First off, this is not a trip for people who dont like driving or sitting in cars. The distances are large and the roads are slow going. The first day covers 650km and there isn't much option to make it less apart from stopping in San Juan City for the night - not the best idea.
Starting out early - 8.30am at latest drive north toward San Juan city, I take the 'Olive Route' to get off ruta 40 and bypass the city. This brings you out at a bend in the road and a short drive later to one of the oddest sights in the country - Difunta Correa.
Difunta Correa is a folklore saint with a massive following in the mid- and north west of Argetnina. She was a San Juanina woman who followerd her husband north towards La Rioja Province when he went to fight in the wars of the 1850s.
Walking across the barren and arid landscape, carrying her new baby, she died from heat exhaustion and lack of water in the middle of the desert. A couple of days later, shepherds discovered her body and the baby still feeding at ther breast, alive and well. This was declared a miracle and Difunta, a People's Saint.
Her shrine is stacked with small houses and car number plates - the faithful thanking her for their prosperity. Walking around it reminds of a model village except the pilgrims are crawling on their hands and knees up the hundred and fifty steps as though ascending Mount Sinai.
The place attracts many thousands of people and more in December for her Saint's Day. Plenty of pollo al spiedo for lunch. Piles of plastic bottles at the roadside aren't rubbish but offerings to Difunta.
Continue on to San Augustin de Valle Fertil - a small town with nafta and basic accommodation. There is the option to stay here but the locations are back to front as Ischigualasto is best in the afternoon and Talampaya is best in the morning.
At Ischigualasto (the Valle de la Luna - Moon Valley) the three-hour circuit of the park is done with a ranger and a convoy of cars. There are five stops along the way, each showcasing the various lunar landscapes formed over 220 million years ago - real dinosaur country.
There is a camp site at the side of the park - well worth it on full moon nights when there is a guided tour around the glowing irridescent formations.
Hurry as these rocks are liable to fall any day now. Taking the last tour of the park, darkness will fall on the drive to Villa Union and there is a serious risk of hitting guanaco crossing the highway. All in all about a twelve hour day.