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Two days earlier, we had passed a photo stop for Copiapoa eremophila because we had missed the ‘two dead busses’ turning off the main road. Today we would make up for this, but decided that the rather dust covered plants along the side of the main road would have to do (S0144). Also found were some nice Neops (Eriosyce taltalensis subsp. paucicostata). Looking at my images now, we also saw Eulychnia taltalensis and Trichocereus, but after seeing them at most stops to date, they seem to have become part of the general scenery and not worth jotting down in my notebook anymore.

Cumulopuntia sphaerica (aka Opuntia berteri) is another one that is found in most places and so doesn’t make it on to my list. I’m going through our digital images and slides (as they are returned from the processor – I send them in batches of 3 films at the time as I know of people who sent all their film from a cactus trip in one go, only to loose them all as the lab. had a disaster processing that particular batch), to add any cactus taxa in the pictures to my list of plants seen at a
particular stop.

For our next stop (S0145) we moved back down the hill to the northern edge of Paposo where, right next to a thermo electrical station, was a quaint, well maintained cemetery. Between the cemetery and the ocean, we found Copiapoa cinerea / haseltoniana and Eriosyce taltalensis subsp. paucicostata – plenty of opportunity to take some pictures of cacti with the ocean in the background.

Reviewing these images later, it seems that we may not have been as careful as we should have been to keep the horizon straight as in many you’d expect a water-skier to come in from one side of the picture and ski ‘down the slope’ to the other. A bit of trickery using Photoshop will sort this out – more work 🙂

We spent the rest of a relaxing day driving back to Taltal, making random stops along Ruta 1, which is lined all the way with Copiapoa – at least where the narrow strip of land between the ocean and the foot of the coastal hills is wide enough. Our next stop (S0146) was just south of Paposo and we found much the same plants as at our previous stop, although the cinereas here seemed be more green rather than bluish grey. When taking pictures of cacti in habitat, it is important to provide an object in some of the photos to provide a scale to allow the viewer to get an impression of the seize of the plant. Lens caps and coins are perhaps most often used – but will the audience know the size of a Chilean coin? For a big clump of Copiapoa cinerea, a lens cap or coin would not have been visible. I used my hat on a number of occasions to indicate scale and the final results are quite amusing, especially on plants where the apex has started to elongate to eventually become a crested head. Such plants gained the nick name ‘smilers’, and we found a number of these.

S0147 – and still the same plants as before, but here the Eriosyce taltalensis subsp. paucicostata was much greener – probably the form seen in cultivation as ‘viridis’. The diameter of the heads on the cinerea seemed to increase.

At S0148, north of Playa Cachinales, plants with heads of up to 30 cm (12″) in diameter were found with stems on some plants trailing along the ground reaching lengths to 180 cm (6 ft): these must have been the plants for which the name Copiapoa gigantea was erected.

But just as you think that they can’t get any bigger, at our next stop (S0149) we found some real monsters, as well as a ‘different’ Eriosyce (Neoporteria) sp. The spination on the Copiapoa was much lighter in colour – horn coloured to white – than the predominantly black to grey spined plants at Paposo.

Over our dinner that night I enthused about our target for the next day – early morning on top of Mt. Perales where in 2001, Marlon had taken his magnificent ‘Cacti above the cloud’ pictures.

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