Today’s program was for a relatively short (in km) drive, but on a dirt road winding back and forth through the mountains with speeds of around 30 km p. hour and nice cactus spots that needed detailed attention of our cameras.
We had seen many Echinopsis Trichocereus sp. on this trip, many in Chile the result (taxonomically) of lumping, under the name E. chiloensis. The form that would be with us today and for most of tomorrow is what I have been calling informally ‘the Elqui Valley form’, although once we had passed Hurtardo, we were actually in the Rio Limari catchment area. This form has amazingly long spines, usually around 15 cm (6 “) in length, although longer spines could be found. Reason enough for our first stop of the day, S1969 and again, around km 98, in full view of the El Tofollo stellar observatory, where the first Eriosyce aurata appeared on the scene.
The next location, S1971, around Mirador Tres Cruces, has become known on previous visits as the ‘Golden Balls’ stop, due to the golden yellow spined E. aurata. And they were marvellous again, ‘Best plant of the trip’ announced Ian, but then he has not qualified as a BCSS judge. Eriosyce eriosyzoides was also here, this time in fruit and some plants still in flower. The name illustrates very well what nonsense you end up with when new combinations and stati resulted in Ritter’s Horridocactus eriosyzoides (= like an Eriosyce) became an Eriosyce itself, becoming ‘Eriosyce like an Eriosyce’. Yeah, right! An excellent stop, even third time round and good to think that I’ll probably be back here again in November.
S1972 was another third time visit for a hill side densely packed with Echinopsis (Trichocereus) chiloensis near Los Morales. The effect could be enhanced even more by using the compression effect of a 200 mm telephoto lens. Returning to the same location on several occasions makes me think that I have a design fault my Stop Number lists. I should perhaps have recorded Location References, e.g. Los Morales, with the ability to record many stops there on different dates. Perhaps S1972 is not the best time to start changing a system, but I should be able to retrofit a Location Reference to the database, some time during Summer 2011 in England perhaps. We’ll see. It is not unusual to revisit a place and find cactus taxa that escaped us before. Similarly it is not unusual on subsequent visits not to want to repeat a long duplicate plant list each time.
We arrived at Ovalle and thanks to Juan’s excellent rear seat GPS navigation found our way through the busy town to Hotel Turismo, which proved a lot more comfortable than Hotel Roxy in 2003, in what seemed to be the red light district of town.
Rather worrying, after the Taltal Hen Party experience, they were setting up stalls and a sound stage for an Agricultural Fair on the Plaza immediately opposite the Hotel. Fortunately for the light sleepers amongst us, the Fair did not start until the next day and we enjoyed a good night’s rest.