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Geological Hijinks in Argentina

The first in a series of back posts that I'm working on, so this will spend a bit of time on the front page of my site, and then eventually a lightning bolt will strike the clock tower, just as my website hits 88 miles per hour and it will get transported back in time!

February 2010 found me headed down to Argentina for a month of exploring with my geology class. Many things were discovered down there, and not all of them were about rocks!


We flew from Colorado Springs to Dallas to Santiago and on into Córdoba before piling into as few cabs as possible, so that we could hopefully get a spanish speaker per car, but that didn't always happen. Then we pretty much took over a hostel before exploring the city and becoming dismayed that it was too late for lunch, but way, way too early for dinner. But we survived and started driving.


We had booked ahead with one campground that turned out to change how we booked and chose campgrounds in the future! It was nice and conveniently in the center of the town of Villa Carlos Paz, which also make it convenient for everyone and everything to wander through. Suffice to say it was a dump, but a rather memorable dump. One night someone had an asado for us with a crucified sheep over a trash fire (or at least I believe it was a sheep, it might have been a goat though). Whatever the meat was it was enough to convert one of our vegetarians back to the sane side of food. Later that night I discovered that unknown type of meat + several liters of beer + one kilogram of ice cream ? happy Alex stomach. Suffice to say I spent the night sitting on top of a dam trying to decide if it was safe to go to bed or if I would have to go running. We did manage to find some geology in the town as it was right on the Eastern edge of the Sierra Pampeanas.


We then found some pointy things and did some geology around them.


After a couple of days we headed up and over the Sierra Pampeanas Grandes and past Los Gigantes.



Yes, we did have an eight car caravan, and, yes. we were flogging small Chevy wagons with 5 people and gear in them over a mountain range. Three of the cars were filled with students from Purdue though, so it's not our fault.



Possibly my favorite roads of the trip, and I didn't get to drive.


Probably our best group photo from the trip.

Eventually we made it down, and we found one of Megan's seismic stations in Taupo Volcanic Field.


We pondered.


We walked.


We drove down a rather steep cliff and made hand motions trying to describe stuff when words failed us at Los Tunneles.


At this point we found ourselves at Talampaya National Park where we got the first official tour of the season which caused some vehicle extraction practice (not ours, but park vehicles). Here we found what was probably the strangest feature we found the entire trip.


I brought my mind to a saner place and took a ton of photos of a tree instead, but I'll be nice and only show one.


Tim and Hayden did some bouldering...


... while Eric was attacked by a sand monster.


Soon we found ourselves leaving the Purdue students and on our way through Jackal and San Jóse de Huaco. We found ourselves spending the night in a quiet little campsite (we were the only ones there) in a small little canyon. One of the dogs adopted Jennie and me.


The dog and one of his buddies spent the night sleeping in my vestibule which would have been fine any other night but this one for it was February 27th. And at 3:34 local time on February 27th Chile was hit by a magnitude 8.8 earthquake. I woke up to the dogs absolutely freaking out right next to my head. I was sleeping on a several inch thick pad, and I was tired enough that I didn't notice the shaking. Therefore, I stayed awake long enough to ascertain that neither of the dogs were coming into my tent with me (and wrecking my tent in the process), and I fell back asleep. I might not have managed that if I felt the shaking and knew what we were sleeping downstream of, but I should have known what the answer to one of those was.


Narrow canyons don't just exist on their own, they need some reason to be there. Usually that reason turns out to be a powerful river downcutting through resistant rock, or some other change in river dynamics. But, there was only a small creek running next to the campsite where there should have been much more water, so we should have realized that there was something holding the water back upstream. Something like a beat up old dam right on an old fault plane. Instead of that I'm going to show a picture of the dam intentionally draining.


A bit more traveling brought us to an monocline-ish feature, but the people who rode in might have been more interesting. They were part of a group riding motorcycles around the world, and they were about 8 years in at this point.


At this distraction I had a hard time regaining my focus and instead took a picture of my sandals that I wore everywhere. I did bring shoes on the trip but I didn't wear them enough, causing them to migrate down to the bottom of the pile of gear in the trunk and the heel support was crushed.


Then we found some curvy layers.


And finally a sign that even I could translate.


So we climbed it.


After a bit we ended in Rodeo which is the Argentinian windsurfing and kiteboarding capital due to a large lake that gets sustained high winds from large gently sloping headlands nearby.Unfortunately I didn't get to go kiting as it was the wrong season, and we just had to cook stuff.


Tom playing with one of his favorite things, fire.


After a night we wandered on down to Barreal where we spent several nights in cabins for the first time during the trip. During the days we did some more driving.


And some more hiking, where Dave might have gotten a girlfriend.


And then more lighting food on fire.

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We then wandered on down to Uspallata and then to Mendoza for a couple of nights. We were originally planning on a slightly different order, but we though it would be a good idea to get to Mendoza and make sure our flights were all set.  We would be flying though Santiago, and we had heard that the airport had significant damage! In the end I believe that we ended up going a day later than originally planned.

Anyways we headed back up the road towards Uspallata and along to Puente del Inca where I saw one of my favorite land vehicles.


And then we we hiked up Aconcagua.




Robert got his first good encounter with the topic of his thesis.


And Eric settled into his natural element.


Megan found something of interest too.


Most people started wandering down the hill, but I didn't leave before Tom showed up and tried to blend in with the natives.


And then for some of us, that was all she wrote.


At Santiago airport we found that there was significant structural damage to the international terminal, so they decided to place international flights in the domestic terminal and place the domestic flights in tents. But, we managed to make it back to the states all in one piece.