Once again, the first priority of the day was to get our puncture fixed. The owner of the cabanas, Mr Farr, an 85 year old Chilean of British decent, from somewhere in the Midlands, advised that there were no Vulcos in town, we had to drive to Tongoy, 7 km south along the coast. As breakfast was not included in the Cabanas and all shops had been closed in town last night – and still this morning, we arrived at Tongoy much to early, found the Vulco but of course it was still closed. A drive through town revealed that the same was trye of the many small eateries along the beach. At one of these, two men were sweeping the terrace and carrying crates in from a truck. Juan asked them what time they opened for breakfast and the welcome reply was along the lines of ‘As you are here, now!’
The tyre that had been patched in San Pedro was patched again and this time an inner tube was fitted to help to keep the air in. It would serve as the spare from now on.
First stop of the day, S1981 was just south of La Higuera, just as we had again conquered the Cuesta Buenos Aires (or was it B. Vista?) prompted by clouds just forcing themselves over the coastal hills. Eulychnia acida was here with slightly more hairy hypanthium than I regard as typical. C. coquimbana and Eriosyce had sent E. heinrichana as its representative, found first in advanced bud, then in flower.
We turned west on a track after the usual turning to Los Choros at El Trapiche. We had often commented on the hills along R5 here, not sure if mining was systematically removing the hill or if the hill itself was the result of decades of spoil tipping from mining activity elsewhere. Se stopped to explore a hillside (S1982) expecting to find Eulychnia and Eriosyce aurata, but only Cumulopuntia sphaerica prevented this from being a ‘no cactus’ stop.
S1983 was farther along our new track and here the sight of two resonably sized E. aurata (E. spinibarbis or E. algarobensis – take your pick) were spotted growing on the hills. One of them was actually in flower. Life became less clear cut when the track repeatedly split in two and deteriorated rapidly until it appeared that we were following a digger that was making a new track through the mountains a hundred meters in front of us. The driver looked surprised to see Juan appear next to his cab to ask for directions to either Choros Alto or Carrizalillo. The names seemed meaningless to him, he probably came from a larger town like Vallenar or La Serena and was just doing his x week stint on the digger with instructions to clear a track from A to B. It seemed best to turn around and head back to R5.
S1884 was for a stop at E. (Thelocephala) fankhauseri, where again, after some searching, we found these amazing little plants, mainly through Juan’s eagle eyed spotting the wooly fruits that were proudly standing above the soil, ready to be blown off by the ever present wind.
We booked ourselves in for two nights at the Hosteria in Vallenar and decided to stroll into town, ending up at the Restaurant Bavaria. Great food as usual. A walk to the Plaza revealed a crowd of people gathered around a structure. Closer examination showed that one of the cylinders used to resue the 33 miners a few weeks earlier was on display here and you were actually allowed into the capsule to see if you would have fitted a potential rescue. I did. John did not. Lose those pounds John!