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giant telescopes, multiple moons, baking and general christmas cheer


The festive season is upon us again. I spent last Christmas all at sea but an invitation from my friends, Sarah and James, promise to make this one a cosier experience. When I finally catch them up in Calingasta, we stock up for celebratory eating and head for El Leoncito – a recently created national park in northern Argentina that houses a number of observatories and exists largely to protect the night sky from potential light pollution.

I finally catch up with Sarah and James in Callingasta, a town clearly proud of its connections to the local mining industry.

After a rest day in Callingasta where we stock up, a brisk day's ride sees us happy campers at El Leoncito. James takes charge of Christmas breakfast...

He whips ups some pretty fine crepes, a skill recently acquired in the company of some French cyclists...

...while Sarah and I crack walnuts, which adds to the traditional European feel despite the baking sun and desert backdrop.

The larder has been as well stocked as it can be by three cyclists a hundred kilometres away from the nearest shop and with no refrigeration.

We have not much to do but relax in the shade in between...

... various culinary adventures. James whittles sticks...

... before building a cranking fire...

... so that he can bake South African stick bread over hot coals.

Shame we don't have any tasty sausages to fill up those very appropriately shaped hole. But we did alright anyway.

Our first night time attempt to visit one of the observatories is stymied by unlikely storm clouds - this place is famed for its clear skies.

But the following day we investigate another...

...with impressive James Bondesque villainous bunker retro styling.

Inside, also the technology is looking a little dated. It is all very analogue.

Still, the scope is quite impressive, I reckon. It is all about measuring light from the heavenly bodies. They don't encourage nighttime visitors here because car lights and even camera flashes mess with the data.

There is more baking to be done. James is a pro and these guys puffed right up.


Another night-time expedition to a different installation, has me jumping up and down with childish excitement in front of a telescope that allows me to gaze, in wonder, in awe, in amazement, at the heavens. Jupiter and its moons – you know that photo of it – well, I have seen it. I have seen it. I keep sneaking around to the back of the queue for another look. I manage three turns before they catch me out.

Then we are up at dawn...

... to ride as far as we possibly can before...

... the sun starts to really sting.

Shade is precious and we find some to lunch in. It's only 11.45 but you don't quibble about that when there is tree cover.

Next day we don't manage to leave so early and it's a long climb out of Uspallata and shade is even more scare...

... but the views are better...


... and the descent snaking down into Mendoza...'s a beauty.

{ 10 } Comments

  1. Sarah's Mum | January 7, 2014 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

    How lovely is this?? What great pictures and such good food out of nothing! You guys are really something. Happy New Year Anna and thanks for looking after our precious pair.

  2. Sarah | January 14, 2014 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    We also had crepes for Christmas breakfast! Perhaps it’ll take off as a new tradition. I love your excitement about Jupiter and moons (-:

  3. anna | January 16, 2014 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    We always have them when I am with my ‘fairy godmother(s)’ in London… well, more pancakes there, with bacon and maple syrup. But still either way I think it is a good Christmas tradition.

  4. anna | January 16, 2014 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for dropping by, Sarah’s Mum. I think those guys were looking after me, not the other way round.

  5. Greg Urbano | January 16, 2014 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

    Great adventure through your photos!

  6. anna | January 16, 2014 at 10:51 pm | Permalink

    Thanks, Greg.

  7. Neil | January 20, 2014 at 3:28 am | Permalink

    Wow – wish we’d been with S&J on Xmas day! Might’ve ended up with something better than bulghur with bits of plastic salami in it…

    Love the photo of those storm clouds in Leoncito!

  8. anna | January 20, 2014 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

    Neil, I wish you and Harriet had been there, too.

  9. noel mcfarlane | February 6, 2014 at 7:47 am | Permalink

    Anna I could look at these photos all day. You have really captured that landscape, beautifully.

  10. WishFish Productions | February 6, 2014 at 11:08 pm | Permalink

    That’s a wonderful adventure! I wish I could get to do that. But anyways, hello from!

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