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South America » Argentina
February 12th 2006
Published: February 13th 2006
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Once more off into the great unknown…north Argentina and the crossing on freshly graded ripio, the worst sort, but speccy views. ….and another couple of terminally challenged bicyclists making their way to nowhere…..but they waved.
It is soo like parts of northern and central Oz, red hills, gravely soil, scrubby brush and beautiful gums, the view this morning of the range out west of Villa Union, framed by a couple of big gums, could have been a piece of Uluru or somewhere in the Macdonnel Ranges!

The road from Cordoba to Villa Union was an uninspiring 500 plus kms with only a few patches of curvery to make it bearable. Vast valleys, miles and miles wide, gravely, rocky red dirt and occasionally a ridge of ranges that had to be negotiated.
And along the way several patches of mega white butterfly plagues, really thick, like clouds of them, v disconcerting, have to stop and clean the visor every 100kms.
Into Parque Nacional Unpronounceable and its twin parque, Indecipherable. Quite a different geology here altogether with strange looking hills of melting mud that form artistic designs, just couldn’t get the camera out there. Off to the west a mega mountain range, off to the east another.

Villa Union (it won’t be on the mapa) is a small town in a famous (?) wine growing area altho’ I didn’t see any grapes, I did sample the local fresh rotgut and it was! But, it so happened that this was the first night of a 3 day binge for the grape pickers…perfecto timing again!…fireworks, endless speeches, folkloric music and dancing…we sat at a table on the pavement and drank beer with a couple of Argentino guys, one with 800 Suzuki DR and his mate on a Viagra. Some of the local chicas on a mission for god or against drugs or something got us a neckerchief each..dinky souvenir and handy for me as the brasiliano one is wearing thin.

Then off again, more ripio, and more and more spectacularly changing geology, geography, colours, shapes and textures...enough to blow the mind and ever alongside the raging rivers, up narrow gorges, across the flats, winding into and out of the mountains...endlessly fantastic..

ODD THOUGHTS - from back in Cordoba

Cordoba does not have a lot happening. Lots of churches, 21 just around the downtown area and most several hundred years
After the RainAfter the RainAfter the Rain

On the road
old. What a waste. Lots of other old buildings, an architecture student’s dream. One cool thing, in front of the more elaborate buildings, an outline in marble is inserted into the cobblestones. One or two are angled at 30 degrees for a fantastic perspective view. I’m still trying to get up high enough to get a photo.

In the cafÈ on the little park, actually it’s a plazita, I watch life go by. The far end of the plaza is the high wall of an old church. Huge stones and a conglomerate of smaller rocks and pebbles are visible after several hundred years have eroded the binding agents away. There are several big trees and some couples catching shade, on the benches an odd selection of all ages, one hippy strumming his guitar, trying to get a rasta rhythm going. There’s a bored chica of maybe 18 years who tends the magazine-and-crap stall. She is stretching, checking her outfit, sitting, standing, walking around, lights another cigarette, checks herself again, I don’t see anyone buy anything in 2 hours! Should I go over and buy a paper? make her day, make her an offer? make my day.

Lots of
Self portrait thru the BugsSelf portrait thru the BugsSelf portrait thru the Bugs

On the road butterfly plague
women with their daughters and many of the daughters with babies, in fact, lots and lots of babies and pregnant women, something in the water? (and no contraception!)
But many family groups, nice to see, but always difficult to tell just who is with whom,, several women and men ranging in ages from 6 to 60, which is the wife, the husband, the child?

I was watching a guy trying to park a big, old, americano pick-up with a fibreglass canopy camper back. He finally, and patiently, got it into the curb and gets out. From the other side a woman with baby and 2 children jump out, that was a squeeze. Then he goes to the back and opens the door, its packed with mattresses, camping gear, bags and suitcases and the usual beach/camping//travel junk. Then the rest of the family emerge from this pack, two more adult women, two teenage boys and a small girl!

The plazita is mainly grassed with bench seats along the symmetric gravel paths leading to a mighty statue and fountain construction topped by the impressive figure of Cabrera, in full conquistador outfit and astride his massive steed.

Behind the statue,
Me near SaltaMe near SaltaMe near Salta

On the road
by the church wall, an old derro is fumbling with his fly, the effect of the cascading fountain is overwhelming but his lack of co-ordination doesn’t auger well.

Many dogs as usual altho’ not as many as some other Argentino cities. One little scruff seems to live close to here and is constantly ducking in amongst the tables and just as constantly getting hustled out by the mozos. He’s all white (well, if he was washed!) except for a patch of black that hangs over one ear and half his face like a splotch of paint has dropped on him. He sprints around, scrawny little balls bouncing around like the fluffy dice on the rear view mirror, tail wagging like all his birthdays have come at once, big grin on his face…unusual to be moving that quickly for daytime, but it is getting later and a big storm is brewing, I can feel the rain coming on a change of wind, quite a relief after many days of dry, still, muggy, 35 plus degree days. A family group at the corner table are nervously watching scruffy as they have a tiny toy poodle-looking thing on a leash, attracting way too much attention from him, the 16 year old boy gets up to scare scruff off but isn’t game to go to close, the waiter is trying to have a bit both ways, the customers are customers but I reckon that scruff is a local and he gently eases him out the gate.

Several dozen pigeons are watching me from the low iron fence that divides the cafÈ from the plazita and every few minutes one will brave up and flap forward half a metre to the table…eyeing me off, calculating the distances, my arm, the bowl of nuts, the odds, is he a humanitarian, will he whack me?….my foot slides off the chair with a clatter and the problem is solved, humans 1, pigeons nil..

Later, at the restaurant in the Ritz Hotel, shades of faded glory! Probably the best part of 100 years old with some rennos in the last 20 it still has many of the features from its heydays, beautiful carved woodwork, wooden panelled ceiling, some carved, some intricate lattice work, sand-blasted glass with the ever-stylish name and logo from the 30’s. I ask directions to the bano and head off, as is often the case it’s a labyrinthine quest. But insightful.

Close to our hotel, The Quetzal, the street is dirty, dry and deserted most of the time, several equally unremarkable hotels and little hole-in-the-wall cafes fit between closed up shops and non-descript buildings of unknown business. In the little cafes the locals drink the day away until they can’t recognise each other, then play drunken seduction games and go off into the night together!

More rain tonight!

Well, if you got this far you may well be wondering just whats going on?..I am...but this is being sent from Chile actually as we just got into San Pedro de Atacamar, last night, the last night in Argentina, at 2300metres, then over the top, wait til next blog!, 4500m or do then down here, after the snow!!, yes, >I kid you not, wait for it manaña...

And this internet is soo quick I´ve been able to updump lots of pix from the past few days...weeks...whatever...Oh, and I forgot to tell you about the Quilmes Ruinas...and the time...
Check more pix and the español version at


Additional photos below
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Bugs on the bikeBugs on the bike
Bugs on the bike

On the road butterfly plague
Woman at the wellWoman at the well
Woman at the well

On the road
Bit of StrayaBit of Straya
Bit of Straya

On the road
The road upThe road up
The road up

On the road
The road up2The road up2
The road up2

On the road
The road up3The road up3
The road up3

On the road
We came from thereWe came from there
We came from there

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Bill and SaltBill and Salt
Bill and Salt

On the road
Lots WivesLots Wives
Lots Wives

On the road at the salt lake

On the road
Local Wildlife1Local Wildlife1
Local Wildlife1

On the road

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