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Archive for November, 2010

Tuesday, 30 November 2010 – Another Airport run

It’s great to welcome John Carr, from Selby, Yorkshire, England to Santiago de Chile.

It was  -10  Centigrade when he left home yesterday, the train to London was cancelled so an 8 hour trip by coach preceded his flight from London Heathrow to Sao Paulo, Brazil. Flight tracker again proved useless for flights outside US airspace, retorting that the flight was due to arrive 30 minutes early when in fact it touched down 30 minutes late. It was +27 C outside the airport and more like 30 C walking through the exposed car park.

It did not matter, we were in no particular rush and were in time for lunch plus an afternoon of chatting about travel plans, trips to the fridge to pick up an ice cold Cristal and brief spells at the pool.

By the way, either no one has been reading my posts or everyone has become so accustomed to my spelling mistakes and typos that nobody found it necessary to point out that I have been consistently misspelling Chile’s favourite lager, Cristal, with an ‘i’ instead of a ‘y’. Now I’ll have to check WordPress for a bulk search & replace function to correct all the times that I have misspelled it in the past. There is no need to notify me of other typos of which I know that there are plenty.

tomorrow we set off on the 2010 Patagoniathon!

Monday, 29 November 2010 – Another Airport run

Flight tracker is wonderful, except that it seems to work best for flights in US airspace. It did report that Cliff’s flight had not left Madrid on time and that any delays would be updated later. It suggested on one screen that the flight, due to arrive at 9:15 would be 30 minutes late, while on another screen we were advised trhat it would land at 10:08. That was the time that we pulled into the airport, got stuck in a roadworks traffic jam and ended up in the second carpark away from the terminal. ‘He might actually be waiting for us.’ I suggested optimistacally. He wasn’t, because his flight was still in the air and eventually touched down at 11:16.

Cliff emerged from customs about an hour later – much to our amazement, with Bart & Marijke Hensel! I thought that they were due to fly in tomorrow, but I got that wrong. Their Amsterdam- Madrid flight had been delayed so that they had missed their connecting flight in Madrid and ended up on the plane with Cliff. But they had also missed their connecting flight to Antofagasta so sorting out their revised flight was their next connection. It was around 15:00 hours, so not too bad and not enough time to come along to Florencia’s home for a snack and refreshments.

We hope you have a great time in Chile and look forward to learning about your experiences!

Cliff reported a nice straight forward journey from Waterlooville to Heathrow and then a series of delays in flights taking off and his plane not going as fast as it was able to, to add further to delays. 

On the way back from the Airport, we visited another  huge shopping Mall where Juan tried to get a pair of walking / climbing boots, but without success. Cliff had as much success looking for a belt, as he has lost a few pounds since the start of the October tour, also without success and I was after a hoodie to keep my ears warm in Patagonia where apparently wind is a strong feature and all four seasons can be experienced in the same day – but I was not prepared to pay mega-bucks fopr something that was designed for the surfing beaches of California. I’ll wait for something more functional and local when the need arises.

And so I settle back to my routine of computer planning the Patagoniathon and trips to the poolside with cans of Crystal.

Sunday, 28 November, 2010 – Lonquen rest day

The BBC News UK headlines were daunting:

‘Drivers warned as freeze goes on – Heavy snow and ice will make the Monday morning commute hazardous, especially in the worst hit parts of eastern England and Scotland.’

‘Temperature drops to -17C in Wales’

Why should I worry?

Because Angie and her son Peter left Amesbury at around 3 a.m. this morning, heading for Dover to catch the 8 a.m. Dover to Dunkirk ferry and are then driving on to Cologne for a one week break at her parents.

Because Cliff has to get from Waterlooville in the south east of the UK to Heathrow Airport for his 15:25 flight to Madrid, from where he is due to fly to Santiago. Flighttracker reports the flight was delayed for 20 minutes but is on its way. Is Cliff on it?

Because John Carr has to travel from York to Heathrow tomorrow to fly to Santiago via Sao Paulo. Will he be able to get to get to Heathrow?

This time of year it seems best to have already made the journey to Santiago, where it’s pushing 28C and it’s just about bearable next to the pool with an ice-cold Crystal.

