Thursday, 16 December 2010 – Camarones to Caleta Olivia
Today we moved to the southern most state planned for this trip, Santa Cruz. We’re still on the Atlantic Ocean, but tomorrow will probably head west to Perito oreno or Los Antiguas, on the Lago Buenos Aires. Our target for this trip, Chile Chico, is just across the border, but border bureaucracy means that we can only bring the car back into Chile the once, and this is not the place to do it, as the road is said to be blocked by the fall out of a Chilean volcanic explosion some 2 years ago. We’ll know more when we get there.
Today was a relaxed day’s driving following the Atlantic coast line that kept popping into view.
We made one, rather lengthy cactus stop S2138. It did not start very promising. I walked into the hills on one side of the car while the others took the otherside. Half way up the hill I looked over my shoulder and saw Cliff waving energetically – time for me to shift hills.
On arrival the cause of the excitement became clear – a large crested Gymnocalycium gibbosum. any pictures were taken from many different angles. Yesterday’s camera problems turned out to be lens problems – it seems that after 4 years in the field my 18-200 mm zoom lens has developed a nasty rattle that suggests that one of the elements has become undone. I had a poor attempt at getting to the problem, but without a toolkit the better option seemd to be to fit my 60 mm macro-lens instead. So my brain has to get used to ‘seeing’ shots differently and that no matter how much I twist the lens, I c’t zoom in or out. That means that I have to move closer in or farther away from the subject, as required. With moving away, I need to be aware of the space restrictions and not walk back wards off a cliff, as nearly happened today.
I can now add Gymnocalycium to the range of cactus genera photographed with the Ocean in the background. While we were busy with this magnificent plant, John found another that would also make an interesting show plant. But we were not the first people to admire this plant – a previous visitor had left a digging tool by its side. This plant was probably much too large for a European or US collector, but there were suggestions that some small plants might have been taken. Here, the tool was just used to indicate size.
I’m calling the ymno ‘gibbosum’ because that is the only species reported from Patagonia. ssp. chubutense is listed as a synonym that fits plants here. But today’s plants had different fruits from those on previous days and very variable when it came down to spination. Gymno’s are usually differentiated on seed rather than fruit, but that might be a weakness in this case. Juan has collected fruits from both so we shoud be able to check seed size sometime in the future.
The landscape that we were driving through had little more to offer, so we headed for the main road where we could drive at 140 km p hr and reached Comodore Rivadavia where we were able to top up with diesel – a tanker was supplying the petrol station as we had our car filled.
Tomorrow we head west towards our ultimate goal of this trip, Chile Chico.