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We had agreed on the rather ambitious plan to drive from Calama to Taltal via Botija and Paposo. Juan & Flo had made sure that Hotel Gali was expecting us late and had checked with Taltal Police that the coast road was clear.

S1946 was scenery as we approached El Cobre.

S1947 was the same place where we had stopped in 2001 and had found mainly dead Copiapoa solaris. Nothing had changed, although some Nolana in leaf and flower suggested that there had been some moisture here in relatively recent times – a week or two ago? We had also stopped here in 2003 and 2004.

The difference this time that we had the eagle eyed Juan and Flo with us and Ian had also proven his plant spotting ability (although we kept asking if he could find a flowering cristate plant of what ever he had spotted this time) I’m not sure who was the first to spot the novelty for us: Copiapoa tenuissima! An excellent find as none of us had seen this plant in habitat before, although it is quite common in cultivation in Europe. The plants were in good shape, easily recognised as C. tenuissima and much more positive than the shrivelled up plants that I had seen in other publications. Great find!

S1948 was at the surprising sight of the otherwise bone dry desert being in flower with hill sides covered in light blue flowers of what I assume to be a Nolana sp. David was not as impressed as the rest of us I think, as he had never seen the ‘normal’ bone dry landscape to compare this relatively lush landscape to. Don’t get me wrong: this area still looked dry and not lush by UK standards, but compared to previous years this was stunning!

S1949 was at our usual place at the mouth of the Quebrada Botija. There had been some dramatic changes! Our usual campsite had been bulldozed and many C. ahremephiana with it. But there was now a good track to the ex-campsite and beyond. It was getting rather late and David, for whom this was his first time here misunderstood my comment that those who wanted to walk to the T Junction had better get a move on, as time was ticking by. We had all assumed that it was too late to make this walk and consoled ourselves with taking some spectacular shots of C. ahremephiana close to the track and the Ocean share. We wanted to move on to Taltal, but David was missing. Ian thought that he had walked to the sea shore for a paddle – very dangerous on this rocky coast with water temperatures at 10 C and unexpected currents. Cliff was convinced that David had climbed into the hills, had slipped and was laying somewhere with a broken leg. Both rushed off on what turned out to be wild goose chases. Had he walked into the Quebrada on his own? and got lost?

There seemed little point in joining Ian and Cliff, so Juan & I drove into the Quebrada to see how far the track would take us. And perhaps to find avid here. And sure enough, as we rounded a corner, he came strolling towards us, happy smile on his face as he had seen healthy C. solaris at the T Junction and blissfully unaware of the commotion of his absence had caused. Walkie Talkie messages were passed back to the mouth of the Quebrada and a cheer went up as he rejoined Big Red and we could all start the rather delayed long, last stretch to arrive in pitch dark in Taltal. Angie, Florencia, Juan and I made it in time for a meal at Club Taltal, while Cliff, Ian and avid settled for a meal in a new restaurant along the sea front after Las Brisas had declared itself closed for business at the late hour.

Another exhausting day and we were glad to crawl into our beds. But what next????

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