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Today we drove 371 km to see a lot of dead plants, some half dead plants and just a few live plants.

We made the last second and fourth stops of the 22 October 2010,  stopping along the track down from Ruta 5 to El Cobre (S2035) but possibly 200 m further uphill – inland and so even less likely to benefit from clouds drifting in. Plant roll call: C. solaris (mainly dead), C. calderana ssp atacamensis Eulychnia sp. (iquiquensis would be my guess but not enough live material around with recognisable features for a positive ID). Only one C. tenuissima, (which Ian wants to record as his find at this spot in October. You should not have gone home Ian, we can’t find plants without you.), found by Juan.

We missed out on the stop for the hillsides full of flowers along the coast, simply because there were none to be found! We took several pictures of barren hills and I’ll have to drag out the October pictures to show how different things were then.

S2036 was at Botija where this time we met two Chileans, from Tocopilla, who were also cactus mad. They had driven from Tocopilla earlier today and were driving back tonight. One of them, Baldur Cornely Carrasco, has a website at www.copiapoa.cl So we are not the only cactus loco. 

They had driven here in a large 4×4, but had not dared to go too far into the Quebrada, not sure if things would get worse. We had the benefit of David’s report in October ‘that he could have driven his Berlingo in, all the way up to the T junction. I doubt that but we did get our trusted Chevvy all the way to what we used to call the T junction but is hereby renamed as ‘the roundabout’ The track is good enough for a high ground clearance truck to drive in and out. At the roundabout, the tracks lead north and south and disappear around the corners in both cases. The guys from Tocopilla believe that they could be after gold here – looking at the effort being put in. Baldur should know – he is the superintendent at the Mantos de la Luna Mine that we famously reached in 2001 via the coastal track, no doubt causing enough damage to the car’s clutch to have it burn out at San Pedro de Atacama the following day. 

Juan and I have an open invite to visit him in Tocopilla anytime when he’ll show us some interesting places. We did express our surprise at their hesitation to take their 4×4 in. They explained that they were carrying a fridge full of beer and did not want to spill any. Smart move!

Mark drove back along the torturous coast road and learned the special meaning that Paposo has to all of us who went here before, as we craned our neck around every bend to see if we could see Paposo yet. There was a small cheer when we did and a huge sigh when we hit smooth hard top on the outskirts of Paposo.

There was a white car parked at the barrier to the entrance to Quebrada San Ramon. We could have sworn that it was the same car that we had found in Quebrada Guanillos the day before, with Jean Marc Challet and his Mexican cactophile partner, but they said that they were travelling to Antofagasta and not to Taltal. Guess that they must have had a change of heart.

Tomorrow, John and I are taken a rest day, me to catch up on the Diaries back log, John to wash his socks, while Mark and Juan are climbing the hill near the entrance to San Ramon to look for C. montana 

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