We were back in our usual routine of alarm at 7 a.m., breakfast at 8, on the road by 9.
The early stretches of R5 are now about as familiar to me as stretches of the A303 in England. Rather than another visit to Pichidangui, we decided to stop at Los Molles,(S1979), the Type Locality of Eulychnia castanea. I had been here a few years ago, and it was good to see that the road surface had improved with much tarmac. Along the coast we found the same plants as at Pichidangui, except that Eriosyce chilensis here was the type, not ssp albidiflora. If Eriosyce subgibbosa was here, not in flower, we could not distinguish it from E. chilensis. Alstroemeria sp. Callandrinia sp and Nolana sp were all in flower – Spring had sprung. An excellent stop to start the trip.
S1980 was along the track to Fray Jorge which again had been changed. We eventually reached the (new) official entrance to the Park and were met by one of the wardens who told us that officially they close at 4:00 p.m. but, as it was 16:15 he’d let us in. I assume that we would have had to pay the full admission fee so we politely thanked him for his offer but told him that we wanted to get to Guanaqueros. Juan asked him why they kept changing the track and the entrance gate. He explained that the current track went through some small settlements that could now benefit from the passing traffic during the tourist season. Again, we saw all the expected plants: Cumulopuntia sphaerica, Eriosyce aurata, E. nigrihorrida, Echinopsis (Trichocereus) chiloensis ssp skotsbergii and Eulychnia acida.