The next two stops were relatively uneventful, but still stunning for the views they offered. The sun was setting when we reached the end of the tour and began our way back, the great red mountain looming on us all the way to the base camp, and I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was some sort of magic in these rocks that went beyond links and bookmarks and was deeply tied to the Earth itself. More than anything, had it been possible, I would have asked to stop the car to throw my arms into the sands and touch the ground with my bare feet. Even through the lazy droning of the car engine, I could feel the life in this land where it rains less than a month in the whole year. Suddenly, unexpectedly, I prayed for the rain.
And the rain came.
It would be poetic to say that it was a grandiose storm like no other, but it was just a very light rain kiss that lasted the most of ten minutes right after we woke up. Still, our driver said it was pretty exceptional for this time of the year.
We said goodbye to San Augustin and its lake – artificial, but still a beautiful sight from our hotel – and set course for Talampaya.
Talampaya is in La Rioja, on the other half of the famous red mountain wall. Though much much vaster than Ischigualasto, the visitor tour only touches a minimal part of it, crossing through a canyon and back. The canyon was dug millennia ago by the river Tala which, just like the river on the other side, exists only for a very brief spell every year during the rain season.
After the great diversity of Ischigualasto, where every stop was almost a different planet, Talampaya could have seemed uniform and boring, but it had its hidden beauties and was still a grandiose sight for someone coming from good old Europe, where deep canyons like this one are sort of a rarity.
There are petroglyphs on the rocks of the canyon, relatively new for us of the old continent, but of tremendous relevance for the local anthropology. Oddly enough, it seems that a certain well-know underground restoration business had its hand on setting this site up; maybe they decided to study the glyphs in detail after the events of 2003, or maybe this is yet another hidden attempt to draw the Called back to D’ni.
Curiously enough, a spot in the middle of the canyon provides enough shade and water for a great variety of local flora to survive and flourish, so much that it was called the Botanical garden for its variety. Small birds made their nest there and, nearby, is also the great cut in the canyon wall called ‘the elevator’; cut the Great Shaft in two and bring one half to the surface, and that’s what it looks like. Another interesting rock formation is the so called ‘gothic cathedral’, a wall face of high pointed pillars with a path in its middle.
On the way back we saw some tourists riding through the canyon by bicycle. I wonder what wonders are hidden in the alternate routes, where normal tourists cannot go…
We left Talampaya in the afternoon. On the road to San Juan, our driver stopped to show us several panoramic stops, and a smaller park called El Chiflon where the guide showed us, and made us touch, arrow points used by the natives for hunting. Unthinkable where I come from but, once again, for most of the people here these are not yet archaeological artefacts but still just old stuff; the people that used these arrowheads are not ancestors from a distant forgotten past, but only a few pages away in the book of history.
(continues in next post)