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ARGENTINA  23/9 - 8/10 2003  


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 Diary      Sights      Cacti

 From Diary 1, the tour continues with more cacti and adventures.
29.9. I get up up just before six. We have a long drive today, and Willy will have an early start. The breakfast is, as elsewhere in Argentina: Disappointing! Here we get a tough, and some dry buns. Only after part of the negotiating, we get something to lubricate the buns. It looks completely like grease but tastes a little sweeter. Further more, the coffee is good, in most places, here it tastes like - nothing. The black "lorries" that were sitting outside the hotel manages to fly, before I made the picture. They just become a series of strokes. Cardboard boxes are stocked in the very large amounts from the local kiosk. Reminiscent of the Nordic Cactus Society's trip to Germany and the Netherlands - apart from, we now take the plants from nature and save 50,000 kroner.
At nine, we stop in a small town to buy fresh bread and hoard several cardboard boxes. These are some small and sleepy cities we come through. On the other hand, nature has nothing much to offer, but great views.

Further northwest on through one of the countless valleys, which are over 100 kilometers wide. The yellow mountains along the sides are almost naked, the plain in between is covered with man-made scrub. In the haze behind the mountains even higher peaks can be seen. Most birds seemed to be birds of prey. Everything from small falcons to big vultures. Looks like a single huge gray road runner, or something like that, the size of a goose. A short photo break in London, which consists of 10-15 cottages and a church. Next stop is a larger city, with three grocers and a gas station. We buy in for lunch and hurry on. First stop to see cacti is first half past twelve.

Stop 3.1. We stop at an almost dry river, and climb up a steep mountain wall. Here, five very different cacti grow between the bushes. The surrounding nature is amazing. Yellow high mountains, sparsely planted plain and river. A few orbiting vultures complete the picture. The bushes are totally dusty, but if you touch them, clouds of dust will ermerge.
We cross the other side of the road and walk a little along the remains of the river. On a steeply erect cliff, we find some new little cacti. They are only a few centimeters in diameter and with short white towers. I spot a slightly bigger with orange thorns, way up, and crawl with my fingers up to it. Make a photo and crawls down and asks for a name. The same!
Back in the bus, we start lunch while we continue on the bad road. In many places, the road has been washed away, or just has not been paved. The next hundred or two, are completely free of asphalt. In some places, we cross the river - in the water. In fact, I have only seen a few bridges, compared to how many times we've crossed rivers. We pick up a couple of ladies in a small village, and they get a lift to the next, 60-kilometer bumpy dirt road.

 There are high mountains on the sides, but the bottom is far from even. There are gravel banks, several hundred meters high, spread with generous hand. There are sand or dust dunes in many places, and some shrubs are massive of sand. The bushes are most similar to brooms, and some are covered with bright yellow flowers. In some riverbeds, we pass archaeological sites. It looks like a part of the river bed enclosed by a plastic band. On the other hand, it would be a wonder, if the clay houses they are building now, would last five years without maintenance.

New Stop 3.2. On a rocky slope, almost without vegetation, some cacti, under bushes and almost underground, hide. We have also seen it elsewhere, where it is almost a thorny slab in level with the ground. The ladies are waiting for us, but of course no others have passed. The big mountains behind the smaller ones have started to have large areas of snow. We are at 1665 meters altitude, and it is actually a long time since I have seen a tree. At large intervals, we pass a small collection of houses, no more than 10-15. I figure out why it's called cassa: it's nothing but boxes! We set off the ladies, and start hurling ourselves up the mountain. Willy spots a large yellow flower in one of the tall cacti. It should just be white.

Stop 3.3. Quickly searches the area and finds five different cacti. Another, somewhat smaller flowers, with the right color. Watching some woodpeckers and some big quail with top, as death despicable throws themself across the road. In many places, there are a bunch of dwarfs marcaus and squawk, if there is water nearby. We have been driving on bad dirt roads almost all day, and the speed never reaches over 30 kilometers per hour. I really hope Willy thought we should drive a lot, not far!

Be abruptly awakened, Stop 3.4. Large slope with foot-big stones and small crippled thorn bushes - and three species of cacti. I also find some cool grasses and some kind of succulents before we continues. We are reaching a bigger city. The houses are mainly made of unburned clay stones, which have been plastered and painted - once within the last 50 years. There are no houses with high roofs, if it is to be posh, there is ornamental facade. Beyond the trees and the cultivated areas, there is nothing green. Judging by the river beds, when the water finally arrives, it really floods in large quantities.
There are donkeys and horses in all driveways, and vines in the backyard. The children get off from school, even though it is almost six. They all have white robes in addition to plain clothes, in all sizes. Flowering pepper bushes are lit around the front gardens, lighting up. I've come to the time, where I would trade one of the daily cactus stops for a daily cup of good coffee. Do not understand, the citizens of one of the best coffee countries I have been to, skip something so important, yes, almost essential, life.

