Andean condor, Caranday palm tree, Córdoba, Chamical (La Rioja), Deolinda Correa, La Difunta Correa, La Higuera (Córdoba), llanos riojanos, Mina Clavero (Córdoba), Quebrada del Condorito, Stony Brook, Valle de Punilla, Villa de Soto
Day 19 (February 26, 2014) The road between Mina Clavero and Alta Gracia in Córdoba goes through the beautiful Quebrada del Condorito (Valley of the Little Condor). I never thought much about the name until today when we had the chance to see the majestic Andean condor flying high above our bikes. But let me start from the beginning. It was cloudy and cold when we left Chamical this morning. It had been raining all night long and it looked like it could rain again. We moved fast through the plains of eastern La Rioja—an area known as los llanos Riojanos—into the Province of Córdoba. At Villa de Soto (Córdoba) we turned south onto route 15. A few kilometers from the town we stop at a Difunta Correa shrine placed under the shade of an algarrobo tree. The mythical Deolinda Correa died of thirst while looking for her sick husband who had been abandoned by his troops in the desert in the Province of San Juan. Deolinda was carrying her baby when she died. Miraculously, the baby survived by nursing from his deceased (difunta) mom and was rescued by gauchos. In shrines and altars throughout the country people leave bottles with water as votive offerings to calm Deolinda’s eternal thirst.
South of Deolinda’s shrine we stop in the town of La Higuera to take a look at the church. Right next to the church we were surprised to find a very interesting sign that said “Dios es como los piojos, está en todas partes pero prefiere a los pobres” (God is like lice, He is everywhere but prefers the poor”. I bet the priest who came out with the phrase—or at the very least authorized the sign—has a very good sense of humor.
Near the town of Taninga, south of Salsacate, we took a short detour into route 28 to look for hydra under the bridge over Arroyo Cachimayo (or Salado). After searching unsuccessfully for a good half and hour we continued south. Looking east from route 15 one can see the nearly perfect cone of Cerro Ciénaga (there are actually two peaks if one looks at the mountain from the south). The road goes through many patches of Caranday palm trees, a middle size tree with beautiful grayish palmate leaves.
We stop for gas at Mina Clavero before climbing up onto the Quebrada del Condorito. The road ascends in a series of long twists offering wonderful views of the valley below. The air got very cold quickly as we gained altitude. Once we reached the high plains at approximately 2,000 meters we saw the marvelous figures of three or four Andean condors gliding among the low, dark clouds. The Quebrada del Condorito National Park offers protection to the easternmost population of Andean condors in the world. Condors had nearly disappeared from this region until the government established a protection program and declared the Quebrada a national park.
As the road begun to come down into the plains of the Punilla Valley, the low clouds turned into a very heavy fog. We rode very carefully constantly warning each other through our intercoms about passing cars, road obstacles, and the condition of the asphalt. The fog cleared below 1,500 meters and we had a pleasant ride down into the city of Córdoba. We are staying with my old friends Sylvia and Hector. The three of us lived together in Stony Brook, NY, when I was in graduate school. We shared a passion for good music, good food, and leftist politics. It is always amazing to rediscover how much we have in common when we come together after the long periods of separation between visits.