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Archive for January 2, 2009

Friday 2 January 2009 – Guanaqueros; a day out to Totoralillo

For the benefit of those who have been on previous Copiapoathons, in Guanaqueros we tried to get into the Cabañas where we stayed in 2007 – but they were full for the next week or more. We moved a few hundred meters along to where we stayed in 2001, 2004 and 2006. Same story, although I was pleased that the rotund ex-German owner recognised me and asked how my German wife was. So a few hundred meters along again, and we are in Cabanas Andalue, which are the best of the bunch yet!

For the British audience, Guanaqueros in early January is like Newquay on an August Bank Holiday weekend. The car park opposite Restaurant Pequena is charging GBP 2 to park and it is FULL!

A late start, just one stop (S1148), an early return ‘home’ – so was this a bad day? Certainly not. But cactus-exploring is not a hard-nosed, target driven thing and today we took it easy with a late start, arriving at (yet another) Totoralillo, just about 16 km north from Guanaqueros around noon. The Chilean tourists were even more laid back and the car parks and beach were still empty. It’s a small peninsula with sandy beaches either side of a track that leads to some posh cabanas and a restaurant at the end. We had a late lunch there and were served (?) by a man who reminded me of a 70 year old Manuel from the UK TV comedy program Fawlty Towers, but with his pacemaker removed or in reverse!

On the patio, Juan & Flo spotted a TV personality with her boy friend. She is the judge on Chile’s equivalent to the American ‘Judge Judy’ (or July?) show, where she settles small claim court cases for people who want to hang out their dirty washing in public.

We left the beaches and restaurants behind us for now and went into the low rocky hills where we found Copiapoa coquimbana – the dense spined form that we also found at Los Hornos and on Isla Chañaral. In the cracks of the rocks grew small seedling Eriosyce subgibbosa with some much larger plants growing between rocks. Juan & Flo also found a number of plants of Eriosyce heinrichiana var setosiflora. The ceroids here were Echinopsis (Trichocereus) coquimbana – which is the same one that grows at our regular Los Hornos stop but that I have probably misidentified since 2001, and Eulychnia sp. For a moment I thought all my work on describing a new species of Eulychnia (E. chorosensis n.n.) had gone down the drain as I was confronted with some Eulychnia that looked like VERY hairy E. acida, but had an upright rather than decumbent growth habit. What was going on?

Then I remembered how I was surprised at the size and colour of the fruits of E. acida yesterday and it dawned on me that I had never seen really ripe Eulychnia fruit before as our timing on previous trips has either seen them in bud or in flower with unripe fruit. When the fruit is ripe,the fruit spontaneously falls to the ground, like apples from an apple tree. I had been surprised by the fairly regular thud as these fruits were coming down in Fray Jorge yesterday. Here, and farther along, I came across another Eulychnia that was clearly E. breviflora. It was in bud, for a second flush of flowers and a neighbour was actually in flower. Nice woolly hypanthium, as you would expect. But they both also had large ripe fruits and these looked more like hairy E. acida fruit, or like the scalp of a balding man. And as I gently stroked the fruit, more of the wool readily came off. Not something that I have seen reported in literature before. I’ll ask Juan to check this out on E. iquiquensis and E. taltalensis as he is continuing farther north as a guide for a Californian couple, Steve & Phyllis Frieze from L.A. while Cliff & I return to Santiago on 5 January. So, another useful bit of info and pictures added to the Eulychnia files.

We also photographed an assortment of butterflies, caterpillars etc. so all in all, another great day!