We need to change our plans because it turns out that two places that we want to see require more time than we thought. I’m talking about La Talampaya national park and Valles des Lunes – the moon valley. It’s not a problem for us and we’re very happy to spend one day not driving the car. We wake up in perfect moods, drink coffee and eat 2 little croissants each. Then, we hop into our car and drive through route 76 towards La Rioja.
These places are located ‘next to’ Ruta 44. We start with the further one which is located 120 kilometres from where we are. We drive through flat, asphalt road with mountain ranges on both sides and a flatland between them. After one and a half hours we reach the gates of the park. The whole circle is 40 km long and the trip lasts 3 hours. We wonder why does it take so long – probably the road is bad. But there’s already a queue of cars with people willing to give it a try forming next to us and soon a guide comes and invites our group. Fortunately there’s a small shop where we buy some more empanadas – the duration of the trip came to us as a bit of a surprise – we weren’t prepared for such a long stay.
20 minutes pass, the lady tells us to go and we start our trip. After less than 10 minutes, we stop for the first time. Before us, there’s a huge rock charmingly called ‘Tombre de Soro’. The group gathers around it and the lady starts talking about the rock. The story must be interesting but unfortunately it’s in Spanish. Ania and Amelka are having lunch in the car so I get the opportunity to walk around the rocks and happily take advantage of it. At this point, I don’t find anything that we haven’t seen yet so I wonder what is this all about. What’s so cool here?
Okay, let’s move to the second station. The landscape changes from yellowish-red to a whiter one. We drive down and find ourselves between rocks of various sizes and some rock furrows. Then we move a little bit higher and see the actual valley. It looks like from a good sci-fi movie.
We stop here for a while and I try to comprehend what I’m seeing. After the first rock which was a bit disappointing I start to understand where the name of the valley comes from. There are rocks everywhere. Red ones from Talampaya national park in the distance and beneath us – various rocks, dens and hills all in moon colours. I guess that if I were to imagine how our satellite looks like, apart from the darkness, it might as well look like here.
Happy that we’re not wasting time after all, I get inside the car and we proceed to the third station. It doesn’t look particularly interesting, but after a closer look, I see a path leading deeper. The group is busy listening to the guide who still refuses to speak (however sketchy) English. I go deeper on my own then. I walk 500 metres or so, I even look behind me to check if I haven’t got lost or if the cars are still there. It’s a pity that you have to stay with the group. But what can you do? I find a place with rocks on the ground that are perfectly oval – like alien eggs. :) They match the place – it’s a moon valley after all. The rocks get their shape thanks to very low ground temperatures (-15)
We slowly approach the great finale. I get the feeling that the red rocks that we keep passing on the road are avoided on purpose in order to save them for the last stop. Before we see them, we drive to ‘Submarine’. Red rock with two sort of… poles. It makes for an interesting image. As you can see, the name doesn’t come from nowhere as it really resembles a submarine.
I take some pictures and we proceed to the last station – we approach a passage of red rocks. When we arrive, it all looks absolutely cosmic. Furrows on some of them, the shapes and the background make me quickly understand why is the place called ‘Valle de la Lune’. Quite a thing. The guide finally lets us drive on our own. For the last 20 kilometres we can do whatever we want.
Most of the route goes by the red wall which in some places turns into the second, more cosmic part.