Friday, 17 July 2009

Quebrada Del Condorito, 7 July 2009

I don´t really know what to call this post... here are some of the titles I came up with whilst walking today:

A day with the Steve Irwin of Condor Hunting

Flight of the Condors

Walking in the footsteps of the Saber Tooth Tigers

Bird Watching in Cordoba

Cordoban Condors

The day I finally got to use my binoculars

Ok, well the key points to note here from these titles are that today involved trekking where Saber Tooth Tigers once roamed the land, whilst looking for Condors and other birds with a guide who was just like Steve Irwin.

I was supposed to be picked up at 8.30, but I was rushed when my pick up arrived at 8! Luckily I managed to grab a couple of pastries to wolf down in the car. I was shocked to meet my trekking guide, he actually looked like Steven Irwin in his khaki bush shirt and bush trousers. ´Crikey thats a beauty!´ I thought. Steve and I drove over to another hostel and picked up 3 others; Ed from Bristol and Stephanie and Manuel from Brussels. Steve then asked if we would prefer him to speak in English or Spanish, the consensus in the car was that he should speak Spanish.

The drive was 90 minutes to the Parque Nacionale Condorito and for the whole journey Steve spoke in Spanish.

I managed to understand a fair amount of what he was saying. Most of it was pointing out the surrounding moutains and hills, but then when conversation turned to the Falklands war I got a little lost. I find that when I know the context of a conversation I can listen for words that I expect to hear, thus a conversation on the Argentinian perspective on the Falklands was a little too much for me.

The countryside around Cordoba was beautiful, we crossed the Sierras Chicas, a low lying rande of mountains, and then made our way up to the Sierras Grandes. The land was a golden yellow and wild grasses grew all around.

Suddenly, Steve was pulling us over onto the stony verge and getting very excited. We hadnçt even reached the National Park but already we had reached some Condors. Flying over our head were three Condors, they were incredibly high up and even with my binoculars I couldn´t distinguish them definitively as Condors. But Steve was in the know, and he assured us that they were most definitely Condors.

I stood and watched through my binoculars for a good few minutes. I was amazed as I watched two condors fly and swoop together in perfect syncronicity. I put down my binoculars to see them with my naked eye and was confused as I could only see one bird. I put my binoculars on again and could definitely see two birds. I put my binoculars down again and looked really closely, but still there was just one bird. I then decided to twiddle the twiddly bits on my binoculars. Oh yes, that´s right. There was just one bird in the sky. I´m so dense at times!

We got back into the car and pulled off again. 200metres later we had stopped again and Steve was pointing out an Eagle to us perched on the mountain. It was quite incredible to see an eagle so close up.

After a couple more stops to view more birds of prey, we finally reached the National Park and we were greeted with stunning vistas set against a clear blue sky. The views all around were incredible. The land was so open and so vast.

We set off on our walk through beautiful golden fields of grass. At this point Steve switched to English (he continued to speak english for the rest of the day) and explained the risk of forest fires in these dry parts.

The walk was really steady with no steep climbs and we were in no rush at all. We took lots of stops as Steve pointed out the different birds. It was quite funny as every now and then Steve would suddenly stop and squat down to pick up rocks or point out animal tracks. He was absolutely brilliant. I half expected him to delve through animal droppings and pronounce what an animal had just eaten. The Belgians didn´t get the Steve Irwin thing, but Ed the Bristolian did.

We walked and walked and walked, and then we saw a sign which warned us to beware of snakes. At this point Steve pulled out an id card with lots of pictures of snakes on and showed us the deadly poisonous snake that was common in the park. Err... deadly snakes..! No one had warned me about this one! He reassured us that we wouldn´t see any of these unless we ventured off the path.

Ten minutes later Steve had seen a rare bird of prey on a rock near a stream. He started making a path through the waist high grasses and, fogetting about the poisonous snakes, we all followed in Steve´s excited footsteps to get a close up view of the bird. It was a beautiful eagle of some sort. Sadly it flew off before I managed to take a photo.

We contunied to walk throght the grasslands until I remembered the snakes. I made some comment to Ed which Steve overheard, he then made a direct route back to the path.

As we walked Steve told us about bones and fossils of Saber Tooth Tigers that had been found in this area. It was pretty cool to imagine that during the Ice Age Saber Tooth Tigers and Giant Sloths roamed these lands. It made me very excited indeed.

We eventually reached the Quebrada (Gorge) and climbed down to a viewing point to eat our lunch. Again, another fantastic lunch spot with no one else there to spoil it! I love these unspoilt places, they are just so perfect. We saw several vultures and a couple more condors as we ate our lunch.

I had some fears for my ham sandwich, but Steve assured me that Condors do not have thumbs on their claws, and therefore could not swoop down and grab my sandwich from me. Because of this Condors always feed on dead carcuses. I learnt a lot about Condors today. As we were eating and chatting a Condor swooped down about 10 metres above our heads. The sound was incredible as it swooshed over us with great force. It wasn´t circling us for our food or anything, the condor was just flying around minding his own business. It was incredible jsut how close he came to us though.

It was amazing to watch them flyung on the thermal currents, its pretty spectacular how they can jsut keep going without flapping their winds at all.

I´ve never really been a fan of Condors until today. When I´ve seen them in zoos and bird parks they always look really ugly and a bit frantic as they pace around their cages. But seeing them in the wild was amazing. Although they were close, they were far enough away that I didn´t have to see their ugly faces up close. They really were incredible to watch.

After a long and leisurely lunch we took a stroll back towards the car. We had intended to take a walk in another direction but the park ranger had closed off the path for some reason that I couldn´t understand. So, Steve produced some mate and some biscuits and took us to a stream for a mate session. The stream was sooo incredibly lovely and we all sat and chilled out enjoying the serenity. At one point an eagle flew over us really close and we could hear the power of its wings as it flapped over us. Wow! Really wow!

As i listened to the trickle of the stream I was thankful that the man in the tourist office hadn´t scared me off. Today had been a beautiful, perfect day. I was loving Cordoba and its surrounds.

No comments:

Post a Comment