We make a short photo break at the Tucuaman Province Archaeological Museum. It is absolutely indescribable! Natural stone mosaics, huge wrought iron stitches, cacti. But it have just closed. We drive around the corner and jump out. Stop 3.5. Some new ones, including a giant one I find, that shouldn't be there. Apparently, that group doesn't know. The biggest is bigger than a football, with beautiful red thorns being lit by the last beams of the sun. We are at a height of 1900 meters and it will probably get cold at night. Even the big column cacti have got their hair on! The Quilmes ruins are right on the road, so we see them at dusk. And yes, they are called the same as the national beer. As written, its colors are bright blue and white, the same as the flag. Very big city, with half walls. A large maze winds up from the mountain. Either it is incredibly well restored, or it is recently abandoned. The walls are made of shards, some places with patterns. Elsewhere, the natural cliff is built in.

We just reach a peak at the top, before darkness closes around us. It might have been exciting to get some history and data, but not on this tour. As we drive in the dark, Zorro regularly crosses the road. Several donkeys are good-naturedly pulling out the shoulder, while black bikes suicidal stay out of the way. We arrive at a beautiful hotel, in the middle of a larger city, at nine. We have to eat right away, which suits me just fine. Big room with lots of people and a guy standing and moaning, as he beats loose on a poor guitar. To the great pleasure of the others, I order a cup of coffee for the food. Shit, it's definitely worth it. We don't order food, it just comes just like usual stuffed stuff, followed by a huge wienerschnitzel with a little salad and tomato.
I eat fast, so I might be lucky to find an internet connection. Could imagine Rikke would be happy to hear from me. Spends two hours reading three mails from her, and writing two new ones for her. Have the feeling we are 20 sharing an error-prone 56 kilo modem on an 86s stuffed with useless programs running in the background. A little past midnight I have to leave, if I don't have to start yelling at the computer. There are also only six hours to get up.

30.9. I could sleep more after five and a half hours, but we must get going. The breakfast consists of two dry buns. We have not yet been anywhere, where they have bothered to put a plate for "breakfast". The sun has just hit the highest peaks, as we crawl up the bus. They work hard with tape and cardboard boxes, and not least: Where to get them. The overturned waste barrel further down the street is often visited. Cardboard and large water bottles are on high demand. We have sleeps out to the traditional square, which is in almost every city, even the smallest. Small paths, surrounded by lawns, trees and benches, maybe a playground. Here are some speakers sitting around and some lady singing, it could sound better! On the other side of the square, people are comming out of the church that has been full, and it's Tuesday! It's not much above freezing, but even in the sun's first beams, there is heat.

Already at eight o'clock, we stop to botanize. Stop 4.1. A new species that has seeds, and then I find a group of plants that we should not have seen at all on the trip. Some really small ugly looking ones. First we head up a steep and very loose slope of fist-sized rocks. I gather some seeds for the elderly, who do not like the slope. It doesn’t bother me to take a simple fruit from each plant, but so should be everything. After that, we hunt on the plain, on the other side of the road. I also find some one meter high bushes, which are either figs or jatrophas. They have no leaves, so I can't tell. There is a small group of trees and they are overgrown with mistletoe. Although the trees are leafless, the mistletoe has a few - provocative!

We drive a bit backwards, passing large flocks of dwarf macaus again. They are amazingly great when flying. What I previously thought was ground squirrel actually looks more like guinea pigs. Don't they really come from here? Turns off by a huge Finka, which produces wine. After the vineyards come white sand hills, which migrate. A little strange with a perfect beach at 1450 meters altitude. Stops to photograph some rock formations taken straight out of the E. Cayote and the Roadrunner. Insanely good looking! Various shades from yellow over red to black, and figures, grinded by the wind. We drive through this insanely beautiful landscape for many kilometres, which is a great motif every second! Formations and colors endlessly, but all the time very varied. I could use 1000 films here! It only turns into 20 pictures, my camera doesn't like to shoot and photograph at the same time, and we only stop once. After a few hours, we are out of this amazing nature experience and the camera smokes back smoking in its case. I am really looking forward to seeing these photos!

