Argentinian Adventure–The Road to Wine Country


Late on a Monday morning, Gaston’s parents and I headed toward Cafayate, a relatively small town at the edge of the sierra which grows some of the best wine grapes in the world.  It is a long drive through incredibly varied landscapes.

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One of the first towns we drive through is Jesus Maria.  As in many Argentianian cities, trees line many streets.  Here acequias provide water for the trees.

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Except where cleared for farming–giant soybean and corn fields, much of the land through which we drove looks like this.

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Taken as we sped along, this photo show soybeans in the distance.  Since it seemed relatively dry here, I asked if they were irrigated.  Gaston’s father told me no, that they had developed a type of soybeans that require much less water.

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When I first saw this out my window, I thought maybe water, but no, this was the beginning of miles and miles of salt.

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Another photo taken looking through my window.

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And then we speed into the cloud forest. I was astonished my whole time here.  I had to idea there was such a thing in Argentina.

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We climbed higher and higher and stopped at a visitor’s area where displays explained the flora and fauna which live here.

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This area is a subtropical jungle.

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Often we drove through clouds or along the side of rushing mountain rivers. And then as suddenly as we arrived in these mountains, we were on the other side where it was dry.  The selva–jungle–stopped almost as suddenly as it began.  One side of the mountains lush and green with ocelots, all sorts of other wildlife, and on the other semi-arid country, equally beautiful but so astonishingly different only a few miles away.

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Costa Rica Adventure, Day Three–Part One


After lunch at the National Theatre we headed to Monteverde, a small town with only one unpaved road in and out.  One big change since I was there three years ago is the road.  It has been widened considerably and apparently plans to pave it are in the works.  The original reason for not paving was to prevent hoards of tourists from invading.  Apparently, that failed; tourists came anyway.

This town’s origination grew out of Costa Rica’s decision to disband its military in 1948, a practice which continues today.  Quakers from Canada moved here for that reason and created Monteverde, now famous for its cheese and, of course, the nearby Cloud Forest.  The hotel, where I have now stayed twice, El Establo, is owned in part by Quakers and serves a favorite of mine, fried cheese.

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Nine buildings up and down the mountain house rooms.  Previously, I stayed in one of the lower buildings; this time we were near the top way above this lake.

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The views from all the rooms provide a vista all the way to Nocoya Bay.  After we put luggage in our rooms, we headed out for a night walk in the forest, the reason we had been instructed to bring flashlights on the tour.  We saw spiders, birds sleeping, a mouse, all sorts of insects, but nothing too exciting.  Probably some of the group members were too scared and too noisy.

The next day breakfast occurred at 7 just before we took off for the Cloud Forest and a hike to the Continental Divide–all six miles or so.  I had hiked here before but on a different trail and in a huge downpour.  Luckily, it rained only a little.  However, if you are in the clouds, you get wet.

Lush does not even begin to describe the Cloud Forest, a huge reserve with numerous indigenous species of everything from hummingbirds to insects to all sort of plants that exist nowhere else on earth.

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Every tree, branch, every living things is covered with other living things.  This must be botanist heaven.

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Looking up into the branches of a tree fern.  Yes, that is a fern. So much to see, it is hard to keep up with the guide, a native Quaker whose father was one of the founders of Monteverde.

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It is difficult to know what photos to take; everything holds some kind of fascination and lots of beauty.

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Another tree fern right by the trail.

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In the clouds at the Continental Divide it’s incredibly windy yet the clouds stay and you get wetter and wetter even though it is not raining.  Water dripped off my slicker, the trail oozed mud and water, it was hard to keep my footing on slopes.

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On the way back we crossed several streams.  Everywhere in Costa Rica signs in both Spanish and English instruct people to save water.  They made me chuckle.  Streams run everywhere in much of the country, especially on the Caribbean side.  Here I live in a semi-arid environment where I see wasted water running down streets in town and in Costa Rica they conserve water and recycle things I did not even know were recyclable.  Hotels provide recycling bins and some even turn off lights automatically when you are not in the room.

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The name for this flower translates from Spanish as hot lips.

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This looks like a tree but it is not.  A giant, parasitic fig plant surrounded the tree, eventually killed it, and this is the result.

After we finished the hike, we walked over to a shop that feeds hummingbirds, hundreds of species of which live in Costa Rica, many only in the Cloud Forest. Took a video of them, but it refuses to upload here.  Some were incredibly iridescent and much larger than any I had ever previously seen.