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Chancani National Park (1 Viewer)

Nick Brooks

Well-known member
Hi, I'm planning a trip to Argentina for next year and hoping to include a few days around Cordoba. I'm looking at doing a wide circle that includes driving up the E51 road to Chancani NP from Villa Dolores. Is this road OK and would it be best to hire an SUV as it seems to be roughly an hour quicker for a morning commmute than staying in Mina Clavero and driving via route 28. Would appreciate any advice. Thanks
 

pbjosh

missing the neotropics
Switzerland
I don't know the Ruta 51 south of the park, but I believe it's a dirt road the whole way and I would expect that, unless it's been raining heavily, it should be fine in a 2WD. Outside of the Andes, 99% of Argentine dirt roads are in good-great condition when they're dry and turn into quagmires after enough rain. As in often not even passable with 4WD and good tires.

So I'd say that you should be fine w/o a truck/SUV. On your way out of Chancani, the pass and area around the tunnel on Ruta 28 is a classic birding stop and is good for a mix of more montane birds you might not otherwise get in the Cordoba area.

Chancani itself is lovely and as long as you arrive during opening hours you can camp there if you like (for free). The little town 1-2km away has 1-2 very basic restaurants and little else, FYI.

Have fun and enjoy, I really like Chancani and would happily return!
 

sbarnhardt

Traveling man
Opus Editor
Supporter
United States
Good Day,

From the outlook of an Opus Editor, if you get there, take some good iconic landscape photos of the Park. There is not an article about the park in Opus at the moment, but having good landscape photos for use as a location image should that change surely would be great.
 

opisska

Jan Ebr
Poland
Yeah, most of the dirt roads, if they have a number, are generally meant to be used as normal roads and it is almost always fine. On the other hand, I know a numbered and clearly signposted (for a distant city) dirt road that ends up in a sand dune, not really passable even in a 4WD :) Considering that normal cars typically rented in Argentina have pretty good clearance already, renting a SUV in not very good value there, because its niche is narrow.
 

Nick Brooks

Well-known member
I don't know the Ruta 51 south of the park, but I believe it's a dirt road the whole way and I would expect that, unless it's been raining heavily, it should be fine in a 2WD. Outside of the Andes, 99% of Argentine dirt roads are in good-great condition when they're dry and turn into quagmires after enough rain. As in often not even passable with 4WD and good tires.

So I'd say that you should be fine w/o a truck/SUV. On your way out of Chancani, the pass and area around the tunnel on Ruta 28 is a classic birding stop and is good for a mix of more montane birds you might not otherwise get in the Cordoba area.

Chancani itself is lovely and as long as you arrive during opening hours you can camp there if you like (for free). The little town 1-2km away has 1-2 very basic restaurants and little else, FYI.

Have fun and enjoy, I really like Chancani and would happily return!
thanks for the info and the tip about the tunnel area. cheers Nick
 

Nick Brooks

Well-known member
Yeah, most of the dirt roads, if they have a number, are generally meant to be used as normal roads and it is almost always fine. On the other hand, I know a numbered and clearly signposted (for a distant city) dirt road that ends up in a sand dune, not really passable even in a 4WD :) Considering that normal cars typically rented in Argentina have pretty good clearance already, renting a SUV in not very good value there, because its niche is narrow.
Hi Jan, Based on your assessment of 4WD hire, is it not worth hiring a 4wD in northwest argentina. I'm continuing on from Cordoba to do the classic Tucuman - Salta - Yavi route. I'd planned to hire a 4WD. cheers Nick
 

pbjosh

missing the neotropics
Switzerland
For Tucuman - Salta - Yavi you won't need a 4WD for most destinations. Possibly for Laguna Pozuelos (I've never been so can't comment but I recall reading that the roads are poor). I've done most of this area at least once, parts more than once, and never needed anything other than a cheap / small car. In fact, aside form the Horned Grebe site in the south at Estancia Laguna Verde, and potentially Laguna Pozuelo, I can't think of any non-obscure birding sites in Argentina that require more than the cheapest rental car available. As long as it's not raining a lot. If it's raining heavily, everything changes, and 4WD is frequently not enough to make up for the mud. There's something about the mud, it turns the top 15-20-25cm of the roads into some sort of hellish soapy paste that is mind bogglingly slippery. Typically, in flat areas, the roads are gently domed to shed water, so it's like a nerve-wracking game of driving on top of a wet dome of soap because if you come off the middle of the track, it's generally very difficult to get back up to the middle of the road. And when it gets bad enough, you end up car camping until the road dries.
 

opisska

Jan Ebr
Poland
Yeah, pbjosh knows the sites so much better and I think his description is spot on. I have always been a lousy world birder in that I never know what the famous sites are, but I have driven to some really weird places in Argentina woth a Corsa though, including the foothills of 6000ers (at 5000) where reportedly noone has been without a jeep before :)

It's ultimately up to you, 4WDs are available (even though when I really needed one for work, I almost could not get any at the last moment as in the entirety of the Mendoza province, there turned out to be exactly one 4x4 pickup truck not rented to someone at the moment), but the price difference is really steep. At the end of the day, tge most important thing, no matter which car you will have, is common sense - the conditions of the "roads" change very quickly, so one always has to judge whether it is wise to continue.

Once my friend drowned a Corsa in a river (ingested water cracked engine). It was a fun little story, but getting the car towed 50 kms to through the mountains to the nearest tarmac was not the cheapest thing ever ...
 