At a couple of viewing points, the locals had some llamas so the tourists can be photographed. These are both the first llamas and tourists we have seen. I blunder off for half an hour and then we are in agricultural land with newly sown fields and trees in between. The lucerne is really nice and the wheat is good. In fact, it looks like Denmark in May. We drive through an idyllic town, and come to a large lake, Cabra Corral, where water sports are cultivated later in the year. Looks absolutely wrong when just past horse-drawn field implements. A large red-headed woodpicker sits right on the road. It is large!

Stop 4.2. Here are two new cacti, but we only see one, on a gravel slope down to the lake. Maybe there weren't that many of the other? Afterwards we get lunch! The one shop by the lake is open, and learned from experience, I grab three hamburgers. I even managed to make myself a cup of coffee. The burgers are good: a slice of beef, cheese, bacon, fried eggs, lettuce and tomato. And then they had not come in onions at all, by themselves! In the middle of the shop stands a soccer game - in cast iron! Nevertheless, it has been repaired. They really have to step up the game.

There is spring in the air; the wind is cold, but the sun is warming a lot. We completely overthrow the elderly shop-keeper couple's day. They run around and look confused. Wondering what to do when a real bus arrives? It is completely messed up, despite the fact that the wife wrote it up when we ordered. Reminds me of the times we've had René with at the barbecue bar. He has never paid for anything: there has been confusion.

We are now in the northwestern province: Provincia de Jujuy, which also includes part of the Andes. Feels a bit like Mike O Shern: the hat, the go-to bravado and an enthusiastic team behind me, the Latin name, and the GPS coordinates with me from home. We follow the banks of the huge artificial lake. The road is carved into the mountains, and in many places loose rocks are on the road. The mountains themselves are very different. Some are green, others are red, black or yellow. In some places, you can see petrified seabed with waves and all. In many places they are covered with a very thin layer of bare shrubs.

We stop elsewhere along the shore. Stop 4.3. There is just room to squeeze the bus off the road, but here it is absolutely no traffic. Here are the caudiciforms! Jatropha microcarpa and one closely related, with long thin thorns as well as six to seven different cacti in a narrow, deep and steep gorge. Jatropha microcarpa flowers, but no leaves yet. A one-meter plant get home to Buenos Airos. I have to have one of the thorny Jatrophas. I probably shouldn't, but I don't recall any Jatrophas on the conservation lists, and I'm the only one who found the group with them (and I don't tell). Finds a small one of five centimeters.

Suddenly it is past four, and we are in a bigger city whose inhabitants are all dark and most have Native American features. Since the last stop we have driven through roughly agricultural land that is irrigated. Now the mountains are moving together and they are big, but still green on the bottom. There are even trees here, but further up they are covered with yellow grass. We squeeze into a narrow valley whose entire bottom can turn into a large river. We cling to the steep side. On the other hand, the railway runs up from the lime mine. A large truck comes rushing past, crazy fast, the countless sharp curves of the road. We stop to make a photo of a rusty iron bridge and the stunning valley. Looks like a few new cacti that we will return to. Here, everything is covered by a several millimeters thick dust layer. A little further on, we find another cactus. That is, it is small by one of the really big ones.

Stop 4.4. It will be a short stop except for one who does not reach the bus until a large truck arrives. Visibility is below one meter for several minutes. Stop 4.5. is a little further ahead. Here are five or six different cacti, one of which there is only one of, and I don't get to photograph it, before it is dug up. I have actually seen one before, at a photo stop, and we drive back to it. The sun has gone down, except on the highest peaks. We are at 2075 meters altitude and it is getting cold quickly. We have to go all the way back through the valley, off the excellent dirt road. There are about 50 kilometers, which takes almost two hours.

The road back is equally fascinating. The rock formations, the high altitudes with huge cacti, the meandering streams of the river at the bottom and the blurred contours of the distant peaks. Some black and fairly large hummingbirds swarm around the yellow bushes, otherwise there is not much wildlife to see. We stop where I first found a small cactus. Fortunately, it turns out they are here so everyone gets one - except me. Wonder if they got it eliminated somewhere else? The hunt is abruptly interrupted as a road-train passes down the mountain. We come out on the good road and the next thing I see, is a big city: Salta, which even has an airport. It does not, however, hinder horse carriages in the streets. Many neon signs, stuffed sidewalks, intense traffic, and it's close to nine. There is also a beer called Salta.

