Today was planned to be a driving day, to get away from Santiago and into cactus country. We still managed the traditional stop at Pichidangui (S1895) that confirmed that everything looked greener than on most previous visits.
S1895 - Pichidangui flowers
A quick stop at the Pronto at Los Sorcos, just before the Fray Jorge National Park for a hot dog and a cup of coffee.
S1896 was another old favourite stop, overlooking the village of Los Hornos and Quebrada Honda. We failed to find the crested Copiapoa coquimbana that we had seen in previous years but found a cristate Echinopsis (Trichocereus) coquimbana instead. Checking up my notes indicates that on past stops I had always reported E. acida growing here, but this time, easily distinguishable by its flowers and hypanthium, E. breviflora can also be confirmed to grow here. Useful information to add to the Eulychnia book that Paul Hoxey and I have been working on.
Juan had phoned ahead and booked us into Hotel Skitniza.
This trip promises to be more like a cactus tourist trips, visiting old places rather than extensive exploring. For David of course, everything is new and he has been heard to mumble that it’s like having died and gone to cactus heaven.
After a sound, solid night’s sleep, I woke up 5 minutes before the alarm went off at 7. Amazingly, we all woke up and got ourselves organised to wave goodbye to Flo at 9.
Nothing too exciting to report. We made two cactus stops
S1895 was our traditional first plant stop at Pichidangui and S1896 again was the car park above Los Hornos, north of La Serena. Flo had booked us in at Hotel Skitniza, familiar from previous trips.
Along the road we noticed that everything looked comparatively lush and green, but no evidence of the spectacular Desert in flower yet.
Wiebe asked if there were still new things to see? Certainly! At Pichidangui I managed to get the photos I wanted for the Eulychnia book that Paul Hoxey and I are writing (the draft failed to arrive on time for our departure), and there were many Nolana and Calandrinia in flower. The weather was quite overcast and we even had a light drizzle on a couple of occasions.
The excitement for me came at Los Hornos, where I had recorded Eulychnia acida before, but this time also spotted a few plants of E. breviflora in flower. Flower sections were taken and photographed. I don’t recall this as a place where we have seen the two growing together before. No sign of intermediates etc.
By 8 p.m. we were sitting down to dinner – excellent sea food – and by 10 were snoring our heads off.
So lets hope that on Monday we see signs of the flowering desert!!!!