drive between the two parks is very dry and dotted with huge cacti. We decided we’d stop along the side of the road and get a little closer to some of them. We found one that looked accessible and made our way to it. They look much better from afar than up close. They are gnarly looking plants, pitted with holes, discolorations, and dead stuff hanging everywhere… generally uninviting! They typically grow about 11mm per year, and these were over 600 years old!
This cactus had some sort of bud growing off it. Maybe it had managed enough energy to spawn offspring?
When we got to Ishiqualasto, we didn’t think we’d arrived in time for the last tour. Fortunately, they have a “night” tour of the park, and it would be leaving in only a few minutes! We signed up and waited for our guide to show up. He told us it would be a driving tour, and we’d ride around the park inside a vehicle. Setting outside the entrance was this massive vehicle, and I was super excited to take a ride in it. It could have driven over our little rental car without a hiccup. I started checking it out and immediately wanted one! It turns out the vehicle wasn’t a park vehicle, but was owned by another couple also visiting the park. They had built the vehicle in Italy, and transported it over sea to South America by cargo vessel, for a 1 year trip overland. They were traveling from the southern tip of Argentina all the way north to Mexico.
They let me take a look inside and around the monster, and it looked really fun! Every part had a backup, or two! Spare axles, leaf springs, wheels, tires, pretty much anything which could break on the trip was doubled up and latched into storage on the carriage of the vehicle. It had a full kitchen, beds, shower, everything you need to survive harsh terrain.
The tour guide ended up riding with us in our vehicle, and we drove through the park with the monster truck following us. We would stop at all the sites in the park, get out, and take a walk around while the guide explained everything to us. This park is known as the “valle de la luna”, or valley of the moon. Much of the surface looks like the moon. Void of life, water, and even color.
There are many interesting geological formations in the park… and this one is called “Canta de Bochas”, or the ball field. These stones have made their way to the surface over thousands of years, forming perfectly round spheres. Evidently, when it does rain (which is very rarely), water rushes through this valley like a torrent, clearing away the loose soil and exposing these boulders. The rushing water erodes the rocks and looser material around them, leaving these for our viewing pleasure.
Along with the spheres, tall spires of rocks called “the mushroom” and “the submarine” have been formed. There are hundreds scattered about, but those two are the most famous. They even make the monster truck look small! Unfortunately, it was getting dark, so the pictures didn’t come out too great! Oh well, I guess we’ll have to make another trip there sometime in the future!