Not so for the flowers. In the roving biosphere reserve, thousands of species in all varieties lie beneath the soil. “This is the only zone of its kind on the planet,” says Ariana Santiago, a botanist at the Mar del Plata BioPark. “It’s the urban heaven.”
Even during the driest months, from November to March, you’ll hear wild boar; watch wild jaguars walk silently through the park; and observe small mammals at their most restful, braiding through the long grass on its terraces.
Kneeling on a slippery rutted trail above the Raumca Canyon on the original Raumca River in the Mar del Plata National Park, Santiago nods toward a spider crab and a few baby baby sea turtles. “See the crabs are only swimmers,” she says. “These turtles aren’t even adults yet.”
One is about the size of a ping-pong ball. There is a strip of green grass in the national park that I’ve been following for the past few days, just above my feet. Santiago wants me to see where the grassy ribbon got its name. “You have to move it around,” she says. “There’s no moss on it.” Within a few minutes, the grass has disappeared, revealing several acres of thick, laceworklike ground scapes and mud. The Rongas rainforest was a desert during the conquistadors’ time.
The fascinating blue-green land around us is home to multiple species of ground beetles, and one of Santiago’s favorite, the wide-winged pugilist beetle, which looks like a reptile but has four wings and a tongue-like sucker. There are plants that can only be found in Patagonia, also including black yam, unripe pumice, and sunburnt dragon.
On one of the ravines that juts across the world into Chile, a sea of pink waves stretch out with a white cap over them. “The waves come in from the sea and vanish in the lower elevation of the forest,” Santiago says. “When they subside, they wash up here and form their own fur.” There are regular hikes to Patagonia’s most spectacular areas for picnickers, birders, climbers, and other nature enthusiasts.
One of the secrets of the Raumca River Valley is the moss deposits on the edge of one of its canyon walls. A heavy-duty boot produces huge, soft plugs that fill up quickly, either creating a cushion for you to walk on, or a spot where you can sit and contemplate the full-blooming clouds that occasionally flow over the river. Read: New technology is letting people see animals in new ways