San Guillermo – The forbidden national park

Back in Argentina my partner Gerardo and I were interested in going to remote places close to the Andes mountain range in the North of the country.
The National Park San Guillermo was calling our atencion.
Starting with 25kg backpacks we left Angualasto, the last village, walking North. Our expectation and mood was a bit depressed about what we got told of the local people, the gendarmes and the national park guards. Restrictions and obstacles in many ways. The water of the river would not be drinkable for its high salt and arsen content. The river carries too much water to cross it by foot, which would be necessary at one point. Anyway, the entrance into the national park was forbidden. Only in a 4×4 and with a guide permission was given. Walking there was obsolet for the high altitude and the great numbers of pumas. And as a local said: “With this heavy backpacks you anyway not gonna get anywhere”

We still wanted to face our project. Maybe we would find solutions which brought us further.
The water of the river we depended on did not cause us problems at the end. Slightly salty and very cloudy. We sedimented it overnight to gain clear water for the next day. The burning sun let us spend several hours per day the bit of shade the landscape offered. To reduce he number of blood sucking flies we often made fires even though it was quite hot already. So we managed.

We walked up the valley of the Río Blanco until it joined with Río de la Palca where the national park started. Even tough it was tempting we decided not to directly enter it. We did not want to face troubles with the park guards on our peaceful hike. Their restrictions we found quite nonsense though…
Following its limits North for a week we were astonished by the colorful rock formations and impressive shaped rocks the valley had to offer.
The mountain peaks seamed like sand dunes, cliffs often like cathedrals. Some rocks had carvings by the indigenous people, displaying hunting scenes and abstract arts. On a few spots we found ruins of the inca imperium. In the desert dry environment we could observe many animal trails on the ground. Pumas, guanacos, foxes, birds, many of them we saw active as well. Only the Puma we missed out. But one night one passed our tent as close as 2m without us noticing it.
At one point we left the valley behind to climb the highest mountain of the surroundings. We were surprised to find a stone tower marking its top in such a remote area. From there we had an amazing overview over “La meseta de leones” the huge, 3300m high plateau of the national park. Also we saw the 5000-6000m high peaks of the mountain ranges Colangüil and Brea.
As our food ran out slowly we had to head back. Walking with lighter backpacks we covered longer distances per day. On my 30st birthday we arrived back to the first settlements after exactly 4 weeks. On the back of a pickup we made it until Rodeo where we celebrated my birthday and the return to civilisation with a huge pot of pasta and some butter breads. That was all we had been dreaming of, being on limited portions of food for many weeks…

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