I arrived in Santiago Monday morning, and spent the day getting catching up with my colleagues Carolina Gutstein, David Rubilar-Rogers, and Roberto E. Yury Yáñez. It was a national holiday in Chile, and we spent most of the day eating BBQ meat and crowd-watching at a big city park downtown. Our 4x4 rental worked nicely, for the most part (see below, though).
The next day we took off early in the morning for San Juan, Argentina, which requires making a high-elevation pass over the Andes, crossing into Argentina. After getting mired in some rush hour madness and last minute errands, we managed to escape the city limits, and start the picturesque, winding path to the border. Our truck carried 5 people to San Juan: Carolina, David, Anita Valenzuela and Constaza Figueroa Bravo, the latter two being Carolina's undergraduate students. The route was beautiful and a bit a challenging: it's mostly 2-lane highway shared with trucks carrying goods from one side of South America to the other because this is the only road across for a large part of the continent. Towards the border, we meandered 23 switchbacks uphill, each turn more eye-popping than the other. Good thing the geology was distracting.
The Andes are younger that their counterparts in North America, which in part explains the sharpness of their relief. The tremendous uplift in this area, driven by plate tectonics, has also brought terrestrial rock sequences to a high elevation: we saw clear fluvial redbeds just at the foot of Aconcagua, the highest peak in the Americas.
The Andes, big trucks and hairpin roads. (Photo NDP)
We were held up at the Chile-Argentina border for an hour because of 1 missing document (not our fault; the 4X4 rental company gave us a facsimile, but not the original of it); eventually, the border guards relented, and we were back on track for San Juan. As jagged peaks gave way to canyons and streambeds, we saw condors, aspens and a lot of great scenery.
San Juan is a dry, dusty desert town, but the meeting has been great: reconnecting with colleagues from North America as well as meeting new ones from all parts of Gondwana. Chile was well represented, although it the meeting was mostly dominated by Brasilian and Argentine paleontologists. For my part, it's been really nice to see Peruvians colleagues, and coordinate large meals for F2M2s (Friends of Fossil Marine Mammals). The food, service and coffees in San Juan has been terrific, and the evening social hours at the museum have been great fun. There's nothing like free Argentine wine and dancing until 5 am.
Now we've said our goodbyes, and this morning we're packing up to return to Santiago to plan the next phases of our trip.
Looking towards the Pacific, heading back to Santiago, along snow covered roads. (Photo NDP)
Update 27 Sept 11: links, photos and a few details added.