Journey to the Center of the Earth

We toured around one of the most spectacular mountain range spots in the area. We crossed most of the Punilla Valley and visited a natural cavern. We unveiled all the secrets of speleology tourism.

I arrived in Villa Carlos Paz with great expectations. This tourist pole located in the Province of Córdoba offers an interesting range of activities to practice a few kilometers from the city. As I did not have much time to stay in this area, I immediately made contact with an alternative tourism operator, of whom I had got very good references and who would be in charge of organizing a program for me to enjoy my stay to the utmost. Thus, I was in the hands of “Aventuras el Oso”, feeling eager and expectant and waiting for the morning to come.

“In the lands of the native Comechingones, also known as the “dwellers of the caves”, there is nothing better than touring the fabulous mountain range that used to be their home and discover a great part of the hidden beauty of the province” I thought. I knew that the Córdoba mountain range belongs to the system of the Sierras Pampeanas, which is formed mainly by igneous rock, made up by quartz, feldspathoid and mica. But there certainly was much more to learn.

Across the Punilla Valley

The remodelled estanciera model ´66 picked me up at the Le Mirage Hotel at nine o´clock in the morning. A cool sunny morning forecasted an exceptional day for the activity I was about to enjoy. El Oso and Maxi, the two excursion guides, were waiting for me inside the vehicle. Gustavo and little Julieta, who had joined the adventure at the last minute, were also there. We were going to cross a large part of the Punilla Valley up to the district of La Falda. The natural caverns located in the Los Sauces estancia would be the scenery where we would experience speleology tourism: a new option in the Province of Córdoba which attracts several enthusiasts. The truth is that we would go down 20 meters towards the very core of the Earth.

From Villa Carlos Paz, we crossed the districts of San Roque, Bialet Massé, Santa María de Punilla, Cosquín and Valle Hermoso up to La Falda. The borders of the road were not well defined and signposting was poor. Fortunately, we could count on El Oso´s relentless skills at the wheel, which made us feel quieter and let us enjoy the landscape before our sight. Birds, such as vultures, grosbeaks, hooded siskins and sparrows, fly over the mountain range, packed with pepper trees, horcos quebracho and chañares.

The good mood of the participants plus “El Oso´s eloquence made us quickly forget everything about the office, the computer and expiration dates. By all means possible, I tried to find out the name of this individual in his forties, who was 1.85 meters tall and with a shaved scalp, but it was useless. He chose Córdoba as his place of residence because he was tired of the cold weather of his native Bariloche. Everybody knew him as El Oso and no one has ever learnt or will ever know his real name.

The Lost Caverns

We continued with our journey. We traveled across the Olae Pampa, crossed the Grande de Punilla River, located in the area of Piedras Grandes and, almost without realizing, we arrived in the action zone. Sebastián Ceballos, the ownwer of Los Sauces estancia and the well-known speleologist from Córdoba called Mario Mora were expecting us, which made me feel pleased as the excursion promised a chat with the cave specialist.

The region I was visiting had been exploited ten years before by a company which extracted limestone. While the area was being dynamited, the workers began to notice that, as the blasts continued, holes would appear inside the mountain. Puzzled, they informed the government of the province about the situation. Thus, the authorities contacted local speleologists, who stated that it was a formation of caverns.

Immediately afterwards, the exploitation stopped and the lands were purchased by Sebastián, who has recently resolved to try the tourist exploitation of the caves by means of speleology tourism. At present, excursions across several corners of the caves are organized, in which a complete geological lecture about the formation of these huge “underground” holes is given.

In the Inside of the Cave

After distributing the helmets, torches and overalls, we began entering the cave. At the beginning, the feeling of confinement was somewhat overwhelming, but as time went by, I became adapted to the reduced space. I felt like professor Lidenbrock from the science fiction novel by Jules Verne, “Journey to the Center of the Earth”. A temperature of 17º C comforted us in the core of the cavern. This tour is not suitable for people suffering from a heart condition, or claustrophobia. I can assure this is a hallucinating experience, ideal for adventurers and those who are looking for new challenges.

We crossed various halls, such as “the key”, “the lentil”, “the cut” and “the VIP hall”. As we went down, the speleothems would become more and more impressive. These formations, similar to coral in appearance, are made up by aragonite. On the points of each formation, we could watch water drops which, through a process called precipitation, formed the speleothems. Our guide asked that we had special care not to touch them, so as not to interrupt this delicate process.

“This formation responds to water penetration through the cracks in the mountain. The water drags an acid coming from the plants on the surface which makes a reaction on the stone, thus accelerating the erossion process. Due to the intense rainfalls, the water has worked under pressure inside the caverns giving shape to plenty of spiral formations” Mario Mora explained.

We moved about all the sectors of the cavern and lost track of time and space. After three intense hours, during which amazement, adventure and action were constantly present, we left the huge cave through a different outing. An unforgettable experience. Highly recommended for those in search of new sensations.

Our day came to an end at Sebastián´s house, located a few kilometers from the cave, where we enjoyed some good mates with torta fritas and recalled every single moment in the cave as we watched the images captured by our digital camera.

Contact of the excursion or tour

Aventuras de Alto Vuelo

Av General Paz 72 (5152) Villa Carlos Paz, Córdoba

Tel: +54 3541-435389 Cel: +54 3541-628746

DifficultyDifficulty: Intermediate

DurationDuration: half a day

Opening hoursOpening hours: from 9am to 2pm or from 3pm to 7pm

Bear in mindBear in mind: This excursion can be made by all those people who feel they are fit to experience this activity and who do not fear confinment. Age limit is not an impediment, but it is not advisable for children under 10.


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