Excursions into the Valley


You need to set aside a whole day for the excursion-it’s 330 km away and the roads are not great. Your best bet is to join an excursion which has to be reserved beforehand.Take sun block, hat, sunglasses and plenty of water. The tour groups tend to leave at the crack of dawn and stop off on the way at the shrine of the Difunta Correa, one of the marvelous local hybrid legends which blends gaucho superstition with Catholic miracle working. Basically, the wife of one of the soldiers fighting in one of Argentina’s many civil wars in the 19th century set out to meet him with her new-born baby, but fell ill on the way and perished of thirst. A gaucho found the body and the baby still suckling at her breast, which was at once pronounced a miracle. Ever since then, people have brought votive offerings to her sanctuary in the shape of bottles filled with water to allay her thirst. It really is the mother of all shrines: a huge mountain of offerings, bottles of all shapes and sizes and signs which tell heart-breaking stories of despair. The souvenirs are something else too -think Lourdes. Local delicacies sold here include patay, very dry biscuits made from ground carob seeds (which taste like sawdust), and arrope syrup, also from the carob tree, which is extremely sweet.

On the way back from the Valley of the Moon, the tour will probably stop off at Valle Fertil for tea. If you have time, get out here and spend the night at the Hotel Valle Fertil which overlooks a large lake surrounded by steep mountains, known as the Sierra Pampeana. It’s a charming little mountain village with some great walks and horseback rides. You can also hire a jeep for some off-road trips into the mountains. It’s best to call the Hotel beforehand and organize horses or a jeep ahead of your arrival to make the most of it. Then next day, catch the next trip returning to San Juan from the Valley of the Moon.

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