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Yes, that’s right, we’re staying in a town called ‘Shrimp’ (Camerones). As you might expect, there was plenty of sea food on the menu and I had local (sea) salmon with Roquefort cheese sause for dinner, washed down with a couple of bottles of Malbec (who cares about white wine with fish?!)

As we had no data from other sources to aid our explorations, it was down to ad-hoc stops, any place where the scenery seemed suitable or, as in this case (S2133), where there was a natural call for a comfort break. John claimed to have found an Austrocactus but I wanted to see evidence. On the way to his spot, Juan found another, allowing me to take its pictures and thus avoiding this becoming a ‘No cactus stop’.

While S2133 had been a relatively ad-hoc short stop, S2134 at Punta Tombo nature reserve lasted several hours and produced 152 images. Why? Because this was a penguin colony and we had the chance to walk through a colony of some 200,000 penguins. At this time the eggs had hatched and we were looking at parents with chicks waiting for the return of partners from their fishing trip with food for the chicks before the other parent could go for a few days of fishing. The location provided an excellent opportunity to snap some pictures to give audiences next year a break from endless cactus pictures. In addition to the Magellan penguins, there were also Rhea and Guanacos among the endemic animals spotted.

S2135 was back to ad-hoc stops, this one because Juan had spotted some clumps of Maihueniopsis darwiniii with large orange flowers. I also managed to find a dry and shrivelled Maihuenia patagonica.

S2136 was for more Maihueniopsis darwinii but soon Juan had found some Gymnocalycium gibbosum – small plants, highly variable in their spination and some in flower. Not a bad stop, but then Juan shouted ‘Ptero!’ The self acclaimed Cactus terrorist had already proven his skills in finding Pterocactus, with only tiny bits of stems appearing above ground. The school is still out about a positive ID. Juan suggested P. australis, but a chat with Guillermo via the hotel wifi suggests that P. valentinii might be a candidate. An excellent find and we’ll worry about a name later. We are not aware of many cacti reported from these areas, so with ‘data to swap’, we may have a bit more luck. Does this find mean that Juan is now a qualified ‘Cactus Pterorist’? Austrocactus patagonicus was also here, and Maihuenia patagonica. Soon after we drove away, Cliff spotted an armadillo running across the road. With temperatures of 33 C only Juan and I could be tempted out of the car for some more pictures.

The animal hid in the shade of a bush, creating some problems for my camera. It seems that after 3 years of active use in the field, the 18-200 mm zoom lens may have picked up some war wounds and may have to be replaced so that I can get it repaired while I’m off on my Mexico / California trips in February, March and early April. I still managed to get some useful pictures despite the mechanical faults.

As the clock ticked on, a change of substrate to a more rocky texture prompted another quick stop, S2137. Maihuenia patagonica and Maihueniopsis darwinii were soon found, but I had already got back into the car when Juan claimed his second Pterocactus of the day. Well done, again!

Back in the hotel I stripped down my lens as far as I dared. any of the later pictures today show that things are dramatically wrong, with the centre of the picture in focus, but everything very fuzzy around the edges. Just like the cactus taxonomy for the plants that we are finding. Both can be fixed in time.

Having experienced Petrol Day, another public holiday in Argentina, on Monday, we were now told that there was a strike threatened that had already resulted in some panic buying in Buenos Aires. The garage where we tried to fill up outside Rawson this morning had no iesel and explained the nature of the problem, forecasting that Argentina would be ‘dry’ fuel wise, over Christmas. Our priorities on reaching Camarones was therefore focussed on getting fuel first, with success, so that we have another 760 km in the tank – more than enough for tomorrow’s adventures.

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