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Ruta 40 and the Cave of Hands March 18, 2007

Posted by Cheryl in Argentina, culture, Patagonia, South America, Travel.
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Ruta 40 Sign

Well, if you really must know where we´ve been for the last few weeks, we´ve been slowly travelling up Route 40 in Central Patagonia.  Ruta 40 also known as “La Cuarenta” (the forty) to the locals has something of a mystical notoriousness in Argentina.  Ask a local about it and they go misty eyed and dreamy.  Quite why it has this reputation, I´m not sure.  To be fair, all it really is, is a dusty gravel road cutting 1,500km through relative nothingness.  Very occasionally (say about every 500km) you will see a petrol station loom up out of the nothingness or maybe even an estancia (ranch).  Sometimes you have been staring at the same scenery for so long that you think this is a mirage.  But mostly, route 40 is just a straight road with very much the same dry grassy shrubland on both sides of the road, and mind-numbingly little traffic.

Ruta 40 in Patagonia

We stopped off half-way between El Chalten and El Bolson in the small sleepy town of Perito Moreno, principally to visit an archaelogical site nearby called Cueva De Las Manos (The Cave of Hands).  This is a rock-art site with paintings dating from between 9,300 and 3,300 years ago.   It is set in the very beautiful Canyon De Pinturas.  There are a few access points, but the closest to Perito Moreno involved driving through a sheep estancia and arriving at a point on the far side of the canyon.  From there we went on foot, dropping down into the canyon and climbing out on the other side.

 Sheep Estancia in Patagonia

The rock-art was beautiful – mostly a collage of the hands of ancient peoples who had held their hands up against the rock and by spitting different coloured dyes from their mouths they painted around their hands in a spray paint effect.  There were also a few hunting scenes and pictures of the native animals such as guanacos (similar to lamas) and armidallos.  It was a very interesting place to see, and quite amazing to consider the roots from where we have come, particularly as in 6,000(!) years of painting this site nothing much changed apart from maybe the usage in later years of a new colour or slightly more sophisticated paintings.

Cueva De Las Manos

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