Rudolf was keen to establish how Copiapoa calderana and C. marginata grow together (or not) between Chañaral and Caldera. Our contribution was to make regular stops along Ruta 5 between the two towns and to photograph what we found. And so we would stop roughly every 10 km, or as soon afterwards as promising terrain would appear close to the road, while Rudolf and Leo spent the day driving up tracks inland and make some hikes to see what they could find.
It is much too early to say anything meaningful until we’ve mapped our stops, merged our images with similar stops in the area in 2001 and those made at the start of our trip this year, compare these with Rudolf’s findings etc. At this stage, I’ll make do with simply listing the stop numbers and reporting what, in the concept of Benjy and my understanding of Copiapoa taxonomy, we saw. It is interesting to note that when discussing such issues with other Copiapoaphiles, many have differing concepts of what a particular taxon is. You can argue until you see blue in the face – such concepts are deeply ingrained, sometimes based on interpretation of available literature, sometimes on a particular photograph in one of the authoritative works (many of which disagree with each other) – or elsewhere, or by what a person has seen in collections and habitat. Who is ‘right’ and who is ‘wrong’ is a mute point. As a result the following list should be regarded as those ‘working names’ only, that I am comfortable with at present, but may change my mind on, depending on new information. Not very scientific, but most snapshots of projects during the ‘work-in-progress’ phase are messy.
stop# Location Taxa
S0180 Punta Animas aff. Copiapoa cinerascens / calderana/serpentisulcata intermediates, Eriosyce rodentiophila
S0181 Los Toyos aff. C. calderana ‘spinosior’, Eriosyce rodentiophila
S0182 South of Puert Flamenco aff. C. calderana
S0183 South of Caleta Obispo No Copiapoa found, Cumulopuntia sphaerica, Eulychnia sp.
S0184 North of Rada Blanca C. calderana (few)
S0185 South of Rada Blanca C. calderana (many:- seedlings through large mature plants)
S0186 Near Punta Zentena, in and along a dry river bed. C. calderana
Beyond S0186, the terrain consisted of lose sand plains – not suitable for Copiapoa – or any other plants for that matter.
Tired and confused we arrived back at Hotel Rocas de Bahia, where the bar was ready and waiting for us and where we took a look at the itinerary for the following day. During our last visit, some members of our party had wanted to spend a day here, looking for fossils, while others wanted to carry on looking at Copiapoa in their environment. Angie and I went out for a walk along the beach and found a small supermarket open. We just wanted some bread rolls for the following day, but were surprised by the large number of fossils on display and for sale. Unable to withstand the temptation, I bought a Megalodon tooth, 9 x 7.5 cm in size, and produced this at dinner with a casual ‘Look what Angie and I came back with from our stroll along the beach.’
This established two distinct parties – the ‘fossil hunters’ and the ‘cactus hunters’ – for the following day.