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Another amazing day, but in quite a different respect to previous days. After breakfast we parted company with Brian Bates. It was great to see him again, this time in South America and great to be shown some very special cactus places. Many thanks, Brian! See you in the No Star Stonehenge Cactarium, Wine Bar and Cinema on your next visit.

As he made his way north to the Bolivian border and a 9 hour wait for his bus journey home, we headed south for some 425 km to Campo Quijano, at the foot of the Quebrada del Toro. The first 100 km or so along R9 from La Quiaca are quite boring but fast, with the only brief delay some check points where the first one wanted to see our car papers, but the others must have been radioed that we were OK. 

It had rained hard during the night (as it had done during the previous night) and this time the Devil’s Backbone was over cast with heavy clouds. But the different light produced a nice alternative to the pictures taken on the way up, so a quick stop was made (S1067). We found Cumulopuntia glomerata here, in flower.

Just as I remarked that we had lost the ceroids from the scene, some 6 km north of the Iturbe turn off, as if by magic, the road went through a rocky quebrada and Echinopsis (Trichocereus) was back. (S1068)  But this was not the white flowered E. pasacana, all the plants here were red flowered, i.e. E. poco! Great! Except that there was a huge cut out made by the Rio Grande, that separated us from the plants. Telephoto lenses are good, and certainly proved that these were red flowered plants, but it would have been better to touch the plants and take a cross section of the flowers, as Juan had done for ‘Oreobivia cerox’ yesterday.

I remembered that the road had crossed a river only a 100 m. back and sure enough, walk back, across the bridge and then risked our lives by climbing up the slope to where the plants were in flower.

Cacti here included Parodia maassii, Tunilla corrugata,  Cumulopuntia boliviana, Austrocylindropuntia shaferi, Oreocereus trollii, Echinopsis (Lobivia) ferox / longispina and all but the Oreo were in flower! There were also two species of Lily in flower.

A few km later, at the turn off east to Churquijaguada, (S1069) we spotted the first white flowered E. pasacana, growing side by side with a red flowered E. poco. From there on they were all white flowered. Other cacti seen included: Opuntia sp, Austrocylindropuntia shaferi, Echinopsis ferox (Lobivia longispina) and  Parodia maassii.

Just before San Salvador de Jujuy, we saw a turning to the Thermas de Reyes, a location that both Cliff & I remembered from 2005. On arrival, (S1070) we both admitted that although we immediately remembered  this spot, it was not the Thermas (where some of the bus party had a swim and with frogs and tadpoles in the water) that we had thought of when we decided to take the turning. This was the one where we walked down the riverbed of the Rio Reyes and found Parodia chrysacanthion and Rebutia fiebrigii (syn. R. jujuyensis). This time there was no time for a hike, so we crossed a narrow bridge to take the loop road back to Yala on R9.

We passed the town of S.S. de Jujuy and took the scenic route to Salta, staying on R9 which now had become almost single track. Both Cliff & I believe we recognised this (S1071) from 2005, as one of the roads through the subtropical rainforest around Salta. Again we enjoyed taking pictures of Rhipsalis / Lepismium sp, Pfeiffera ianthothele, orchids and a host of different Tillandsia and other Bromeliaceae.

What was really staggering was the contrast between the cactus habitats here and 24 hours ago. Two different worlds, in such a short time.

We struggled  through Salta at rush hour where everybody seems to have a favourite colour traffic light to go on and where lane discipline seems to be an unknown concept.

Before too long we were heading west on R 51 and found nice lodgings in Hosteria Punta Callejas; the ideal launch pad for our trip up the Quebrada del Toro, that starts just 4 km from our hotel’s front door, to San Antonio de los Cobres, 140 km up the road. Let’s hope that those heavy rain clouds hanging over the mountains in that direction will clear during the night.

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