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Archive for October 17, 2010

Sunday, 17 October, 2010 – West of La Quiaca

Yesterday’s predictions turned out to be right – the desiccated plants of Yavia cryptacarpa were hard to find, but not to the eagle eyes of Juan and Florencia and also for Ian. It’s difficult to see how many different pictures you can take of these tiny plants. After snapping just 32 images of Y. cryptacarpa, Parodia maassii, Echinopsis ferox and Cumulopuntia boliviana at the Yavia Type Locality (this time S1927) we moved on to S1928 for more of the same, although, as in 2008, the plants were more plentiful here. Juan and Flo were quite successful in spotting and collecting fruits. The name ‘cryptocarpa‘ is for the feature where the fruits (carpa) remain hidden (crypto) inside the plant body. It seems that these plants in December / January, after some summer rains, but that during October, buds are already present, pushing the fruit out of the plant body. So when the rains come, last year’s seed is ‘sown’ while this year’s production cycle starts afresh. Ian and Angie had walked into the hills north of the track, an area that may well be part of Bolivia. Ian came back excitedly with stories of a small mostly buried cactus with spines protruding above ground. He then found a plant in flower: yellow flowers and we agree with his opinion that he had found a Weingartia sp. possibly W. neumanniana. We decided to carry on west but soon found ourselves out of the hills (at 3,600 m altitude, it seems confusing to call the low hills around us ‘mountains’) and entered a flat plain. Juan advised that his GPS showed lakes in this area. S1929. The name of the village we arrived at gave us a clue: Cienaguillas indicates marsh land. A lonely policeman at the check point in the village was pleased to see passing traffic on this Sunday morning. He inspected my passport and car documents. Then asked me what ‘Nederland’ meant. ‘Hollanda’ I replied proudly. ‘Ah’, he said, ‘you keep coming second in World Cup Soccer finals!’ Thanks very much! We decided to go back to see Ian’s find at S1928. It seemed that as the track twisted and turned, there was an easier access point, so this time stop number S1930 was allocated. There were some nice white flowers growing in a sandy plain across the track. No idea for an ID yet. No leaves visible and we did not take the trouble to inspect below ground level. Ian strode up the hill and as we struggled to follow in his slip stream (this was 3,800 m. altitude!) he found time to find a Neowerdermannia vorwerkii in flower as well. At the top of the hill he quickly found the yellow flower spotted on his earlier visit and by the time I arrived, huffing and puffing, several plants without flower had been neatly marked by Cliff and David so that they could be easily found again for the benefit of my camera and Juan & Flo. An exiting find and full credit to Ian for his eagle eyed observations. Just wait until you get to our age! Angie, David and I decided that we had had as much excitement as we could handle today, but Ian, Cliff, Juan & Flo made one more stop to try to add to their Yavia cryptocarpa seed collection.

Monday, 11 October, 2010 – Huasco to Chañaral

Happy birthday to Juan!

We started the birthday celebrations with another visit (S1897) to a familiar spot, just before the thermal power station that continues to belch out its ugly fumes. The Eriosyce (Thelocephala) napina were looking in excellent condition, but it seemed that flowering here had been over for some months. Juan reports that in July the foot of Cerro Colorades had been covered with white flowers belonging to a bulb sp.

Euphorbia thinophila, in full growth and in flower here in 2004, could still be found, now that we knew what we were looking for, but was no longer in flower.

The new coast road from Huasco to Caldera was now complete, so we decided to use this rather than to go back to R5. S1898 was at Quebrada Mala, where Copiapoa dealbata looked as magnificent as ever. I took some more pictures of Eulychnia breviflora in flower.

A bit further along Juan had spotted a bright red flower among the annuals that were now becoming more plentiful. (S1899). This was Leontochir ovallei, a rare member of the Alstroemeriaceae, and there were lots! Some were crawling along the ground, others were hanging down rocks, yet others had draped themselves artistically over the cacti. C. echinoides looked bursting with health, obviously having enjoyed a good drink in recent weeks.

S1900 gave us a sizeable patch of the purple haze – not as plentiful as in 2004, but impressive none the less. Great photos. But I somehow managed to leave my jumper among the flowers. It was destined to remain in Chile anyway, to be replaced with some new Llama / Alpaca jumpers later on.

S1901 was caused by a traffic sign, warning of cacti (!) that Juan had recognised as the place where Eriosyce (Thelocephala) were found on previous visits. Sure enough, without too much searching we found some large plants.

S1902 was for the usual C. calderana / E. (Thelocephala) kraussii.

S1903 was again a favourite: km 950, known as ‘Hoot The Virgin’, so named by us as the statue of the Virgin Mary overlooking the Ocean receives a blow on the claxon on any car that passes.

Complete plant lists of all these stops will be available later, or for those too impatient to wait, by searching through reports from previous Copiapathons.

Saturday, 9 October, 2010 – Madrid to Santiago de Chile

I guess that things could have gone a little more smoothly as the flight with David, Angie and I was delayed by almost three hours. Stil, we arrived safely in Santiago, where Cliff & Ian, booked on an earlier flight that left on time, were already waiting for us. Andres Gabor, our car rental contact since 2003, was waiting to welcome us back to Chile.

The cars selected this time were a Chevrolet Captiva for an 89 day period and a Nisan D21 pick up truck for the next 3 weeks.

Florencia Señoret rang Andres to ask if we had arrived yet and apologised for not being able to meet us at the airport. I reassured her that we could remember the way to her parents’ fundo at Lonquen and only made one wrong turn (they had moved the sign where we should have turned right into her road). It was good to relax after a long 48 hours and return to the Chinese restaurant that had often served us well on previous trips.

Tomorrow we’ll be on our way!!!

Sunday 17 October 2010

Greetings from La Quiaca, Jujuy, Argentina, where the weather is warm and sunny.

Having a great time, but we have a very demanding schedule each day. Diary reports are up to date on my laptop, but the Internet Cafes will not acept memory sticks so that I can update the Diaries.

So, please be patient, as soon as we have a wifi connection I will post the detailed reports. So far: we´ve had 2 punctures and I have managed to lose my debit card

The Desert in Chile was partly in flower and we hope for more on the way back. This is the farthest point we are going from Santiago, so tomorrow we start driving back, but with lots more exciting things to see.

Cheers for now