Tomorrow will tell at least part of the outcomes.

Saturday, 27 November, 2010 – Lonquen rest day

Today was exactly what the heading says: Staying indoors, out of the 30 C sun, finishing the data recording for trips to date and doing some planning for the up coming trip to Patagonia and a last Messenger Chat with Angie before she leaves early tomorrow morning for a drive to Cologne, Germany, via Dover-Dunkirk. Snowflakes were falling as she closed her laptop down.

I ventured out into the sun for brief spells away from the computer to avoid square-eyed-itis, taking an ice-cold Crystal with me as a survival strategy!

Friday, 26 November, 2010 – Olmue to Lonquen

I had a score to settle.

In 2007, Juan, Florencia, Leo and I visited the Parc Nacional de La Campana, specifically to photograph the two Eriosyce that come from that area: Eriosyce curvispina ssp robusta and Eriosyce garavantea. E. garavantae is a challenge for any one; it grows near the top of the hill that dominates the park at 1,800 m altitude. On that occasion, I gave up about half way while the remainder of the group made it to the top and happily shared the pictures they took with me. But it was not about having the pictures, it was about having my own pictures. I’ wise enough to know that when you get older and less fit, there are things that you’d like to do but simply can’t. But it’s not easy. And the brain always looks for a solution to make it possible after all.

So while waiting for my fellow explorers to return, I was interested to learn from posters and had outs, that there is a track that can be used by 4×4 vehicles that goes to within 1.8 km to the top, as opposed to the 17 km that took 4-5 hours each way to conquer. At the time we were in Renault Clio, hardly the car for such an adventure. But this time ……

And so we sat having breakfast at the base of the hill, covered in thick cloud as we woke up, but becoming clearer as the sun was burning off the worst until by c. 10 a.m. we were ready for the challenge. Guns & Roses ‘November Rain’ was playing on my iPod that acts as the Explorer’s Juke Box. The month was right, but the outside thermometer indicated 18 C as the song was talking about walking in a cold November rain. By the time we had reached the point where the car track finished, the gauge read 27 C.

It was not the easiest track, in fact I’d put in on par with the climb to the top of Cerro Perales or the drive to the T Junction at Botija or the drive up ‘Horror Hill’ in 2003. At one stage the car was only 3 wheel drive as the rear wheel had plunged into a major pot hole and had tipped the car backwards with the opposite front wheel hanging about a foot in the air! But all crises were overcome and we managed the 10.5 km from the gate to the Mine area where the car track finished. I was under no illusion that the way back would be any easier!

We made one stop (S2073) for a handsome stand of Echinopsis (Trichocereus) chiloensis in flower and also found Eriosyce curvispina ssp. robusta in bud. So I had completed most of the trip to the top without a drop of sweat spilled or a sign of getting out of breath. But that was about to change.

The 1.8 km that remained on foot was covered at my own pace and I’m really grateful to Juan for being patient as my beta-blockers, busy protecting my heart, stopped me from going up at anything but a snail’s pace. Still, I got to the point that has a plaque dedicated to Charles Darwin in 75 minutes. Darwin is said to have reached this point on a clear day, 17 August 1834 and noticed how narrow Chile is, being able to observe from this spot, both the Andes (border with Argentina) and the Pacific Ocean. Today it was a bit more cloudy but we certainly knew that we were high up. Juan suggested that we did not make for the actual peak at 1,800 m where in 2007 only two plants were found, but instead to make for an area that was signposted as ‘Cuidado / Warning: Rodados y Pendiente fuerte’ (= land slides) where in 2007 they had found plenty of plants.

Mindful of the two light shocks that we had experienced at Ricardo’s yesterday I briefly thought about the wisdom of this proposal, but it seemed churlish after what we had already accomplished to abort the mission now. Juan discovered that he had left his best climbing shoes at Lonquen, so every step he took was hurting. Yet he risked life and limb and soon reported finding lots of E. garavantea plants, many in flower. But sadly he also reported that he thought it too dangerous for me to join him as he had already triggered a couple landslides. So I stuck to the path, or at least the series of markers on a different part of the landslide area that had been marked out at such. Eventually Juan found about a dozen plants that were near enough to the track for me to risk my life. And so an old score was settled.

