It was dry when we woke up. Great!
We looked out of the breakfast room and could see the beach – no fog. Great!
We looked up towards our goal of the day, the 1,148 m. high Morro Moreno, only to learn that today, the cloud base was at 50 m above our heads. Alain was doing his best to put a brave face on things. I had already dismissed a climb today, but wanted to at least have explored around the base of the Morro to look for a possible starting point for a climb to the top. Fortunately, various roads and tracks provided access to various tourist beaches, with dozens of tents perched along the ocean. We followed these round until the path became impassable (S258).
Later we learned that today (Monday 11 October) was a national bank holiday. I immediately understood the weather pattern – Spring Bank Holidays in the UK usually turn out to be wash-outs too.
We drove towards Antofagasta and saw a huge cloud at the Juan Lopez end of the Morro Moreno, and a thinner cloud hanging closely above the rest of the Morro. We took some pictures at La Portada, a rock formation just off the coast in the Pacific Ocean that was declared a National Monument in 1990. The only sensible thing to do was to use this wasted day as a travel day and to head south down Ruta 5, back to Taltal, in the hope that the weather down south had improved since our last brief stay. At about 3:15 p.m., Ruta 5 turned towards the coast near Taltal. A thick layer of clouds seemed to pour over the top, heading inland where it quickly evaporated.
By 3:40 we were admiring developments at Cifuncho, basking in the sun, to the south of the village, at Caleta de Afuera, where in 2003, we had found Rudolf’s ‘sp. Cifuncho’, probably the most northern form of Copiapoa longistaminea. There had not been many plants here in 2003, and signs of beach parties, motor bike scrambling and lots of broken glass raise concerns for the plants that are left. This time (S259) a number of plants seemed to have been up-rooted as part of a game and lay randomly strewn about, roots in the air. I replanted a few, against better judgement.
We went back to the spot where we had found Copiapoa desertorum and C. columna-alba in 2001 (S052) and 2003 (S128). This time (S260) some of the C. desertorum plants were in flower – red! This answered a lot of my scepticism about the existence of C. rubriflora – here it was. And yet ….. it was late in the day, the low sun gave a reddish tinge to everything and I had seen yellow Copiapoa flowers turn reddish at the end of a long period of flowering in my collection. We took many pictures of many flowers on many plants. There would be time in our revised schedule to come back another day, around midday, for another look.
Excited and as the sun was setting, we took the new coast road to Taltal, booked back into the cabañas, hoping that the following morning we would wake up to the more customary sunshine.