February 2023- Argentina
Leaving the extreme mountain peaks for a bit, we headed into some vast flat regions. The highway was dull, but this little roadside stop offered some entertainment. As we pulled in we spotted these two foxes wrestling. We parked far enough away to watch without disturbing the two playful pals.
After fox watching for a while, we continued towards our next target. A veterinarian friend from northern Argentina gave us a highway guidebook. This is basically the same as an AAA book for Argentina. While Geneva was scanning the maps she spotted a marker for “arte rupestre” or rock art.
Since we had no schedule, we decided to go exploring to look for this possible hidden gem. It appeared on no other map, and we could not find any written information. So we measured the map distance, set the odometer and took off down a rough dirt road to hope for the best. The countdown ended at the meeting point of three canyons, one with a small stream and an old bridge. We found a place to park for the night to explore further.
We walked up two of the three canyons with binoculars and searched the high walls for signs of anything. Ravens, turkey buzzards and cows were all we confirmed. Returning to the truck location, we noticed a Gauchito Gil shrine tucked into the shrubs along the creek, next to the bridge.
Gaucho or Gauchito Gil is a legend, but perhaps a real person. He is thought of as a folklore saint. He is not recognized by the Catholic church, but is widely honored, praised and venerated by folks for his gaucho (cowboy) bravery and outlaw behaviors. His roadside shrines are always decorated in bright red and generally contain offerings of booze, cigarettes and other tokens while asking for his blessings. Nica and I found this one to be quite smelly and well stocked with gifts including beer, hard liquor, urine, cigarettes, lighters and even a roach.
A peaceful night fell over us as we slept with the sound of the stream bubbling under the old concrete bridge. The next morning we would walk across the bridge and explore the final canyon, hoping to spot the elusive mark we had noted on the guidebook map.
Binoculars in hand and hiking boots on, ready to climb up and examine the rock art, we left for our morning walk. We found a curious stake on the side of the trail, which made us examine the rock face above us, even more carefully. Can you see it there?
We scrambled up the steep, rocky hillside and the hint of rock art drew closer and closer. Then suddenly, there it was, true petroglyphs. As the sunlight changed, our angles changed and the dust in the air changed, each drawing took on a different dimension and depth. These photos barely show the extent of the arte rupestre that were carved into the high rim stone of this canyon wall.
We spent a long time looking at the designs, trying to impose our vocabulary and knowledge on what was depicted. We sat and looked across the canyon and down the long valley, imagining the people that left these messages. We found an animal nest and a small collection of artifacts inside the nooks and crannies. We left it all there for the next person to wonder about.
We scrambled, slid, hiked back down the hill and pointed towards the truck. It felt good to have found what we were hunting for. It was fun to be off the main highway and out in the canyons and hills enjoying the scenery. We walked back to the truck and packed up to head back to the paved road.