Thursday, 25 November, 2010 – Lonquen to Olmue

Juan and I left Lonquen after lunch for a relaxed drive to Olmue where we had arranged a visit to Ingrid Schaub and Ricardo Keim and their plant collection / nursery Alvaralto. We had enjoyed their hospitality on a number of occasions in the past and this time was no exception, noting the latest changes in the cactus garden, seeing some new, yet to be described novelties and discussing the state of cactology in general.

Juan and I had already booked ourselves in to the cabanas where we had stayed in 2007 for our hike into the Parc Nacional La Campana where tomorrow we’d try again to follow in the footsteps of no less a person then Charles Darwin and reach the top of Cerro Campana (the Bell, due to its shape) to visit Eriosyce garavantae in habitat.

Wednesday, 24 November, 2010 – Lonquen: rest day

Today was exactly what the heading says: Staying indoors, out of the 30 C sun, finishing the data recording for trips to date and doing some planning for the up coming trip to Patagonia.

I ventured out into the sun for brief spells away from the computer to avoid square-eyed-itis, taking an ice-cold Crystal with me as a survival strategy!

Tuesday, 23 November, 2010 – Lonquen: another airport run

All good things come to an end and for Mark and John that moment had come at around 10 a.m. when we left Lonquen to arrive in plenty of time at the airport and their flight home.

For me it was back to Lonquen to carry on being busy: sort pictures, update my database, bring the back log of Diaries up to date, stretches by the pool etc.

Monday, 22 November, 2010 – Lonquen: rest day

Today was exactly what the heading says: Staying indoors, out of the 30 C sun, sorting pictures, sorting clothes to be washed, finishing the data recording for trips to date and doing some planning for the up coming trip to Patagonia.

I ventured out into the sun for brief spells away from the computer to avoid square-eyed-itis, taking an ice-cold Crystal with me as a survival strategy!

For Mark & John the delights included packing for their flight home and preparing for the horrors to come by sun bathing by the pool – the end to a perfect trip.

Sunday, 21 November, 2010 – Lonquen: Concha y Toro

I mentioned that last night we were invited to attend an end of year demonstration of Flamenco dancing by the school where Florencia and her sister have been active for some 30 years. It was the first time that this end of year party was held out of Santiago and the organisers did not really know what to expect in terms of numbers. They were very pleasantly surprised that over three hundred tickets had been sold.

We were treated to two hours of fine performances by the ladies only flamenco school. The whole evening was recorded for a DVD, but just in case, I made my own video recording. As my camcorder has a limited battery life, I could only record the bits that Flo took part in.

It was quite an eye opener for me, nothing like the tourist presentations I had seen on family holidays in Mallorca, or near Barcelona. These dances went back to the origins of Flamenco dancing and I thought I could recognise a lot of Indian and Middle East influences, which were later confirmed by Flo.

Although still only 11:00 a.m. the Cactus Explorers were dead on our feet and ready for bed. All except Juan and Flo, that is.

This morning we woke up for a 9 a.m. breakfast and he and Flo only just returned from the party which had gone on all night. Oh to be young!

As a result we had a relaxing day, excellent BBQ with Victor and other members of the family and then ready for a visit to the Concha y Toro wineries. (S2070) This was my third visit and I noticed that the cellars were not as full as they seemed previously. Our guide confirmed that although last January’s earthquake had only done some superficial damage to the cellars, it had been strong enough to cause the barrels that in places were stacked five high, to start moving. As one broke, others followed so that the morning after workers were ankle-deep in wine.

I had noticed that during the UK summer of 2010, supplies of Chilean wine in the UK seemed to have halted for a while. This was the reason why.

S2070a was a brief stop on a scenic drive into the Andean foothills. During a scenic stop along the Maipu river, Juan and Flo had spotted some cacti – Echinopsis (Trichocereus) chiloensis – and could not resist a quick look at closer quarters. The European cactus explorers were wearing the wrong shoes, had brought the wrong camera and were generally in the wrong mood for a stop into the hills. I followed to the Tricho stand where Flo had soon found some Eriosyce curvispina to make the exercise worthwhile.

Back home we managed Spag Bol and a beer before crashing out. Not a typical day, but still a great day.