Nick Brooks

Well-known member
Thanks again for the info everybody. really useful info and i won't try driving a Corsa in a river. I know i'd save money not hiring a 4WD but, tbh, I've sometimes hired them because, although normal cars can handle dirt roads, sometimes driving 50km on a washboard is much more comfortable in an SUV. I drove about 4000km in Namibia a few years back and although a car would have easily handled the dirt roads I'm not sure my spine would have survived. Do the dirt roads in Argentina suffer from the washboard effect, or are they graded often? cheers Nick
 

opisska

Jan Ebr
Poland
I think I started to rattle a bit after reading this, as it brought so many memories :) Yes, washboards, everywhere. Even on roads that are seemingly often graded. There is a 20-km stretch of dead flat road in pampa that I have driven hundreds of times (for work reasons), quite often meeting graders, yet it was bad the next week - wind and rain do wonders.

However I wonder what kind of car did you have to make them more comfortable? I have to admit that I have never really driven an "SUV" - always either a normal car, or a large all-terrain 4x4 (Hilux, 4runner, Catana, these things) - and in those, the washboards are decidedly worse because the suspension is much stiffer (as you need for real terrain). I mean the car goes through (a Hilux goes through, well, pretty much everything), but it's really rattling. Maybe SUVs are actually better for this? No idea. In my typical Corsa (or, to avoid confusing you "Chevrolet Classic" as they call them nowadays down there), I would just find the right speed when the natural frequency of my suspension matches the bumps of the washboard so that the wheels always it the top and then it's fine - the only only problem is that this also may be 90 km/h in some places :)

Man, I would really go to Argentina right now. Even though I have said so many times that I would not ever again, I still would.
 

pbjosh

missing the neotropics
Switzerland
I've just returned from an impromptu 10 day trip to Jujuy province. I didn't go to Laguna Pozuelos but I asked about road conditions when I was in the nearest towns and the local police told me you can get there in a regular car, driving slowly and carefully, at least at the moment. Again I've never been, but I've also heard that if you are looking for Horned Coot and good concentrations of birds, you also frequently have to do a good bit of driving around once there, as the water levels and bird locations shift around. I did drive from La Quiaca all the way to Santa Victoria Oeste, over Abra Lizoite, to look for Short-tailed Finch, Scribble-tailed Canastero, etc. (Sites for Diademed Sandpiper Plover and other nice birds up there too). All this in the cheapest rental car I could get, which was a Renault Logan. The dirt road is in excellent condition, I had no problems.

Just for anyone else who ends up reading this, I contemplated going to (but didn't, as the communities are still trying to avoid entrance of outsiders due to the pandemic) Santa Ana and Valle Colorado. There is a new road now that connects the two communities (formerly just a trail) so you can now drive from Humahuaca to Santa Ana (2WD), continue down to Valle Colorado (4WD / truck necessary, apparently), then continue down the to Valle Grande and through PN Calilegua (2WD). Looks to be very good birding along the route, but I decided not to try to barge my way into remote communities that are still trying to avoid outsiders / new vectors of contagion.

And on a different note, I would very highly recommend EcoPortal de las Piedras as a destination. While it doesn't have any unique birds that aren't on the standard Los Sosa / El Infiernillo / Yala / Calilegua circuit, it's a stunningly lovely place, tucked off in a corner, very quiet, very friendly, very inviting. They have large private cabins to rent with kitchen facilities, and all you have to do is walk out the door and start birding. There's a lot of hiking to do there, particularly to see the higher elevation species (I don't mind, I prefer hiking to driving for birding). And it's very birdy with a good mix of Chaco and Yungas species. I only saw one new bird in 4 days there (Rothschild's Swift, a long sought species that is scarce and hard to get adequate looks at) but I'd say it is easily one of the best birding sites I've been to in Argentina, and certainly one of my favorite.
 

Nick Brooks

Well-known member
I've just returned from an impromptu 10 day trip to Jujuy province. I didn't go to Laguna Pozuelos but I asked about road conditions when I was in the nearest towns and the local police told me you can get there in a regular car, driving slowly and carefully, at least at the moment. Again I've never been, but I've also heard that if you are looking for Horned Coot and good concentrations of birds, you also frequently have to do a good bit of driving around once there, as the water levels and bird locations shift around. I did drive from La Quiaca all the way to Santa Victoria Oeste, over Abra Lizoite, to look for Short-tailed Finch, Scribble-tailed Canastero, etc. (Sites for Diademed Sandpiper Plover and other nice birds up there too). All this in the cheapest rental car I could get, which was a Renault Logan. The dirt road is in excellent condition, I had no problems.

Just for anyone else who ends up reading this, I contemplated going to (but didn't, as the communities are still trying to avoid entrance of outsiders due to the pandemic) Santa Ana and Valle Colorado. There is a new road now that connects the two communities (formerly just a trail) so you can now drive from Humahuaca to Santa Ana (2WD), continue down to Valle Colorado (4WD / truck necessary, apparently), then continue down the to Valle Grande and through PN Calilegua (2WD). Looks to be very good birding along the route, but I decided not to try to barge my way into remote communities that are still trying to avoid outsiders / new vectors of contagion.

And on a different note, I would very highly recommend EcoPortal de las Piedras as a destination. While it doesn't have any unique birds that aren't on the standard Los Sosa / El Infiernillo / Yala / Calilegua circuit, it's a stunningly lovely place, tucked off in a corner, very quiet, very friendly, very inviting. They have large private cabins to rent with kitchen facilities, and all you have to do is walk out the door and start birding. There's a lot of hiking to do there, particularly to see the higher elevation species (I don't mind, I prefer hiking to driving for birding). And it's very birdy with a good mix of Chaco and Yungas species. I only saw one new bird in 4 days there (Rothschild's Swift, a long sought species that is scarce and hard to get adequate looks at) but I'd say it is easily one of the best birding sites I've been to in Argentina, and certainly one of my favorite.
thanks for the info on the roads as well as the other recommendations, which i will now go and look up. cheers, Nick
 

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