00:41, 01-may 2011
San Marcos Sierra, Cordoba, Argentina
Like cupid-vulture mauled my heart with a thorny arrow, I’m bleeding love for Cordoba State and I don’t know why.
I’ve always been a closet desert freak, enraptured by its bleached beauty, scorched soullessness, primitive persistence of the prickliest. Demon spirits thrive in these badlands, anything that is living here can probably kill you, and as you respectfully navigate through a maze of infinite thorns, you might wonder what Hell is like. I’m fascinated by the dark energy that reigns here, rivaled and augmented only by the drop-dead-gorgeous eye candy which eats my pleasure sensors and SD memory for dinner.
But what is this all about? Drawn to the town of San Marcos Sierra from the unremarkable self-titled capital of the state, I found so much goodness: a village where the highway yields to dirt roads at city limits, where slow is the speed limit, and the click-clack of horse-traffic dominates the noisy rumble of a few rusty old Ford trucks; Rainbow family in abundance; cheap and local olives to die for; a work-exchange which had us slashing las espinas with machetes, camping for free, and walking 3km along a network of dried river beds into town.
After five days of accomplishing nothing and enjoying every minute of it (with a to-do list of bike around and hike up the valley), I took off with a Rainbow brother, Manuel, to camp for a couple nights at the nearest water, 12km away, on Rio Quilpo. Within minutes we score a ride in the only car which goes out there that day, coincidentally crammed into the stuffy cabin with 4 other tramps, among them a guy with my name with whom I’d exchanged bike-friendly contact info two nights before.
Emerging with grill-greased hands and a sickly stagger from backwards bumpy dune-buggying, my first instinct tells me we might be estranged in paradise for a while, and I should have brought more than a day’s worth of food. At first sight we simultaneously exhale “Water!” White spiny wilderness cut in two by a brilliant strip of blue bliss, green-lined with exactly 2 meters of soft grass (munched down to a fine carpet by a few horse brothers and cow sisters.)
Our mission: to camp in any of the many caves along this river, and to swim in the deep pools carved out by Rio Quilpo’s will. This fourth and furthest entrance to the river from town was host to a sacred rock formation called Casa de Piedra (Rock House). Let’s go there.
Shoes off, crossing river, over the locked and barbed wire fence, thorny tree detritus piercing foot, shoes back on, and down the dirt path, past dead cow, finding spooky rock quarry, hiding bags, climbing to the peak of tallest rock formation (drilled and blasted to bits by industry), dodging, weaving and un-snaring with care not to rip too much flesh in a ubiquitously spiney sea of thorn-bush-trees.
Meeting solitary cowboy resident who scared us off with dogs and “did you come through the locked gate?”/”no we followed the river”/savage dogs barking/retreat, hopping another fence, nude refresh in river’s smooth wavy rock pools, barking dogs and dust cloud around the corner, fleeing with paranoid friend into the desert, losing them in figure-8 around rock formation.
On the river, conquering a bottomless pool, picnicking with the most persistent kitten (culminating in my Zen’d-out friend throwing her in the river), speaking of spiritual practice and nutrition in the sun, Paradise hanging on the lips.
Father Sun sliding beyond the valley wall, locating Casa de Piedra, gigantic boulders all piled up in the middle of nowhere, forming caves in their gaps. Climbing the biggest boulder, 15 meters tall atop a hill, three flat spots to sleep under the stars atop this energy center. My alien friend, gifted in his training to locate Medians within our 4th-dimensional universe, gets excited to find three lines close together and running through our chosen recharging spot.
Diving into bed with the sun at 7:30, watching UFO’s and talking till midnight, sleep proves difficult. Naïve about camping out without a tent, ants invade my very-nearby bag and eat my bread/avocado; adventurous strays pioneer my sleeping bag, gifting me with (8) love bites (which itch a lot). My vicinity swarming and compromised, I relocate to sleeping spot number 3.
Day two takes us back to the beach on the river, napping in the sand through midday, conserving energy for lack of food. Watching clouds, the main event. No rides come today. Asleep by half 8.
Day three, I wish to return to dusty cowboy Babylon. Walk to 3rd river entrance in midday sun, wait under a tree for ride. After an hour, return to the river, new lush spot. Beautiful walk, cactus in bloom, green trees shedding green bark to reveal green wood, tree morphing into cactus, passing by a cow in a tree getting gutted, possible ride out in red pickup (with 1/2 cow). Relax.
Drinking máte on ride-out in green hippie VW bus. Walking back along dried-up river, 3km to camp, encountering white horse in the dark path, campfire, spines everywhere. Lightning storm raging for hours, almost constant illumination. Wickedest bolt I’ve ever seen: an Octo-Bolt, electric tentacles reaching down to the earth from a central point way up high.
Sleep like I’m bled-dry with ear-plugs, for every night a man in the forest sings until the wee hours. Don’t even hear the rain, which colors my tent brown with much-needed reprieve.