About a week after booking my flights in and out of El Calafate, I was bowsing trough Instgram when I saw a cave that looked unlike anything I’ve seen covered n ancient hand prints on one of the travel accounts I follow. I looked it up immediately and was amazed with my luck that this cave, Cueva de las Manos, was located in Argentine Patagonia, not too far from where I was already planning to go. I started looking up travel routes and time, analyzing my schedule, determined to make it work. Although it was an overnight bus ride away from my main location, El Chalten, this was likely the only time in my life I would have the opportunity to see the cave, since it is located in the middle of the desert of Patagonia.
It was a hassle getting to these caves. It cost a lot of time, energy, and a decent amount of money. There was nothing else located in this town, Perito Moreno (don’t mistake this for the amazing glacier of the same name) I was traveling all the ay there solely to see the caves, so it had better be good.
The cave paintings in Cueva de las Manos dates back between 13,000 and 9,000 years. Although they do not know the name of the original tribe that inhabited the area at this time, they do know the paintings were created over a period of many years, by many different tribes. The caves are full of hand silhouettes. The archaeologist believe they were created by creating a mix minerals, maybe blood, or another fluid. The people would use a spraying pipe to dispense the paint. Most hand prints are left hands, indicating that the people were mostly righties. There is also a hand with six fingers. They even have guanaco foot prints on the caves! I imagine them holding a dead guanaco foot and spray panting it… kind of weird. Other than negative handprints, there are paintings of the people hunting guanacos, and even a painting of women giving birth.
Although, I’m tempted to pretend it as everything I had reamed, I have to honestly say it was not worth it, and my time would have been better spent taying in El Chalten. We all want to always reflect postitively on every travel experience, but the truth is sometimes, things are a let down, and this was one. It was all just kind of unerwhelming after all of the effort. If someone happened to be passing through this area of Argentina, I would 100% tell them to go see the caves, because it truly is unique, but I would not recommend to anyone that they go out of thir way (like me) just to see these caves.
On a positive note, I will say that it was riveting to reflect on the human experience at these caves. It is interesting to imagine these people from 9,000 years ago, trying to leave their mark on the world. Today, people take selfies, but thousands of years ago, these hand prints were all they had. Did they hope to be remembered? Did they want people to look at their hands prints and wonder who they were? Here we are 9,000 years later, and we don’t even know the name of the people who left these prints, but we can imagine them here in these caves with their children, living their daily life, vastly different than ours.