Friday, 3 December, 2010 – Uspallata to Mallargue
Our friends in Guillermo’s party were moving on by the time that we came down for breakfast. We would see them again tonight.
We made six stops today:
S2085 was at Dique de Carrizal, a man made lake that seemed to provide for local tourism at the height of the tourist season in a month’s time. Tday it was deserted with sign posted indicating the attractions and eateries. It was also very much developed for agriculture, so we had little hope of finding cacti, so were pleasantly surprised (S2086) by Cereus aethiops, Tephrocactus articulata, the papyracantha (papery spines) form, Opuntia sulphurea, Echinopsis leucantha and Eriosyce (Pyrrhocactus) strausiana.
As we drove back towards the main road, we stopped near a rocky outcrop that I had spotted on the way in. How could we have missed the large clump of Echinopsis (Trichocereus) candicans in flower?
Back on the main road, we stayed on RN40, even though it changed from hard top to a gravel road, driving through a rather flat and featureless landscape for about 140 km. We stopped (S2087) to confirm that there were no cacti hiding between the flowering shrubs. None were found.
At S2088, to re-confirm our previous (non-)findings we found a Tephrocactus sp. (very dehydrated), a bulb, to be identified later, and our first Maihuenia of the trip, M. patagonica, again very dried up.
We were nearly all asleep with the monotony of the track when the road made a sharp bend to reveal a Lago surrounded by steep hills with an Embalsa (Agua de Toro) at the end. We stopped (S2089) for scenic shots but also found Denmoza rhodacantha and Echinopsis (Trichocereus) candicans in large numbers on the hillside as an unexpected bonus.
After driving over the dam, the road went through a tunnel. We blinked like pit poneys when we emerged again into the bright sunlight and almost immediately spotted small globular cacti in flower – Eriosyce (Pyrrhocactus) strausiana, forcing us to stop again (S2090).
We still had 113 km to go to Mallargue, where we arrived before Guillermo’s party who had taken a different route that we intend to explore tomorrow.