Sometimes while travelling you have to step away from the planned itinerary and go with the flow. While staying at Hotel Club Mendoza, we were offered an opportunity to go on a road trip to San Juan… a place hadn’t heard of but was the next province to Mendoza.
Our ears pricked up at the sound of a Road Trip and then when we realised it was to a valley that looks like the moon…we were sold! Our now new friends, arranged the rental car and the next day we were off!
From Mendoza we took the scenic route of Route 40 and had incredible views of the Andes for the whole journey. We saw a sign for a campsite by the side of the mountains and this served as the perfect location for a pit stop. Picnic benches, sandwiches and fruit with two friendly dogs! It was siesta time so we didn’t get in trouble for quickly using there seating area for an hour. This is where we discovered that avocado serves as a great replacement for butter on bread!
As we approached Ischigualasto Provincial Park we encountered tunnels through the mountains and bridges in places you can’t imagine how they built them in the first place. Picturesque views all the way that make the long journey so worth it. On the journey we saw foxes, lamas, a condor and hares. The condor by far was the most impressive, with a gigantic wing span when it flew away. Unfortunately, this was before we could grab a picture.
Ischigualasto Provincial Park (meaning where the moon rests) tells an incredible story of what has happened on Planet Earth. They offer a hop in and out car tour whereby you jump in your cars, follow the guide and jump out at many stops along the way for an explanation. Unfortunately the tour is in Spanish, so we were fortunate to be with friends who could translate. This was a 3 hour tour for 400 ARG (£10.50 approx) each.
The Valley of the Moon (Valle de la Luna) is one of the most important paleontological sites in the world. I literally felt like Ross from Friends… he would definitely have been in his element. What once was a lake with vegetation, animals and plants prospering, is now a desert with little rain and extreme temperatures. The clay formations have been named according to what they resemble such as The Mushroom, The Submarine, The Spinx and so on. My favourite part of the valley was the ‘Bowling Field’ of polished spheres. There is still no clear explanation as to how they were formed.
Where we Stayed
As the journey is approx 6 hours we stayed overnight in San Jose de Jachal and got up early the next day to be able to do the 3 hour tour without being tired. We stayed at Hostal La Casona and the owner was extremely hospitable and was happy to allow our friends to cook and eat with us, even though they were camping elsewhere.
In San Jose de Jachal we wanted to catch the sunset, so we headed up to a viewing point near Camping El Vivero and came across an Open Theatre with a guitar stage! Since our discovery I have been unable to find the name of this place or anymore information on it apart from it’s map co-ordinates (-30.218628, -68.772283). This was rather surreal in the middle of nowhere with no people in sight. The sky lit up red as the sun began to set and the views changed from minute to minute. I taught our friends the phrase ‘Red sky at night, shepherd’s delight… Red sky in the morning, shepherds warning’.
The Return Journey
This road trip wasn’t all singing and dancing. We couldn’t possibly had a weekend away without nothing going wrong now could we! Well it was going so well until 10pm, about an hour away from Mendoza when we were stopped by the police. The police do random stop checks of cars, checking ID, licenses and insurance details and we didn’t think much off it until… the insurance document in the folder was for the wrong year! The car, our bags and jackets were searched and we patiently waited in the car for what felt like forever while our friend tried to resolve the issue.
Usually, in this situation your car would be seized, you would be fined and you would be getting the bus home. Fortunately, our confused faces and lack of Spanish scored some sympathy points. After a conversation with the rental car company the police accepted a Whatsapp picture of the insurance documents. Phew!
All part of the adventure ey!
Thank you to Franco for your company, driving skills and cool as a cucumber nature in a stressful situation. Zoe, thank you for your French Cooking skills and your fantastic ‘woop-woops!
Go the Distance without getting into bother,