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After another night of thunder & rain (so I’m told) the day started great, bright sun shine, nice and quiet on the roads of San Juan and we were off to look for Eriosyce to the west of town, around Pachaco (E. strausiana ssp pachacoensis).

 Before too long we were out of town, on a nice semi-rural hardtop, lined with mature Eucalyptus trees behind which we could see the vineyards that are the source of the famed San Juan Cabernet Sauvignon. It promised to be another great day. Except I was having a problem with one eye that kept running – possibly a mild allergy reaction to all this lushness in nature – back in the UK I can have interesting hay-fever attacks. As there were loads of cyclists on the road at the side where I wasn’t seeing properly, I asked Cliff to take a turn.

By now we had entered the hills to the west of San Juan and while we stopped (S1135), Juan spotted a few Eriosyce on the hills along the road. Much too far away for Cliff & I to be able to see. So we poodled around at the foot of the hill while Juan went to take a look and confirmed that they were indeed E. strausiana. And we took his word for it that they looked just like the pictures in Katterman’s book! Because Juan likes a challenge, we asked him to find us some cristate forms, in flower, at eye level along the road. Needless to say. we’re still looking.

The day continued to improve as the scenery in the hills was great. We were following a river (the Rio San Juan) and could see a small dam that controlled the flow of water. We passed by the dam and then ….. Damn! a barrier across the road! A police officer scrambled out of a hut and informed us that the road was closed. How long for? we asked, hoping that it might be only for an hour or so. ‘Well, it’s been closed for the last five years, while they are building a new, bigger dam.’ came the reply. ‘Thanks for not updating the signs along the road’, we thought as we had to drive the 56 km back to San Juan. We were only a few km from our goal, very frustrating.

I mentioned that Juan likes a challenge, and not too far from his stop, he discovered some Eriosyce growing on the rock slopes nearer the road (S1136). A quick inspection revealed that these were well within zoom lens range, so cameras clicked. Now, back at the hotel, a look at Kattermann’s book shows that the Eriosyce at this second stop are in fact the much denser spined E. strausiana ssp pachacoensis! So doubly well done, Juan.

It took the sting out of the disappointment we felt, as the road we had selected (R 412 to Calingasta) had all sorts of other goodies growing alongside it, including E. famatinensis fa San Juan. By midday, we were back where we started, in San Juan, and there was no alternative route to where we wanted to go, except ‘the long way round’. We decided instead to do the hard driving that was due tomorrow now, or at least, to split it over two days. So we drove to and through te town of Mendoza and continued south until we reached the town of San Carlos. The Database suggests that there are some E. strausiana around here, but as we had not planned to be here, Juan’s magic GPS did not contain the relevant data. So today became a partial rest day as we booked into a nice hotel / casino, where it looks as if again, we might be the only guests.

Let’s hope that tomorrow turns out to be more productive!

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