We throw the bags, and drive out and eat. Up to the central square, where several of the well-maintained buildings are well lit. Centrally located is the cathedral, which squeezes a few "strokes" half-past ten. It doesn't hit them; it's electronic -ridiculous! The car washer looks a bit startled, as we throw our seven meter elevated bus backwards into a sloping parking lot. When we later come by, he crawls around on some trash cans, and washes it. We exchange money, make calls, but there is no time for internet - bummer! Dinner at a pizzari where we share one of each. The dessert in an ice cream parlor, I skip. There are some cool and very well maintained old American cars around the square. Have seen many, especially pickups, but not well maintained! I actually had a hope of finding an internet, when we got back to the hotel, but the others seem to have a good time. It is no use finding one here - neither have they a good time!
Great: Now I fugure out we are having such a good time, because Willy has gone to an internet cafe! Well, all in all, a great day: Lunch with coffee, caudiciforms and adventurous mountain views.

10.1. The nights are short in Argentina! Well then, there are some really good seats in the bus. They are good bowl-shaped, so you don't slip down, when you lean it all the way back and so you have support under your thighs. The headrest fits perfectly in height and width. I can sit and sleep for a few hours without getting the slightest sore in my neck, and I can sit there all day, without getting sore behind. Really wanted to be awesome in airplanes! The others see news, but there is never anything about Denmark. All they can remember is the murder of the two Swedish politicians (yes, Palme was the one!).

The bus gets an inside overhaul, it has become incredibly dusty and dirty. Willy seems abandoned; we are halfway and the bus is almost filled with stuffed cardboard boxes. I suggest we start getting rid of the passengers, the ones with the most boxes first. I get bad nerves from driving in the cities. It does not seem like there is a special conscience in the smaller junctions, you just go. 90% of the cyclists ride on the left-hand side of the lanes on the boulevards, and also a little on the narrower roads, where there are oncoming tracks. And so virtually all streets are unidirectional, even in smaller cities. We gas; the diesel costs 3.25 Kr, the cheap gasoline is 85 octane to 3.90 and the expensive 4.40 Kr. Not very cheap, considering the other prices. For example, I give 11.50 for two rolls of biscuits and two liters of water.

In between, we run into a checkpoint. The driver has a folder they look in, and we have filled in a list of ourselves. Smiling and friendly police officers. They were supposed to be after stolen cars.
We drive up through a narrow valley of a single track and winding road. Here is dry, but totally overgrown with grass and trees. Even the trees are overgrown with epiphytes, such as ferns and bromeliads. At 1500 meters altitude, we reach a dense forest on some almost vertical mountain sides. The large trees are covered in overgrowths, some of which are huge pink bromeliad flowers. There are also epiphytic cacti that are pencil thin, hang from the trees. The road clings to the mountainside and consists solely of hairpin turns. A small deer leaps into the thickets, and small birds flock to the undergrowth. The valley becomes wider and there is a little grazing and a large artificial lake with ducks. Then we get to a bigger city, and better road. The mountains are far away, but you can glimpse some snow at the highest. The fields are worked diligently, it looks like they hatch beets, but it's probably something else. Many trees flowers, some yellow, some lilac and others bright red.

Suddenly we are in a really big city with high-rise buildings and all. Here, we pick up a new guide on the central square and find out about the city again. We work our way up and down, through grassy but scorched mountains, with an almost dry river at the bottom. At 2000 meters altitude, we turn off in the small town of Vulcan. We walk down a narrow path between a steep gravel bank and a swamp. There are cows and grasses in the swamp, and goats on the slope.

Stop 5.1. An old lady has been out collecting fires, and is walking towards us as she chew coca leaves. The mountain opposite us is bright pink, in contrast to the swampy green fertility. The cows have a sleeping place where the fertilizer is high, but there are absolutely no flies. We are looking for two specific cacti, one we find quickly and the other we find best Mike O'Shern style; just before we're back on the bus. Fortunately, it grows so high, we are only two who can get up there. He takes some fruits and a single shot, I; a lot of photos before we crawl / step / fall / tumble and skate down.

It's already one o'clock, and we're back, turning a little to the right. Stop 5.2. Here is an extreme slate slope where a newly discovered species grows: Blossfeldia liliputana. Incredibly small, without thorns, it sits in between the vertical slates. Next stop is a small village where all the townhouses are made of sun-dried clay. Incredibly idyllic. Many of the gates, doors and benches are made of cactus wood. In the square, a collection of souvenir stalls testify to the arrival of tourists. Here are silver works, pottery, flutes, woodwork and a lot of knitted and woven. Nice and colorful stuff, but my suitcase is full. If they had caudiciforms though ...

