Asado at Castillo de Pinchera

Every collaboration meeting one afternoon is set aside for an asado, which depending on who you ask means Argentinean barbecue or “death by meat.” This year’s asado took place in the shadow of Castillo de Pinchera, a natural rock formation about 40km from Malargue and so decidedly in the middle of nowhere it’s well off the normal tourist trail despite looking quite amazing-

To kick things off, the “death by meat” crowd isn’t completely kidding. There are so many different kinds to be tried that you can’t keep track of them- below is a small sample of what we consumed!

It should be noted that the one I did keep track of trying was the goat meat, which is a bit of a local delicacy in Malargue. I’d never had it before and was rather curious, and it turned out goat was rather tasty! You do need to chew a bit more than usual though…

Anyway, the food was delicious and the conversation was just about as quirky as you’d expect from a large group of geeks (ie if you discuss passing someone in your car you don’t just say “my motor was struggling,” you say “I had to use all the torque I had!”). Somewhere along the way though the conversation turned towards climbing up the Castillo, so off we went emboldened by the delicious malbec wine-

See the topmost pinnacle in the upper right of the first picture? That’s our goal, and it won’t take us more than 30 minutes and is thus ideal for a bunch of people who typically sit around at computers all day.

It should also be noted that instead of taking water for the hike the graduate student contingent decided we should take some wine with us on the grounds that no one ever pays attention to grad students anyway. This is a classic example of how scientists are capable of simultaneously being the most and least intelligent people you will ever meet.

Anyway, the hike of questionable sobriety took a break to examine the impressive caves about halfway up, though some of us decided to enjoy the increasingly lovely view instead-
Climbing up ever-further, enjoying the amazing erosion all around- yup there’s a person on top already if you look carefully-

Finally, the top! It really should be noted that “pinnacle” is an entirely appropriate thing to say about the very tip of the formation- you needed to carefully scoot over a few not-quite-adjoining rocks (I didn’t dare do it standing, though it was small enough that some of the more emboldened jumped over) and most sat around with their feet dangling over. The best shot I have of our perch that also makes my hair look decent despite the crazy wind-

As I’ve said, scientists are both simultaneously very intelligent and very stupid. But how could you turn down these views?!

Castillo de Pinchera is essentially the very top part of an old riverbank- someone told me that “Malargue” actually refers to this natural stone corral used by the American Indians to herd the game together. It certainly was an amazing sight though in part because it was so desolate– a spot like this would be crawling with tourists in most places in the world, but here we were Masters of All We Survey.

To be fair a bunch of people from the asado below kept coming and going, there were about 200 people after all, though all but a few headed back down after a few minutes. A small core of us stayed a lot longer though- after all, who knew when we’d be on this spot again, with good conversation and drinks to boot?

Eventually the shadows grew longer so it was time to climb down, though even if I never get to that spot again I know I won’t forget it soon. You only come across such views so often, so I don’t know how you could.

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