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A Day at Puerto Valle

BY Lisa Lindblad

March 16, 2014

This is another Argentina, a place remote and untrod, where water meets sky along a flat horizon, where land is not land as we know it, firm and hard, but rather a matrix of root and soil, supportive yet flexible, as bamboo is to pine. A place of capybaras, those strange yet strangely lovable giant rodents, and black caimans whose pert, upturned snouts are pierced by two lower teeth whose dimensions the caiman designer neglected to account for. This is the land of the giant anteater and the marsh deer, whose broad hoof carries him well over this wetland turf that sways like a water bed and whose slender leg can be easily retracted should it slip through the skeins of matted root.
We spent the day on the channels and in the lake, guided by the incomparable and multi talented Nicolas – guide, naturalist, and General Manager – and, by the end of our stay, a good friend. We ended our day with a walk through the howler monkey forest and a stop at the caiman hatchery. In a temperature controlled room we found incubators of tagged eggs layered with straw. And then, when we were finally quiet, we heard the chirping of the babies ready to be born. In the wild, the mother cracks the eggs and midwives the babies to their watery world. Here, Mario is Mama, and, this evening, he had our help. It is stressful giving birth to a caiman.
After a long and gratifying day we returned to the warmth and deliciously comfortable lodge, Hotel Puerto Valle, with its staff that is just as kind and able as it is photogenic, to Nicolas’ wife, the lovely Marisol, and to the culinary genius of Romina who cooked for us the best breakfasts, lunches, and dinners I have eaten in Argentina — or, for that matter most anywhere. This is one exceptional adventure.

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John Derian Goes West