The complete walk today has been given one stop number – S056 – I was too preoccupied with taking pictures and not falling down hillsides to take more frequent GPS readings.
We walked about half way up the Quebrada, across the (dry) waterfall and past the first side canyon coming in from the left (north). Just before the second side canyon left (north) Rudolf directed us up the steep and crumbly canyon wall. The density and variation in the clumps of Copiapoa cinerea were amazing!
Climbing to a height of some 750 m. it was not surprising to find that the group of ten had become stretched out over the hillside.
Marlon and I stayed with John – the tail-ender – in the certain knowledge that plants that had been growing at the top for a hundred years or more would still be there when we would eventually arrive.
At the top of the hill, we could see the rest of the party, with Leo in his bright yellow T shirt in front, following a donkey trail that disappeared around the hillside. We followed the trail and, as it wound around the hillside, we arrived at a south facing slope. Here the Copiapoa were absent, preferring sunny north facing sides, and the landscape was dominated by, mainly dead, Eulychnia.
As the trail twisted further, we were once again on the north-facing slope and the Copiapoa return, but here they were densely white-spined Copiapoa krainziana. Spines range from stiff and rigid to soft and woolly (c. 10% of plants) and from snow-white to dirty brown and black. In all cases, the spines were rather brittle, breaking off easily. Most stems had lost their spines at the lower part.
The site was covered in mouse droppings and the others report seeing mice sitting on top of stems, digging for fruits and seed. There were clear signs that these rodents caused serious damage caused to the plants.
Having reached our goal, we decide not to follow the others, but to take the ‘easy’ route back, by returning to the valley floor and following this back to the main Quebrada. A mistake, as we find out later ….. John’s trousers say it all – a high, steep waterfall just before the side valley joined the Quebrada forced us to climb high up the hillside from where the descent was mainly achieved by sliding. I guess the image below will be seen at a few BCSS branch meetings as ‘the end of the talk’, slide, replacing the traditional sunset picture.
S056: The final chapter in The Story of John’s trousers.
It’s a hard life being a cactus explorer!