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I guess that today’s weather is typical of what we can expect in days to come. A nice sunny start as we packed to leave Chos Mala. Apparently this means ‘Yellow Pen’ in the Mapudungun language, although Wikipedia does not offer a solution as to why. At around 9, we left with 21C on the thermometer.

We’re in Villa Pehuenia, Province Neuquen, only some 10-20 km from the Chilean border. It’s right in the Argentinean side of the lake district. So the view from the lounge area is over snow topped wooded hillsides, covered in Araucaria trees and a lake. This morning we left Chos Malal around 9, with 21C on the thermometer. By midday the temperature had dropped to 4C, and we were in the middle of a hailstorm. Coats and jumpers, not used since October’s departure from London, were somewhere in the back of the car, but the icy wind just blew through everything.
 
The plan was to only stay here one night, but it is very comfortable and the owners introduced us to a friend of theirs who is a Viola tour guide. We got chatting and he’ll take us round the sites that he knows in the area and that are usually closed to the public, tomorrow.  So we should get a good crop of pics! But the forecast is rain! Usually that seems to mean that the bright skies, with white Andean clouds briefly close in, temperatures drop, rain falls and after an hour things are back to sunny, a bit like England in May. Stop lists for today:

S2106 offered Maihuenia patagonica, Maihueniopsis darwinii (?) and Austrocactus dusenii (?) as we nearly got blown of the low hill. ‘Windy like fish!’ as Mark would have said.

S2107 is for scenic shots – first as the roadside was covered with yellow flowers and then, as the temperature dropped some 12 C to 4C as we found ourselves in an Araucaria forest surrounded by snow-capped mountains.

S2108 was in the Araucaria forest as we finally plucked up courage to stop the car and make a dash for the luggage to get out jumpers, gloves and coats. Nature was getting its revenge for my jokes about the early winter snow in Europe! There were yellow orchids, Chloraea alpina,blowing in the icy wind and the poor light made it difficult to ‘freeze’ them with a fast exposure. There were also low mounds of a bright red-flowered plant that John believes is a Mimulus cupreus. No cacti found.

S2109 had Calceolaria aff biflora, Azorella sp. (there appear to be some 70 species!), and a yellow-flowered alpine, Oreopilus gracillis, and some large fungi, all still with Araucarea and snow capped hills as a backdrop! Quite different to what we had seen since 8 October! 

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