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It was fun to have another evening with friends last night, especially as Graham offered us the opportunity to reduce his supply of Auchentoshan 18 year old single malt whiskey! Cheers Graham, we owe you one!

Despite last night’s drinking, Guillermo’s party had already left by the time that we managed to raise ourselves for breakfast. We look forward to meeting you all again somewhere, sometime. Have a good trip!

Our dilema today was to push west, into the Andean foothills to see some Andean Alpines,  or to follow up on Guillermo’s tip of looking at the scenery and cacti along the road to the north east around Nihil. As true cactus explorers we did both, of course!

First we took the road west to the ski resort of Las Leñas and stopped at around 1,690 m altitude to take pictures of Denmoza rhodacantha and Maihueniopsis sp. (S2091).

Past the ski resort, at 2,340 m altitude (S2092), the vegetation had changed dramatically and we were now seeing our first (two?) roseolate Viola and a very cute, tiny Oxalis sp. with yellow flowers. Plenty of flowers, but sadly no fruits.

On the way back down the hill, at 2,112 m. altitude, (S2093) we stopped to inspect the overflow area of the river for more Viola. We found clumps of Maihueniopsis darwinii (in flower) and Maihuenia patagonica  (in flower – but the flowers could only fully open after we had removed a few heads. How do these flowers get pollinated?), a Viola sp. and the miniature Oxalis sp. again.

It was about 13:00 hrs as we returned to Malargue, too early to go to the hotel, so onwards, north east, towards San Rafael. Before the town we turned east towards Nihil and from there followed the track along the Cuesta de Nihil with dramatic scenery (S2094). The Rio Nihil passes through a narrow canyon that in several places was damned to allow electricity to be generated as the water was allowed to pass by generators on its was down. The track was full of climbs and drops with switch backs to quickly gain or lose height. Fortunately there was hardly any traffc in the opposite direction. Denmoza rhodacantha grew on the rocks with large clumps of Echinopsis (Trichocereus) candicans and added to the dramatic affect as the sun rays played through the spines. Although there are plenty of cacti in the pictures, the scenery was the main attraction.

It seemed a lot of hard work, but eventually we reached the spot that Guillermo had recommended for Pterocactus tuberosa. As we stepped out of the car at the GPS coordinates suggested, we practically stepped on the plants – no longer in flower but many showing the evidence of earlier flowering.

We arrived back at Malargüe quite late and tired. It’s not every day that we drive 555 km just to see some cacti and scenery!

That night there was a wedding reception in the hotel, so we had to go out to eat. The party continued noisily until c. 4:30! liff, John and Juan appeared red eyed, late for breakfast. We demanded and got a 10% discount on our hotel bill. I, of course, had slept through it all!

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