Thursday, 3 July 2014

Ischigualasto & Talampaya, Argentina: National Parks and the French Invasion

I arrived in San Juan and wondered around looking for a hostel without luck. Luckily there was no shortage of cafes with WiFi. My plan was to only spend one night here to sort out Ischigualasto (Valle de la Luna/Moon Valley) and Talampaya national parks. This somehow turned into 3.

My few days involved meeting back up with a friend from Cordoba, Euginia, exploring the city, eating an asado and drinking wine with Argentineans. One night I was sitting in the common room talking to a friend on the internet when 12 Argentineans surrounded me and started drinking... They got me drunk and drove me to a night club... I missed my 7.30am bus by many hours.

I finally arrived in Valle Fertil, a tiny town and the closest town to Valle de la Luna. There were 5 other backpackers on the bus with me, all French and we were the only backpackers in the town.That night we cooked a top quality 3kg steak.

That's what a 3kg steak looks like.

The next day I won a 1 litre bottle of beer for nailing the score of the French match in the world cup.

We were soon of to Valle de la Luna just in time to see the second half of Argentina beating Switzerland 1-0 in overtime. Ischigualasto N.P. (Moon Valley) is one of the most important dinosaur research areas in the world... but I went there for the stunning landscapes. 

All visitors have to drive in a convoy, stopping at all the same places with limited freedom. It is still quite spectacular.

That night we had another asado with 3.5kg of premium rib fillet steaks and some french specialities... My French was slowly coming back (I was actually getting bored of all conversation being in a language I don't understand).

The next day we were off to Talampaya N.P. where we found 3 more French to join the group bringing the total to 8 French. Then an old man came up to me and asked if I speak English (he couldn't speak Spanish and needed help), he turned out to be French so I directed him to any of the other 8 people standing next to me... Then 2 girls start walking up the track so we start betting on their nationalities. 2 more Frenchies... surprise surprise. So 1 Aussie and 11 French.

One of the new French girls was actually very cool and I think keen to escape Frenchies as well so we stuck together on the tour finally allowing me to speak English. The park was actually very impressive but again you have to stick with the official company, this time in a bus... no freedom to explore.

At the end of the day we stood on the side of the highway waiting for a bus. I went to La Rioja where I bought a ticket to Tucuman. Shortly after buying my ticket 3 Argentineans in 3 separate conversations warned me that Tucuman was dangerous and I had to be very careful... This was the first time an Argentinean has ever told me a city/town was dangerous and for it to happen 3 times while I was waiting got me quite worried.

Next stop Tucuman... where the fight for South American Independence from Spain all began many years ago.

Lessons Learnt:

I miss conversations in languages that I understand (how did I survive in France for 3 months?).
These are two truly non-touristic and impressive parks... but only French backpackers and locals go there. 
Argentina has the best meat in the world in terms of price and quality (sorry Australia).
I don't love all Frenchies.

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