Cueva de las Manos

Standing on top a one of the canyon’s many peaks, looking into the valley of Rio Pinturas is no doubt a profound experience. The lush river valley is nestled between rocky cliffs and forms a deep canyon, which twists its way through Patagonia’s arid desert land.

Perched at the top of the canyon ready for a good hike

Epic view of Canyon Rio Pinturas

Leah trying not to look down

We were so thankful to have a sunny day in Patagonia without wind

The stunning river valley that we reached after a rather treacherous hike down

Hidden in the walls of the canyon is Cueva de las Manos – once home to the regions indigenous inhabitants, the cave features pre-historic rock art that dates back over 10,000 years. Today, this UNESCO World Heritage site is one of Argentina’s most famous archeological sites and an important connection to the regions first inhabitants.

Before exploring the caves, we put on our hard hats. Safety first.

10,000 year old paintings. Very impressive.

Almost all of the hands are left hands

So many years working in construction has Leah looking very comfortable in a hard hat

Paintings of hands, wild life and hunting scenes decorate the rock face in brilliant reds, whites, greens and blacks – all colors that could be taken from the natural minerals found in the region to be mixed with water or animal fat.

A liberal interpretation of a lizard in red

Spotted. A six fingered hand

What makes the prints so unique is the technique used to make the “negative” pictures. Artists would use their mouths and hallowed animal bones as what can best be described as an air-brush. They would then blow paint through the bone to create an image on the cave walls. Other sections of the cave include scenes of hunting the regions native guanacos (llamas) and rheas (ostrich).

Two rhea feet among the hands

Despite powerful rays from the sun and the damaging vandalism, the art has been preserved and remains something to be cherished.

After the caves we were treated to picturesque hike out of the canyon

So many interesting landforms

It was a tough hike but someone's gotta do it

After wading across a river we ran through a very hot volcanic ash deposit

The ash is from a volcano that erupted in Chile 20 years ago

Caves, canyons, hiking, and sunshine : the perfect day