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I guess it had to happen. One of my favourite cactus spots on this planet, the Quebrada San Ramon, now has a public car park at its entrance. Well, it’s not quite that bad, the pending and expanding tourist trade in Taltal has given rise to some well prepared car parks with picnic and camping facilities. One of these spots is near the entrance to the quarry at the mouth of the Quebrada.

This was my fourth visit to this location and we agreed that we’d march some 7 km straight in, without too much stopping. This would get us to the point where Copiapoa krainziana and Copiapoa rupestris grow side by side.

During my second visit, in 2001, we saw C. krainziana growing along the western side of a quebrada that comes into San Ramon from the north, but these plants look quite different from that population. Here, the clumps have fewer heads, with longer stems. The spines here are extremely brittle and come off the plant at the slightest touch. As a result, the old stems look like ageing punk rockers, with just a tuft of white spines at the apex.   

The rain that we had experienced a week earlier had left damp patches along the valley floor. Annuals were starting to appear and shrubs were coming into leaf and flower.

It brought home the fact that I could spend a complete three week trip in the Quebrada and still not see ‘everything’ – to explore the side canyons and the hillsides. Even then, it would only be a three week snapshot in time – perhaps it would be better to make various visits during different months of the year to gain some appreciation of how the scenery changes during the seasons. But then, the local concept of seasons is quite different from what I’m used to in Europe, with its fairly regular and predictable four seasons per annual cycle. Sure, there seem to be similar seasons here, but they seem to be very similar. There is another, much more significant seasonal cycle that is influenced by the El Nino effect. I have now seen this Quebrada in May 2001, June 2003 and October 2004. It will take many more visits to gain even a basic appreciation. Perhaps I should move to Taltal ☺

The cameras were snapping all through the Quebrada and have been arranged into 5 stops:

  • S278 – at the mouth of the Quebrada,  nearest the Ocean, so with the first and last pictures of the day

  • S279 – from about the first 20% to 33% of the valley

  • S280 – roughly the second third into the valley

  • S281 – roughly the last third  – where C. krainziana grows

  • S282 – as far as we got today – stopped for lunch and then went back

As usual, we returned to the cabañas tired but satisfied with what we had seen and with the images that we had taken. Tomorrow we’d leave early to go to my other favourite Quebrada, at Botija..

s279_0037

S279: Variability and diversity are the key issue to resolve in Copiapoa taxonomy.
Here an offset of a C. cinerea fa. could (in splitter’s terms)
be considered to be a different taxon, based on its appearance.

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