Saturday, 1 May 2010

More bitey things ...Scorpions, Spiders and Sdinosaurs...

Since our last update we seem to have spent a disproportionate amount of time encountering a variety of biting, stinging and generally horribly venomous creatures. This started in Mendoza where we had arranged to meet up with Ben&Sylvie, a French couple cycling around the world on recumbents, and where Sylvie and I (in yet another dog related incident) were attacked by what was supposed to be a pet dog. Unfortunately as it was significantly larger than the hair bobbled kitten-dogs of previous attacks, it was therefore able to do significantly more damage than a slight nip to the ankles, thankfully he was pulled off before it got too serious.

Meeting Ben&Sylvie was a slight change of plan, as we had thought we would take a bus all the way up to Salta with a view to avoiding another lengthy ride through the desert and pampa of Northern Argentina. However we then heard that the route although predominantly desert, was actually really beautiful, and so decided we would instead take a short(ish) bus ride to Mendoza and continue the ride from there. It was a very bizarre experience to be on a bus, covering kilometres without moving the legs at all!! We were actually rather sad not to be cycling it, and speeding through all that countryside without really getting to see it properly really highlighted how much better it is to be travelling by bike!

Mendoza is Argentinas most famous wine region, and we took some time over the Easter weekend to take a tour of some of the local bodegas around Maipu, before leaving for San Jaun on the Ruta 40.

San Jaun was memorable only for being the site of the most disastrous haircut since 1992 (the self inflicted undercut using a pair of pinking shears and a bic razor). It turns out that signing that you only want a tiny amount of hair trimmed off, whilst repeating 'solo un poco' can easily be misinterpreted as 'please cut off all of my hair and leave me looking like a bad 80's throwback'. All photos from now on will have the addition of my new hat.

From San Jaun we rode through increasingly harsh and arid desert, towards the town of Chilecito, via the UNESCO world heritage sites of Ischigualasto and Talampaya. These are national parks in which the prehistoric desert rock has been eroded by the wind to form amazing sculptures and towers, and where there have been some important fossil discoveries of dinosaurs. Ischigualasto is also know as the Valle de Luna, which is very apt as both sites have a distinct 'other world' type of feel to them; camping and walking around them feels like being on a film set for something set on the moon or Mars.
Camping in Talampaya as the sun went down and bathed the desert around us in red light, whilst the foxes prowled around us was quite a magical experience. (The enormous spider we found under the tent the following morning was less magical, especially after we found out that she was extremely venomous...although not as venomous as the second scorpion of the trip who we spotted as he made his way towards my toes, and who we understand would have made us quite ill if he'd chosen to sting!).

The poverty has been much more marked outside of the towns as we get further North, presumably in part due to the lack of water for agriculture, however we continue to experience great hospitality wherever we go, being invited to camp on peoples land, offered fruit and drinks as we cycle along, and the novelty of the recumbent bicycles attracting a huge amount of curiosity and interest wherever we go.

Below is a selection of photos from the Talampaya and Ischigualasto national parks.

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