We buy some bread and bananas at the local country store, I also get a caramel back instead of changes. We sit in the square, in the shade, and relax. I even find a cup of excellent coffee. It's funny where the traders get confused when, as the last of our company, I don't speak Spanish. I still haven't learned a single new word. All around the village, high mountains tower. Some are naked, others have a fine layer of grass or shrubs. It doesn't seem like it's raining much; the roofs are almost flat, made of spotted cacti-wood, covered with ten centimeters of clay and thatch. All the streets are a mixture of clay and gravel. Solid when dry, but ...
I find a "teacup" with filter straw for Rikke. It's called a Mate, and the straw is a Bombilla . It is exclusively to drink Yerba off. Yerba is a plant that is grown and used as tea in the surrounding countries and some Arab countries. The container is a calabash, painted black. Top and bottom are lined with ornate "silver" added a little "gold" and the ornate straw is of "silver" and "gold". Might have found it cheaper in Buenos Aires, but it's more fun now.

We leave the village by a small road behind the cemetery. Here are two small red mountains in front of a giant black. Stop 5.3. We (again) find the world's largest Gymnocalycium saglionis, and a new species, with extremely long thorns. It is of course called longispina (Lobivia). The sun is really strong, I have got red hand backs in no time, but we are also high up, and it stands vertically down from a cloudless sky. Well I have my hat! I get relaxed, but a little work is still needed. If I’m not quick, the rare cacti others find, are dug up when I arrive. I make photos with two cameras; an APS for the travel description and a digital for the website. In addition to writing a journal on a regular basis, logs must also be kept of what plants we see and where. It's not something you come to sleep to. (But I now fall asleep in between).

We drive out through a very dry valley. The cliffs on one side of the road are worn by millennials of rain, and resemble countless towers in a fantasy city. The only "trees" here are pillar cacti. No wonder they are used in the house-building, and everywhere else you usually use wood. The boards are very punched, some very coarse stockings. A construction that allows them to swell during the rainy season. Incidentally, it only rains three months a year, which rains so constantly. Not very user friendly! Could be fun to watch when everything sprouted. I thought we were on the trip right now, because the cacti were blooming so we could photograph it. We are here now because it is the best to replant.

We again encounter a political demonstration. Rocks and branches block the road for half an hour, and then you can continue. We were lucky last, and came when they opened. We drive back a hundred yards, holding in the shade of a vertical mountain wall. We cross the southern turning circle for ... uh, Capricorn? and are now in the tropics.
It looks pretty dry, but white clouds are coming ahead. We are up to 2975 meters altitude. On a ridge we get into a dust storm. In some places, visibility is gone. Here, the large pillar cacti are much more furry than down further. In flatter areas they completely dominate. The engine, on the other hand, has gotten too hot, so we make a little break.

Stop 5.4. Then you might as well botanize. It turns out to be a good idea; here are several new ones. We swing beyond some huge flat hills, with only 30 centimeters of planting. You can see hundreds of kilometres, and that's your landscape as far as the eye can see. Each hill is five kilometers in diameter. We pass a huge herd of sheep that the shepherd watches for. And then, in the middle of absolutely nothing, comes a bus. It looks like a motif from a Fellini or Monty Phyton movie! Then a village pops up. It is wedged between two hills and the remains of a river meander through it. We drive through the village and across the river. The desiccated bottom is white of salt crystals. Don't quite know why, but we'll turn around and drive back through the city and the hills. I thought they were similar to Mongolia, just waiting to see a bunch of Cossacks come galloping.

We stop in a hairpin turn and walk up a north-facing hill. Stop 5.5. Here are some really cool cacti. One is half a meter high, and very hairy: White hairs and thick red thorns. Another looks like a large group of green fingertips. I also find some small white flowers in the ground surface, maybe some kind of hyachinth?. As we get back in the bus, our local guide has dug one up for me. The bulb is seven centimeters down, and the leaves are coming, along with the rain. It is brought back home, as it is now removed from nature anyway. It is seven o'clock, the sun disappears between the highest peaks, and the temperature drops rapidly to fleese level. We are at 3425 meters altitude, and I actually get a little breathless from racing uphill.

