Exactly a month after I left England and I’m already well into my second trip. ‘Doesn’t it get boring?’ Not as long as you have days like today!
Yesterday we finished on S1999 and I had been wondering when I stopped for Summer where I would be for S2000. It could not have worked out better, although it was not a cactus stop, because S2000 was for pictures taken on the way to and at Mina San Jose, where 33 miners had been caught below ground for 69 days. The drama started in August while we were in England and the early prognoses was for them to be released around Christmas. They were actually coming above ground amidst massive global publicity as we were staying in San Pedro de Atacama during the previous trip. Lots of information is available on the internet, for example:
I had already posed in the Plaza in Vallenar where one of the rescue cylinders was on display.
In 2003 we had looked for Copiapoa megarhiza along this ‘Caldera to Copiapoa loop road’, an alternative to Ruta 5 that links the two towns along a well maintained dirt track that passes by the entrance to the mine. This time, perhaps better practiced at the art of finding cacti, we had little trouble identifying a candidate hillside and struck lucky for S2001 where we found many C. megarhiza. I had expected strong similarities between these plants and yesterday’s . coquimbana ssp andina, as it seemed strange to me to find any C. coquimbana north of the Rio Huasco. Early gut reactions confirm C. andina’s relationship to C. coquimbana as it clusters more readily than C. megarhiza.
S2002 was just 1 km off Ruta 5 as we headed to our next stop. Cumulopuntia sphaerica grew here, as it did everywhere else we visited today – a remarkable resilient taxon. There was also a cute, almost leafless orange / yellow coloured Alstroemeria sp. and a few plants of Eulychnia acida struggled on.
S2003 took us to a stop from our 2007 Copiapoathon for C. humilis ssp longispina. The location was readily found and again the plants looked to have survived a long period of draught although some old broken off heads had given rise to regeneration by good looking young stems.
S2004 was for a single, lonely, giant E. acida plant, a venerable giant!
For S2005 e returned to Morro Copiapó and the traditional look at C. marginata and E. (Thelocephala) odieri. There was again a strong breeze and I joked that I had stapled my hat to my head – again. The strong wind gets behind my glasses and irritates my eyes, resulting in an uncomfortable underwater type look at the plants with tears running down my face. Despite this, I found the first few odieri plants, not in the least because they were in flower and advanced bud. I managed half a dozen more plants but then had enough, the wind and my eyes were just not making this an enjoyable stop for me this time.
We returned to Caldera via Bahia Inglesa and promised ourselves a night here on our way back.
Tomorrow we return to Chañaral with the promise of Chinese food.