I was a little concerned when I got up. A peek through the window revealed a bright sunny day. I walked outside and took a look inland – not a cloud in the sky. Ah well, the weather can change and clouds may drift in by the time we get to the top of the hill.
We had the usual quick breakfast, a couple of rolls with slices of cheese. One feature of the fridge in our cabana was that although it had various temperature settings, the result was the same – very cold. As a result, Angie would spend a few minutes with her hair dryer to defrost the cheese so that the slices could be pulled apart, while I made the coffee.
We made one stop (S0150) along the track about half way up the hill and saw Copiapoa cinerea and its forms Copiapoa haseltoniana and C. tenebrosa. The track had not improved during the last two years and the silence all round us was only broken by the noise of the Nissan coming up the hill. It had a metal plate that acted as a guard to protect the oil sump etc from damage from
stones and boulders and should be held in place by four nuts & bolts. It was now only held on by one and as a result, the sump guard scraped along the track, making a poor attempt at levelling it for our descend later. The Copiapoa were a beautiful white to bluish grey that combined beautifully with the clear blue sky!
S0151 was made at the top of the hill, and still not a cloud in sight to recreate the magical effect that we had witnessed two years ago. The ground was thick with between large Echinopsis (Trichocereus) and Eulychnia stems and small leafless shrubs, of which I was only able to recognise Euphorbia lactiflua (unless there is another plant up there as well that bleeds when a branch breaks off) and Oxalis gigantea.
But where as the action in 2001 had been on the east side of the hill, over looking the then cloud filled valley, this time I went to take a look to the west and found that the trip was still worth while as a beautiful view over Taltal unfolded. Last time, the clouds had prevented this. A few wispy clouds were beginning to drift in, but not enough to spoil the view or to recreate the 2001 view.
On the way up, we had passed a turn off where a track headed east along what Rudolf had very aptly christened ‘The Ridge Way’. We crawled
along this, as the track was in a very poor shape, but offered spectacular views, including the occasional steep drop either side of it. We could hear the Nissan scrape along behind us. We stopped (S0152) at a place suggested by Rudolf, where Copiapoa rupestris (and not much else) grew. This had to be a continuation of the population that we’d seen at the end of the Quebrada San Ramon, where it had been accompanied by Copiapoa krainziana but there was no sign of anything like a white spined plant here.
There was one more stop (S0153) to feast our eyes on ‘proper’ Copiapoa cinerea, white bodied plants with jet black spines, just one or two per areole, before returning to Taltal. Is there such a thing as cactus-indigestion after seeing so many beautiful plants today? And is there a cure? Sure there is – more of the same tomorrow!