The last two days had improved our appreciation of the area: idealic scenery – large lakes surrounded by snow capped mountains, good roads (gravel or asphalt) bordered by beech and araucaria forests and bordered by bright yellow broom or lupins in various colours. Great, but there were a couple of factors that were not so good:
- The overnight snow and rain plus sleet during the day had made the tracks to the higher altitudes just about impassable, so we were unable to reach the higher areas where we might find Viola and other Andean / Alpine flora, and
- Around the lakes it was just too wet to expect cacti. As a result we had not seen a cactus for two and a bit days and were getting withdrawal symptoms.
The answer seemed to be to find roads farther to the east, the area that local people described as the Pampas or the Patagonian Desert. And so we headed east, to Pilcaniyeu, a small dot on the map that turned out to be a small community around a railway line that had fallen into disuse. S2123 was for pictures taken between V. La Angostura to Pilcaniyeu. We passed a small lake with some flamingoes feeding between the ducks and geese. We ventured out a few times, wrapped up in T shirt, Jean shirt, Llama woolen jumper and my lined all weather proof jacket with the hood tied down. The sharp wind got behind my glasses as usual, making my eyes water so my gloved hands managed to find the shutter on the Nikon which had been set to ‘point & shoot’ auto-everything. We saw various interesting rocks and some nice miniature plants including a mat forming plant with millions of yellow flowers, but no cacti.
S2124 was for a similar stretch of road beyond Pilcaniyeu. The short walks into the cold this time brought us some bulbs in bud, Evening Primrose in flower and some sharp rock formations, apparetly freshly sculptures from volcanic activity during the past millenium and before, but no cacti.
There is a daily lul in chat in the car, heads start nodding, eyes are shut and everyone hopes that the driver stays awake. I was and as a result spotted a large clump of Maihuenia patagonica along the side of the road, mainly because it was in flower. At last, a cactus! I took many more pictures than I would normally have done for a fairly average plant. There were one or two others around, but it was certainly not abundant here (S2125).
S2126 was John’s sighting of another, larger clump of M. patagonica, with close to 100 flowers and many more buds for weeks to come. What a shame that the sun was not out.
At least we had broken the cactus drought and had learned where to look to find them – but where were the Pterocactus hiding?