Wednesday, 22 August 2012

The Moon Valley - Valle de la Luna

Left for Valle de la Luna, which turned out to be a long day of riding from San Juan.  I was a bit concerned with the spokes on the rear wheel especially after riding 50kms when yet another spoke broke and I was only riding on asphalt too.  I decided to take it easy from then on.  One thing I have noticed riding on the roads in Argentina are the sheer number of plastic bottles on the laybys.  I thought this was simply dumped rubbish, but I have since found out it is a religious shrine called Difunta Correa, where people leave water bottles as offerings for a women who died trying to reach her injured husband during the Argentine civil war.  Apparantly she was found days later and her baby was still alive feeding on her "ever-full breast"!  Random hey, but these shrines are everywhere.

Disfunta Correa
Later that day I reached Ruta 510 and rode through an area aptly named the Valle Fertil, where the desert landscape threw up all kinds of vegetation against its will.  I decided to stop here for a few minutes and have some lunch.

There was no traffic, and only the odd farmer who was outnumbered many times over by cattle and not much else so I had time to mess around with the camera for a bit.  This road was not the most riveting but the weather was nice so I was happy enough.  Simple things.

Towards the end of the day though this changed and after covering 300km I was hit by gale force winds and my least favourite, dust clouds.  To say I don’t enjoy riding a bike through this is an understatement.  I couldn’t see anything beyond 50 metres in front of me and nearly missed the turning to Parque Nacional Ischigualasto, where the Valle De La Luna is located.  The last 20km were torturous and when I arrived at the visitor centre they were stopping tours as they couldn’t really take place in this weather.  I asked where the campsite was and the guide walked me over to a horribly exposed area, which resembles a building site as they have only just finished building the camping area and there is no shelter yet.

Despite this I found the best shelter was on the edge next to some of the left over building debris and I attempted to put up my tent.  It brought back childhood memories of camping holidays in Devon where my sister and I would sit in the car watching through in steamed up rainy up windows at my parents chase different sections of our tent around a field.  We always made it pretty much unscathed during those holidays so I was well prepared for this and after eventually tying down everything I owned I holed up in the tent for 12 hours and waited for the next day.
I woke up early covered in a layer of dust.  The dust being so fine that it had somehow managed to get through two tent layers and then continue to clog most of my orifices - my nose, mouth and ears that is.  Stumbling out of the tent whilst picking the dust from my nose I saw the weather had completely changed and with no wind and dust clouds I could see the entire park as far as the horizon.  I arranged the tour, which is the only way to see the park, and took the 40km offroad drive in a convey with other tourists, but as it was the first tour of the day there were only 5 other cars and I was the only motorbike so I could stop and go and still catch them up as I wanted.  Its an eerie landscape, definitely worthy of the “Moon Valley” name, with many of the rock formations looking not of this world.

This is immaginatively called "the Sphinx"

Stumbled across these rock balls in one section of the park, not sure if that is the appropriate scientific name for them...

And this formation is called "the Submarine"

With the bike I finished early and was able to ride back and pack in good time.  The park is definitely worth seeing but I was ready to go back to civilisation and La Rioja was going to be the next destination.  The journey there was nothing special but La Rioja itself is a nice town centred around a typically Argentinan plaza.  I have arranged Couchsurfing here with Victoria, which was a really lucky as she lives in an apartment right in the centre next to the plaza on the 8th floor.  There are great views of Plaza the from her living room and right now I can hear a protest going on with fireworks somewhere nearby.  All in an average day in Argentina. 

Main Plaza in La Rioja

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