Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Argentina's Rio Grande - tres and last post

Further tales and pics from our Grande trip, but first a bit of a rant/promo for doing international river trips....

Doing an international raft expedition is - compared to doing them in the US - a fairly refreshing endeavor in that there are very few rules.  In the intermountain west and southwest US each river has a veritable - ahem - "raft" of rules that need to be followed closely, and it can be a dizzying process to keep track of them all.  Simply applying for the lottery takes management since there are so many different systems, and most need to be applied for by January 31st.   If you are trying to get on something unusually good like the Selway or the Grand Canyon, well, expect to join the thousands of others who are disappointed annually.  If you have the good fortune of actually being one of the chosen few, then you gotta read up on the specific river regs.  The "Grand Canyon NoncommercialRiver Trip Regulations" is 35 pages long!  And in case not every one of your 16 participants has read each page the rangers love to hold you at the put in for a couple of hours while they go over all of the river rules.  On several rivers your camps are assigned, which takes away a lot of the beautiful spontaneity that is provided by the rhythms of the river. And if your trip leader takes any compensation for the big task of setting up a river expedition for 16-25 people, may God have mercy upon your soul after you face the NPS's wrath over that transgression!

But in South America and other farther-flung places....Go any time you wanna go (and there’s enough/not too much water)!  Fires any time!  And burn your trash in the fire!  Camp at whatever beach suits your fancy! (no one has ever camped at any of the beaches, so you don't need to negotiate with any other groups!).   Do whatever hike you want, when you want to! The “groover” is a hole in the ground, and the contents are not hauled down the river for 2 weeks quietly generating a methane bomb.  And  - an important one for me, since I have a hard time hitting my mouth squarely when I eat - crumbs on the ground from your sandwich that become micro-trash that would otherwise attract mice on the Grand Canyon?  In Argentina, if the wind doesn't blow them away the birds will eat them, or…they are just bread crumbs on a random beach. 

The reason that the rules exist is because trips like the Grand Canyon and the Middle Fork Salmon are getting loved to death and would - literally - be shit shows without these rules, but it is refreshing to get out of the Land Of The Free with its myriad of rules and simply do river trips in a bit more of a "raw", unmanufactured manner.  

And indeed, the Rio Grande is pretty raw.  There are literally no trees along the entire river (aside from tamarisk; apparently South America got beset with those as well!) but that doesn't mean that there's no life; as mentioned earlier, theres a wide array of super-prickly, thorny plants, and the bird population that the river supports is crazy. In addition to the aforementioned condors, we saw lots of different raptors (some of which loved to dive bomb the soaring condors), a huge array of waterfowl including big ol' swans (are those waterfowl?), 

I saw a torrent duck:

 eddy hop through a class 4 rapid just for fun.

There were plenty of Ibises (Ibi?)
and small flocks of screeching parrots blasting around.

But the main flying creature that we were concerned about were the Tabanos, which is Spanish for Horsefly. 
I woulda called them more of a deerfly, but regardless, these sneaky bastards were able to land on your skin gently enough that you couldn't feel them, and they seemed to sort of revel in the moment before rearing up and diving into your skin with jaws of steel.

 Their blood lust usually cost them their lives when we'd yelp and smack them, but they died happy knowing that another chunk was removed from a human.  

The remainder of the river was generally class 2-3, the water and the air temp were both pleasantly warm, the hikes were interesting, and the food and socializing continued to be top notch.  One memorable hike was at an inconspicuous spot that Lucho had remembered as being good for "fossiles".  After about 20 minutes of walking we got onto the lower slopes of some hills and realized that literally every rock we were walking on had fossils embedded in them:

Or were fossils themselves:

And Rocky remembered a nice little hike up another relatively inconspicuous wash:
that got damper and wetter 'til we finally met a nice little waterfall:
Ralph appreciating some clear water
And we got into some other canyons that were surprisingly reminiscent of Utah:
This canyon came complete with a native savage....

Ash and Rocky in southern red rock sandstone

Ash found a rock she desperately wanted to save from falling down completely....
we celebrated Christmas in the desert:

Mike realized that he -sigh - found another toy that he absolutely has to have:

And even the great global raft and kayak expeditioneer Rocky Contos thought the pack raft was pretty fun:
After getting shut down on flying two hardshell boats down south and missing out on a raft held in customs, a pack raft that fits in the overhead bin sounds pretty appealing.....
Some other random pics:
Daniela and Antonela are a couple of great local paddlers who joined us on the 2nd half of the trip, and Daniela was able to wear the Birthday Tutu

The Line Of The Trip, by Ken:  "There seems to be a lot more action at the nude beach where the girls paddled over to for bathing than here at the Scrabble game at camp!"

a great thing about being down south this time of year is fresh fruit!  we ate a lot of cherries....
and bananas, and melons, and apples, and oranges, and apricots....

it wasn't so dry that amphibians couldn't make it happen...
A coupla wannabe Bohemian Gringos

A bridge over the river seems like it'd be a bit of a challenge when all the slats are hanging vertically.  Those Argentinians must be nimble! 
I've got a good rant about "water shoes" (and sandals) that will eventually become a blawg post.  Here's Blair finally giving up on a well-loved pair
And speaking of well-loved pairs, Ash went with her tactic of bringing some pretty hammered things on the trip as somewhat disposable; here are her long undies:
Usually it wasn't her arm that was showing through.....
And their unceremonious demise:

Of course, all good trips must come to an end, and once again our trusty bus showed us to drag us kicking and screaming into civilization:

and no trip is complete without a flat tire:
We actually fixed it at the home of our Chivo Chef, and we got to meet some of our meal's compatriots in the living form:
And in his yard he actually had a pair of Salomon SpeedCrosses that they hung up as a nest:
As I mentioned in the first post, the most important part of any trip is the people, and we were blessed to have such a great crew.  Many thanks to Blair, Kate, Ralph, Andy, Sara, Fico, Ken, Pedro, Rocky, Barbara, Anto, Daniela, Lucho, Mike, and Elise for all contributing to a fabulous trip, and of course to Ash for going ahead and turning 50 and having the idea and motivation to initiate a great adventure! 

Also thanks to Rocky, Kate, Blair, Elise, and Andy and Sara for "contributing" (ie me poaching without consent!) some of the fun pics in these three posts.....

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