This will be a mini-post, just a quick look at Ischigualasto and its museum.
Ischigualasto Park, also known as “The Valley of the Moon,” is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a hot, dry, wind-blasted rockscape that’s an absolute treasure field of paleontologic significance of the late Triassic. I have been dying to go for years.
Frankly, having to be on a guided tour isn’t that bad an idea, as if you were to get lost in the park you would absolutely die. The name of the park, according to the ranger leading the tour, is from a Native word meaning “tierra sin vida”–the deadland.
There are several famous rock formations to see on the tour, including this one:
Photographs really don’t do the place justice.
There is a small museum onsite!
The tour of the park takes about three to four hours with a break at a small building with a dig display and snack bar halfway; you ride in your own car (you can hire a local car if you don’t have one in a nearby town). The ranger picks a car from the line of tourists that has room for him and rides in it, so if you have a free seat, don’t be surprised if the ranger hops in. Check the website for hours, available tours (there’s a night one during full moons), and rates. The park does occasionally have to close on account of the Zonda wind, but I don’t think that’s very common. For the love of all that is holy, wear sunblock.
Recently, I was on a road trip to the provinces of San Juan and La Rioja. The main point of the trip was to see Parque Ischigualasto, Parque Talampaya, and guanacos.
But, there was an opportunity to take in one of my favorite type of little museums: a personal collection that got wildly out of hand. This is the Museo Piedras del Mundo:
The enterprising proprietor of the museum has put together three rooms of displays, which he will lead you through (Spanish only). The main gallery boasts a hell of a rock collection.
Pains are taken to give information on the chemistry of various minerals, which are indeed from around the world. There are also sections dedicated to the local geology.
A second room houses local archaeological finds (the region is rich in fossils and ancient human-made relics, as well as impressive rocks)…
…and also some truly alarming local creepy crawlies.
The third room houses the seashell, fish specimen, and photography collection (all the photos were taken by the museum owner).
You will easily burn more time in the museum than you thought you would. And it’s a fun little place! It is maybe just past the middle of nowhere, if you’re coming from San Agustín, closer to a very, very small village called Usno. There’s literally nothing around the place. It is, if I recall correctly, $100 pesos for entry, and it’s open from 8am to 7pm daily. He’s also got a little gift shop.
I need to get this posted, because I was told that this museum will be closing next month, which sucks, because it’s pretty cool. It has a strong online presence, a good physical space, and a great staff. It will be a loss.
The MUMIN (MUseo de MINerales, get it?) is the educational endeavor of the SEGEMAR, the Servicio Geológico Minero (Argentine Mining Geological Service). It caters mainly to school groups, tasked with making rocks interesting to children. Geology, being perhaps not the sexiest of sciences, could make that a bit difficult to achieve, but they have done an admirable job. Things to touch, demonstrations to look at–there’s a lot of activity for minerals.
The museum is located within a government ministry building, the name of which escapes me at the moment–but you do need an ID to get in.
I poked around on my own until a staff member came out, discovered my terrible Spanish, and immediately went back to send out a very patient English-speaking geologist. He showed me around the museum, told me about all the displays, and answered all my questions. Let’s see a little of the collection! Argentina has a lot of mineral-related loot.
So, do you have a favorite kind of fossilized thing? ‘Cause I do.
“That’s cool,” you’re thinking. “BUT ARE THERE PRETTY ROCKS”
The museum does have an app available on the website that will do AR stuff with a few signs as well as a VR headset with a short meteorite thing to watch; nothing extravagant but fun and memorable. There are a few more hands-on elements to see/do, including some SUPER FUN SAND TABLES:
If you move the sand around, the volcano changes:
There’s another one!
In this table, you move the sand around to form the topography of the land. Then you can make it rain by spreading your hand. The idea is to demonstrate how water moves over the topography.
Know what else I liked? This Argentina-specific graphic of geologic time:
Wanna see more minerals?
I will never not find it fascinating that some minerals naturally grow in distinctive shapes.
Finally, I will close this out with a geode.
The label doesn’t tell you this but the very nice geologist will, this geode is an enhydro agate–a geode with water inside of it. Did you know that was a thing? I had no idea that was even a thing!
The MUMIN is free and open to the public Monday through Friday from 9am-5pm (closed on holidays). Take your ID though because you need that to get in. It’s very close to the Plaza de Mayo and easily accessible by all the subway lines that go there. Go while you can.