Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Petroglyphs at Yerbas Buenas.


We spent this morning seeing and learning about the petroglyphs at Yerbas Buenas which turned out to be a very large outcrop of rocks.

Our day began at 8a when we stood outside the front gate of our hostal, waiting to be picked up.  I saw the van approaching us and a very familiar face behind the wheel - it was Pato!  This time it was woman who came to greet us.  She introduced herself as Sophie.  As she spoke to us, I detected a strong French accent.


We made the usual round to pick up the rest of the members of the tour group before Sophie launched in to giving us information on the ancient history of the region and in specific, about the petroglyphs at Yerbas Buenas.  Bro and I felt a bit sorry for her because she had to say everything in three different languages - French, Spanish and English as that was the linguistic makeup of the group.  She definitely loves to speak so at times, her explanation seemed to go on forever.   It was information overload for me so at times, I just concentrated on the landscape whizzing by my window.  Unlike yesterday, we are at a much lower elevation today.  The land was flat and arid and a bit boring to look at.  I miss the tufts of colorful yellow grass from yesterday.


Occasionally, we drove past a roadside memorial.  Reminded me of the ones we saw alongside the roads in Greece.
  

Instead of tufts of yellow grass, we saw clusters of low growing cactus.  I wonder what creature eats these?


We arrived at a small structure that housed an office, toilet facilities and a covered space that held a couple of large picnic tables.  Presumably, tour groups come here for a meal.



As the others used the facilities, I walked around and took a few photos.  I was fascinated by the cacti.  Taking a closer look at them, I realized some of the mounds were created by new cacti growing atop ones that had died.  In some ways, the plant is creating its own soil!




We all followed Sophie as she led us to a massive rock outcrop.  Small signs posted the way. 


We had to do a bit of clamoring up and down rocks and although I am not very sure footed, I was by no means the worse today.  There were two young Brazilian women, that I'm guessing were in their 30's.  They were both overweight and they had more challenges getting up and down the rocks than I did!


The petroglyphs at Yerbas Buenss were created by the Atacameno people and date back approximately 10,000 years.  The path led us past one petroglyph after another.  Most were stylized images of animals; the carving below represents a jaguar.


Some of the petroglyphs were easy to make out and others needed the help of a modern day sign which proved invaluable for someone like me who struggles to imagine any image.  You know those times when someone points up to a cloud and proclaims it looks like this, that or the other?  Well, I can look up at that very same cloud and see.....a cloud.

Seeing the monkey petroglyph made me wonder what the landscape of the region was 10,000 years ago.  Were there monkeys living here back then?


One of the most unusual petroglypghs is this one of a double headed animal.  One head looks like it belongs to a mammal and the other to a bird.   Was the artist trying to convey some sort of a message or was he/she just hallucinating??






Here's the sign.


Here's Sophie imitating the sign? :-)



Petroglyphs are rock carvings.  At Yerbas Buenas, we saw some painted petroglyphs.


The amazing thing about the Atacama Desert is just how different the landscape is depending on which part of the region you're in.  This is a view I would not have seen yesterday in the altiplano!



Sophie wanted to show us cactus fruit which Bro and I are very familiar with after eating a ton of it in Brazil.  We know it by its Mexican name - tuna.  The cactus was super thorny and Sophie had a bit of a challenge cutting off the fruit but with patience, she won out and anyone who was interested in trying some got a small piece. 



Sophie led us to what she described as the market place where animals were corralled pending sale....at least that's what I vaguely remember her saying.         


La Cueva

Not surprisngly, there were lots of petroglyphs that looked like llamas though of course, they could've been vicuñas or guanacos.



It was interesting just to stand back and look at the outcropping of rock. Typically, you expect to see a solid boulder but this one was full of crevices, holes, nooks and crannies.  I'm curious how it was formed.


From the rock outcrop, we followed a path to another section of rock wall to see more petroglyphs.  Hard to believe but there are more than 1,000 petroglyphs at Yerbas Buenas.



This section of wall had carvings of people and either images of daily life or ceremonies.


If you can make out this petroglyph, the explanation is provided in the photo that follows.




We spent about an hour walking around to see the petroglyphs.


After that, we headed back to the building.  Our van and Pato was nowhere in sight.  Apparently, he was on a scouting mission.  From Yerbas Buenas, we were suppose to head over to nearby Valle Arcoiris (Rainbow Valley) but word had gotten out that recent storms had washed out the roads making them impassable at certain points.  Pato had gone off to assess the road conditions. When he returned, he delivered the bad news.  There was no way that we could get there so we had no choice but to go back to San Pedro.  Sophie advised all of us to discuss the situation with our respective tour agencies to see about getting a refund.  Very disappointing but we had no other choice.

On the way back to town, we came across a herd of llama.  After seeing so many vicuña, it was interesting to see their domesticated cousins.  Llamas are definitely larger physically and they have a much thicker coat.  Unlike vicuñas, llamas have multicolored coats and in colors other than off white and camel.



Right after we spotted the llamas, we came upon guanacos.  They look just like vicuñas except they have a black face.  I am really enjoying seeing all the wildlife and appreciate the fact that they exist in large enough numbers that they are not rare sightings.  According to one of our fellow tour mates, we'll get to see even more animals when we're in Patagonia and we'll be able to get even closer to them.  I'm very much looking forward to that.



Back in San Pedro, we got dropped off at the same parking lot just a short distance from town. Leaving San Pedro this morning, I had noticed a small row of restaurants just stone's throw from the parking lot.  The restaurants are located just outside the wall that surrounds the more touristy part of San Pedro.  Out of curiosity and in hopes that these places would offer up more local cuisine, we decided to check them out.  I was happy to see menus that offered mainly local dishes. 


There was one restaurant in particular that was very popular and glancing inside, it appeared to be filled mainly with locals.


We decided to eat here and went with the set menu.  We shared a meal of the croquettas de atun (tuna croquette),  constillar al horno (grilled pork chop) and ensalada (salad).

The croquettes de atun. In hindsight, what were we thinking ordering a fish dish in the desert?


Perfect spot for my new friend.  I know he was waiting for me to drop him something but I don't like to feed strays. Sorry guy.

After lunch, we made our way back to the Tourismo Layana to pay the balance of what we owed them for our tour and to explain to them about the situation with Valle Arcoiris.  This time, the woman was able to accept the credit card payment for the tour but she advised that we return around 4p to speak with her supervisor about the other matter.  We were also slated to go on the Cejar Lagoon tour this afternoon the woman told us it was cancelled.  Before leaving for Chile, denomades.com had already informed there were some issues with the Cejar Lagoon tour - the lagoon was closed for swimming because of high levels of dangerous bacteria.  So, I wasn't all that surprised to find out that the tour had been entirely cancelled and that denomades had already refunded me the money.
 
So, we now have the rest of the day to spend on our own.  It was so hot outside, bordering on unbearable, that we decided to head back to our room to escape the heat.  We just chilled out and were back at Layana just before 4p where we were in for a very nice surprise!