2013-01-24 - 7:24 a.m.
photos this page © 2013 by elaine radford
salt, not snow...salinas grande
Jan. 20, 2013
The last day. It is January, the Argentine summer. Ergo, it didn't just rain. It snowed. What a day. We drove in the direction of Chilé this time, pausing to get our pictures taken at the 4,170 meter elevation marker, while the cold snow swirled all around us. More Variable Hawks, more Aplomado Falcons. The best Variable Hawk spotting of the day was the last one, when we stopped for the adult female and then heard the food-begging from a just-fledged juvenile. The young bird was hilarious. He did know how to fly, but sometimes he seemed to have trouble just standing -- especially on the saguaro-like cactus. You haven't seen silly until you've seen a baby hawk slipsliding on a cactus crown.
At various times, we photographed llamas and vicuñas in the snow or mist, but maybe the real shocker of the day was the herd of guanaco, usually a Patagonian species. The drive back down to Purmamarca was a bit challenging, especially as we joined a convoy that included a couple of 18 wheelers, a tourist bus, a motorbike, and miscellaneous actual cars driving through the cloud that rolled over the mountains. It took awhile, but we made it back and celebrated with a foo-foo dinner in the restaurant adjoining the hotel. Did I mention that the hawk watching tour included nightly advice about Argentine wines, complete with opening a bottle or two? Wheeeee...
New trip birds:
There were other yellowfinches/Sicalis at other elevations, but we were always too busy enjoying the spectacular mountain scenery and entertaining raptors to put a name to them. Oh, and did I mention that we crossed the highly atmospheric great salt lake, Salinas Grande, complete with pink and black flamingoes flying in the distance?
Jan. 21, 2013
And so, once again, the thrilling adventure comes to an end. We drove to Salta, keeping an eye peeled for possible Hook-billed Kites, but not seeing any. The last raptor of the trip was (not too surprisingly) the Southern Caracara, while the actual last bird was the singing Saffron Finch near the booth where the taxi driver entered the international airport.
We had to fly from Salta to EZE on LAN into a domestic airport, then take the cab to EZE. Our taxi driver, who spoke no English, seemed perplexed by our voucher, but he eventually delivered us where we wanted to go. Well, sort of. He delivered us to the A terminal, apparently thinking that both D. and I departed from the same place. Since it does serve United, at least one of us was happy.
After some head-scratching, I figured out that it was time to say our farewells, because I was out in East Jesus, also known as the C terminal. There wasn't much there there -- not just a lack of services but also a lack of employees. I scratched my head some more and finally figured out that if I checked in at the kiosk, I could pass through security and maybe find a club and a shower. Problem is, you had to have "carry on only" if you check in at the kiosk. It didn't take much thinking to figure out that dumping a pair of scissors, two old shirts, and some half-used bottles of sunscreen, toothpaste, and shampoo was well worth the cost of early admission. I still screwed it up. I forgot I had a corkscrew, since I ate out with the other two every night in order to benefit from S's local knowledge of the wine. So they had to take apart my rollerbag at security until they found it. Sigh. Much giggling and apologizing all around -- it's a wine country, nobody was mad that I accidentally packed a corkscrew -- and then I finally progressed to the club, where I have enjoyed the free lunch, internet, and (above all else!) the free shower.
Oh, and S. would be proud. I finally got around to sampling the local herbal liqueur, called Fernet. I'm sure it is all full of all sorts of meritorious herbs and spices, and your humble Peachfront is in danger of living forever...
EZE-ATL went off OK. I had changed my seat to 2H but they still put a non-rev (another Delta captain) next to me and his extremely talkative middle- school aged son in the next to the guy in front of me. I sometimes wonder if Delta thinks the whole point of having an airline is to fly the employees around. The father was, I think, a bit self conscious about it, and was actually quite pleasant to be around, although I could have done without the child's loud voice, who managed to make a life of traveling around the world sound tedious and completely uninteresting. Arrived on time in Atlanta. The last visit to a club room, similarly unremarkable. An allegedly first class flight ATL-MSY, where the FAs served only bottled waters pre-departure, and the only inflight food was the snack basket. At least they had a banana and a couple of Bailey's. D. picked me up at the airport since it was way too early in the morning for DH. Despite sleeping 6 hours on the sorta stretch-out business seat/bed on EZE -ATL, I was deadly tired and probably made little sense. All those late night dinners drinking wine and early mornings to see birds and catch planes caught up to me. I had planned to take him to the zoo in the afternoon, but in the event, I simply took him to lunch and then headed home to "nap" for several hours.
snow-flecked elevation marker in jujuy on jan. 20, 2013
Peachfront's note: Photos will be coming at some point in the near future. I know I keep saying that but we have a LOT of stuff to process.
vicuñas in the snow
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