We pause a bit to make a photo of a new, even more hairy cactus. Stop 5.6. Here are also four old known ones, but we hurry on, in the last daylight. On the roadside stands one of the usual warning signs, just with a llama. They actually show up a little later. Black and speckled, so it must be domesticated animals. The landscape continues (I guess) until nine o'clock, where we land in a small town: La Quiaca in Los Valles. Seems very primitive, but the hotel is fine. There is even a small gas stove in the room.
The menu is simple: Cow or chicken with salad or ferrets. I have clearly slept far too little during the day; I'm completely done. Willy thinks we can find an internet, so it's probably getting late. Waiting a minor eternity on a tender slice cow of about 400 grams. Even later come the French fries, which are significantly more French than fried! The dessert is coca tea - yes, there is tea on coca leaves. It looks incredibly thin and tastes like green tea - horrible! But what not to do, to stay awake so that I can write with Rikke. Sit on the net for half an hour, reasonably good connection, but then have to drop 1.10 Kr!

10.2. The intensity of the expedition leaves clear traces in the participants' faces - we look like a bunch of wrecks! I am by no means the one with the biggest bags under my eyes, andthen; it's bad. Willy is not on the peak, he always suffers from altitude sickness when he is here. It is near the freezing point of the morning, the little birds sitting at the tops of the trees, to get the first rays of the sun. The price for living 3775 meters up. We take a small dirt road out of town, through low, yellow grass. There is no life to see, neither animals nor humans. It still looks like Mongolia, just bigger!

The Bolivian-border river appears, deep down between the hills. After a good hour on an overgrown washboard, we come to Stop 6.1. All the rocks around here are sandstone, most standing up. Here's another brand new (2001): Yavia cryptocarpa. There are also two others we have not seen before. Then we drive back where we came from. On the way we pass a bunch of llamas. We stop briefly somewhere else to photograph the flower in the large furry column cactus. Here are also some Rebutia pygmaea, one centimeter in diameter.

Back in town, we buy lunch at the general store. I pay 3 Kr for a flat round bread and two large, thick slices of ham. The city's most modern building is the gas station. Traditionally dressed women walk through it, and three black pigs rest in the ground behind it.

We drive out into the countryside again, and get through the historic city; Yavi. Behind it we find Stop 6.2. which lies on a flat hill with fist sized round stones on fine sandy bottom. Here are two new cacti, both underground. We find some of the ones that have long thouned, which (as the only ones) protrude above the ground. Only three are found from the other species. There are some other cacti, but we have seen them before. There are a few bugs flying around, including some noisy guys, who may be chicadas. It's been a really long time since I've seen reptiles. Here is perhaps too dry when no dew falls?

We will return to the city, which is not very small. I ask Willy what the heck are they living off? There are a few sheep shepherds, or there is two-way smuggling with Bolivia. There were small 100 meters from the country store to the border, I now know. I thought it was a square I could see at the end of the street. Then we turn our noses towards Buenos Airos again, just off a slightly different route. First, though, we drive through the enormous soft hills. Thinking about how good they must be in the rainy season, when they are completely green with new grass. You just can't get here at that time of year, as the roads are flooded or washed away. Today we see quite a few smaller llama flocks and a single large one.

In the late afternoon, it will be cloudy and the temperature will drop a lot. Again, we pass some huge arches in the rock, the altitude is 3780 meters and there are 1860 kilometers to Buenos Aires. We stop in a small tourist trap, where the others find souvinieres and I a cup of coffee. Sitting and watching an old, nice version of Zorro, very funny, as it could have actually been going on here. I can't find a little thing for myself, but it usually is a problem. I had thought about a small cactus figure, but they are not made small. Maybe a carving of cactus tree? The streets of the city are paved, the houses of clay, some with a thin layer of mortar. The streets are steep and narrow. Here are sold knitwear, sheep's hats, flutes, pottery, "silver" jewelry, cacti in pots, coca leaves, feeds, knitted and felt hats, paintings, large blankets and woven bags.

I find one out of twenty merchants who knew little English. Spanish-speaking tourists are the most common. It always takes a while before they understand, I don't understand. We cross the lobster / crayfish / unicorn or whatever it is for a turnaround, and then are out of the tropics. I still haven't used half of my wardrobe for warm weather. In courage, the hot part has been reasonably used. After all, there is not a fair chance to wash clothes in the evening - if it should be just about dry in the morning.
The last many times I've traveled, I've had one or two pairs of socks - without using them. For unexplained reason, I took everything I had with this time, and it was good. They are full of thorns and prickly seeds in the evening. The heavy pants have become very dusty, but the skinny ones are both too cold, and provide too little protection in the everlasting thunderstorm we cram through. Never mind, the others also have a relaxed relationship with the press folder.

