From 1 to 24 October 2004, some of us returned for Copiapoathon 2004 and again, daily reports were sent to two email forums: cacti_etc and to cactus_study.
So why the ‘Unfinished Business Tour’? I try to have my next trip to (any) cactus country planned before the wheels of the plane taking me home touch down on home soil. At the end of Copiapoathon 2003, we had plans to visit the Big Bend area in Texas, USA, to see Ariocarpus fissuratus in flower during October. Many of the 2003 Copiapoathoners are making this trip as I prepare these reports and hopefully will file their reports on their return. But two of us – Benjy Oliver and myself – found the lure of Chile in Spring stronger than the USA in Autumn. And so I proposed our trip, around places that I some how missed out on in the past or had learned of since:
Copiapoa tocopillana, south of Tocopilla
Copiapoa atacamensis and Eulychinia morromorenoensis, from near Antofagasta
Copiapoa varispinata from the Izcugña Valley
The newly described Copiapoa humilis ssp australis from Huasco
The notoriously difficult to find Euphorbia copiapina
We succeeded on a number of these, but failed on others, leaving us a good excuse for a future Copiapoathon, (The Angie’s Birthday Tour) pencilled in for 2007. At the same time we saw so much more that was not planned, that we came home very satisfied with another great Chilean experience.
Anne Adams (Copiapoathon 2003) and Alain Buffel, from Oostende – Belgium were also keen to come along this time. Due to a medical problem, Benjy called me at noon on the day of departure to say that he would not be able to come along. We’ve spoken since our return and, fortunately, he feels much better.
Top left to right: Bart Hensel, Anne Adams, Alain Buffel
Bottom row: Paul Klaassen, Marijke Hensel at S307
Our flight was due to depart at 19:00 hrs from Terminal 2, London – Heathrow Airport, but I’m always restless on the day of take off, so had asked my partner and one of last year’s Copiapoathoners, Angie Money to pick me up at 1 p.m. Around noon, I had a phone call from one of the 2004 crew – Benjy Oliver (also a 2001 and 2003 Copiapoathoner) to say that a medical problem prevented him from coming along – quite a blow for both of us at this late moment, as I know how much he had looked forward to this trip and had contributed much to the planning. We’ve spoken since my return and he is fine – just sorry to have missed out.
So it was just Anne and I that flew from Heathrow to Frankfurt – yes, seemingly in the ‘wrong’ direction – to meet up with Alain who had also managed to arrive on time, despite industrial disputes at Brussels Airport. The only thing to report on the flight from Frankfurt to Aeropuerto Internacional Arturo Merino Benitez at Pudahuel – with refuelling at Buenos Aires, is that it takes a long time (some 16 hours) to fly the 7,545 km and that the views out of the window during the last 30 minutes, as we crossed the Andes, were again breath-taking.
After the long flight, we looked forward to taking control of our own transport, but alas, on arrival at Santiago Airport, our rented Toyota Hilux 4×4 (or the rep from the rental company) was nowhere to be seen. We were soon surrounded by a couple of dozen reps from alternative rental companies, all promising us the best deal ever on what ever car we wanted. Tired from such long flights, one is rather vulnerable – a fact realised by the airport police who soon intervened and dispersed all but the most persistent reps. That final problem was soon resolved by a sergeant from the security police, well armed, but with a personality that made it unnecessary to even suggest that he needed to use them.
A phone call revealed an oversight on the part of the rental company that was however quickly resolved by a rep picking us up and taking us to the garage where our car was ready and waiting. So, some three hours later than planned, we finally started our journey north.
Technically, it is now 2 October, so I have strayed into tomorrow’s report, but it seems logical to keep the ‘getting there’ section as one.