Tuesday, June 30, 2015

More fossils and birds

Our next to last day in El Califate, we took another day trip to look at fossils.  This was another package tour, catchily named the Bosque Petrificado (Petrified forest), which picked us up at our hotel and took us to an estancia where we were going to do a guided walk and look at petrified wood.  The estancia, near the river Leona, was on Lago Viedma between El Califate and El Chalten, so we went north on highway 40 this time.

Our guide was super-knowledgeable so we learned a ton about geology. We first stopped in a road-side cafe to pick up some folks from El Chalten that were part of the guided tour.  Then we went off road, past cattle gates, and onto bumpy estancia roads.  Through lots of scrub to get to a lime-stone moonscape:

This land had been part of a pre-historic river delta in the times before the continents all split apart, and over time the sandstone was uncovered and eroded.  In places, there were more durable layers that protected under-layers from erosion.  Today, most of the movement of this land occurs over a week or so of the spring melt.  There is very little precipitation here, and almost all of it is snow.  In the first spring melt, it turns into running water and forms the washed-looking eroded cap for the year. 

While we walked around the circuit with the guide, listening to explanations, the kids explored the hills and listened a little.

There were several examples of dinosaur bones, but the coolest fossils were trees.  There were lots of parts of petrified trunks.

We ate lunch out of the sun in some sandstone eroded caves, walked out of the valley and up to the van for the ride home.

Our last day in El Califate was a half-day, as we flew out in the afternoon to Bariloche, so we went for a walk in a bird preserve outside downtown on the shores of Lago Argentina.  It's a couple of a kilometer circuit, and it's incredibly different from the desert-moon-like landscape we'd seen on the steppe the day before on the fossil walk.

This is shows a colony of flamencos.  We stayed on boardwalks and clearly-signed paths, which didn't get very close to where the flamencos were in the lake.  But we did see a ton of birds.  All of this at the outlet of a creek into the lake, a fragile lake-side marshy ecosystem that supports tons of bird life.

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