We swing by in Pucara de Tilcara, which is a large Native American village, from the old days. Here is also a cacti garden, with some of what we have seen, plus a few new ones. Unfortunately, they are closing as we arrive at six, so it will be just a quick walk through the garden, and a photo of the city. Everywhere we come, where there are people, there are also many dogs. It varies from purebred tombs to totally unidentifiable ones. Generally, they are well-maintained and nourished. Looking for the second time a seagull in one of the almost desiccated rivers. Looks really out of place here! It's getting dark, when we reach San S. de Jujuy just over eight. Say goodbye to the guide who jumps off with his cardboard boxes and finds the hotel. Repack a bit, count clean stockings (there are enough), and then out to eat. We have come down from the heights, here is too hot for the flees jacket, even in the evening. Quite strange!

We enter a nice restaurant and get the menu. A two-course menu costs between 11 and 15 kroner. If you need to bring a bottle of wine, you have to pay 10 Kr. It seems grotesque, as the surroundings and people resemble those at home. I get two of the usual puff pastry buns, stuffed with spicy dads. The main course is two large pieces, totally tender, cooked beef with mashed potatoes and gravy with peas in. The others sit and talk for an eternity after eating - in Spanish, of course. And then it's possibly about cacti, which I don't know one about. It may also be something else, it has been shown long since I heard a Latin name. Sitting and listening: I really have no idea what it is about. Surely it would be better to learn Spanish through the natural method if people spoke with me. Finally we get the bill: Nine two courses, four desserts, two bottles of wine, eight half water and three sodas: 215 kroner. I find an internet cafe and get to write with Rikke. There is also an email from a resceacher, who will use one of my photos in a book (Yes, I'm a little proud!).

10.3. It's lucky they have shoe polishers here in Argentina; the black shoes I wear every day are just beginning to get a little cramped. Then I just had to get the bags under my eyes ... Really nice hotel, nice bathroom but they just didn't fit in a restaurant. I'm up first, and when I go out, the receptionist gives me a little plastic card that gives the right to morning coffee on the gas station opposite. I just have to wait a few minutes before they open at seven.

I find an Argentina map for 45 kroner and when the driver shows up, he is get to plot our route. Then I just need Willy to plot the stops we've had. We drive through a landscape that could almost be Danish, and the weather is also familiar: Cloudy, slightly hazy. The road is similar to a regular Danish motorway, there is just no center car guard in the wide V-shaped middle. Their signage is quite excellent, even far out in the countryside.
I have been looking at Willy a little over his shoulder; it seems Argentina is partially mapped as far as cacti are concerned. The different places we have been, have Site No's and a list of what to find there. No wonder we have had a hard time finding some of them, they are simply extinct from that particular area. Then one must only hope they exist elsewhere and remain undetected until the Argentines get a little more respect. Some of the places we have been, there have been clear holes, and discarded plants that have just been lying and dying, with the roots exposed. Some of the cacti that have been taken on this trip are extremely difficult to just keep alive, and certainly won't survive. That's really the back of the medal on this trip. Some simply use this data list to shop for, and I'm on a shopping trip.

In the middle of the morning, we swing in on a large road gas station and get coffee! We must have unbelievably good time! By the way, a cup of coffee is expensive in Argentina, compared to a meal of hot food: 4.50 Kr, dinner was 11.00 for two dishes! The landscape is changing, agriculture is disappearing in favor of high scrub with individual trees. Very reminiscent of parts of Kenya: Green tree crowns and sweaty bottom. We stay with a small farmer and get some guidance. Missing GPS info?

We stop at something very similar to a dry, Danish deciduous forest. Stop 7.1. Here's an Opuntia and two epiphytic cacti. I also get some; a big tick has stabbed me, just above my knee. Decide, after a short thought, not to keep it. I tell Willy about it, and after a very small moment we stop in the road side. I find 19 little ticks on myself and the others got their share. They are almost impossible to mash between two nails. Still, I could feel them scribbling around on me ... A large screw of vultures appeared on the horizon, and pastures came again. In a field, a lot of cows with newborn calves are found. In the middle of the field is a completely peeled skeleton where the ribs are still attached. Seems macabre, but is very natural. Here are many yellowing corn fields, it looks like barley. The fields are large and very flat. It looks like pretty good soil, but here is dry. In some places you can look along the rows and there are far in between.

In Spanish, you ask for Baños when to go to the bathroom. It really means bath. Now we drive through the city of Los Baños. Not sure I would have a mailing address here! It wasn't entirely wrong I noticed something scary, grabbing just five more ticks, as I have nothing else to do. Could have been very nice now to have pants and sweater off. It's really fun where you keep getting smarter. When I was a kid, I had to suckle burned or salted off. Now they just need to get rid of a nail, so they don't burb-up half-digested blood. Ticks no longer need to be suffocated with fat or oil, so you get the nibble, they just need to get off quickly so that their gut-flora doesn't penetrate the blood vessels and cause nerve-destroying infection. Then you can always dig out the trunk later.

Not much else happens until we cross the border into the province of Malvinales. A brief review of the driver's papers and we roll again. It is one o'clock and the sun is gently breaking out. Now we have to pay for roads again, it has been free for a long time. Like Denmark, Argentina is part of the international association for the proliferation of hazardous overtones. On this two-lane road, like so many others, passenger cars must drive 110, buses 90 and trucks 80. Of course, some of the 50-year-old, overloaded Mercedes trucks would have a hard time getting up and down again from 110 , yet...
An hour later, it is a somewhat more humid climate. The big trees are overgrown with huge bromeliads and other growths, and there are orchards, such as citrus. The grass is green and there are many brightly colored flowers. Unfortunately, the air has also become humid, here is cloudy and hazy. Half past three there will also be time for coffee. When I wrote I wanted to trade a cactus-stop with coffee a day, I meant ONE! Even having more coffee breaks than cactus stops is just as legal. Stalls with fresh strawberries pop up on the roadside, for  3.30 Kr a kilo. I thought the seasons are pretty confusing here. Maybe they are partly controlled by the sun, the altitude and the rain, and it is a big country.

Here is becoming more subtropical, now there are sugar cane plantations. There are also closer between the palm trees and the streams that are water in. Large groups of huge bamboo look a bit strange here. There are some black clouds hanging on the horizon, just hope they stay there. Some large tarantulas cross the road where we come through a forest. Then comes some cautious wind tears. Suddenly we are in the rainforest. Incredibly beautiful with the haze between the trees and the rushing river that runs along the road. It winds as wild as the river, and we work our way upwards. We reach the clouds, 900 meters above sea level. With some luck, here's more clear tomorrow as we roll back down. We come to Fin del Monde; End of the world.

Then we break through the clouds, the landscape becomes a bit drier ´ala Danish deciduous forest, and there is cacti. We reach the top and it is a large grassland that could well use a little water. We are now at 1800 meters altitude. A little passed five, there will be time again for coffee, and a photo of a fantastic view over a valley. A flock of ducks come flying, and the farmer riding his donkey.
  We enter a national park, and around a corner is a very large lake, obviously artificial. It doesn't seem like it's for power extraction, just water reservoir. There is little settlement; Mollar. Seems to be a summer-vacation town. Now here seems pretty dead. We come to a Tafi settlement, which has been inhabited from the year 0 to 900. The only thing to see is some thin building blocks, 40 centimeters in diameter and up to four meters high. Some of them with a readily recognizable thickening on tops, and a small hole at the top.

We are still crawling upwards. Now here are low overgrown rocks and conifers. If it wasn't for the llamas, it could be Sweden. Over 2,500 meters there are just short, downcast, yellow grass on some huge soft hills with sandstone beneath. We are again in "Mongolia". Stop 7.2. provides two new cacti, and a wild climb up an almost vertical gravel slope. There is even more gold and the hills are steeper. We come to a slope, covered with body-sized stones. Stop 7.3. Here are many different things, including some giant barrel cacti. The stones are really beautiful. The vast majority resemble sandblasted wood, some being pink quartz. There are not two stones that are the same, they come from far away and have been well mixed. The sky between the nearest mountain peaks is lightened by lightning, darkness falls and we list.
We are at 2635 meters and it is quickly getting cold. We find the city where we need to sleep, at eight o'clock, we just can't find the hotel. Willy ends up calling it, and then we are guided. A network of small, winding, poorly kept dirt roads leads to something resembling an insanely handsome rich man's house, which is almost completed. We are convinced we are the first guests. There is still no electric light installed at the reception. We put on our tired driver, and walk a few kilometres down town to find dinner. On the way, we pass in a watering hole where there are various frogs forming a massive chorus. We find a small cozy restaurant that has goat and chicken on the grill. I try goats with ferrets. Unfortunately, it is carved into cubes, with legs. It can destroy every animal.
We get to plot our map, so it show where we have seen what. I also get the time to remove a few more ticks.

The tour continues in Diary 3

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