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A very brief report to say that we ‘at up’ some 750 km today to run out of steam around the town of Santa Cruz on the Ruta del Vino. Juan and I are staying in the Merlot Room – they could not split the double bed in the Malbec Room and we do like ouir space. Cliff and John are in the Pinot Room. The whole place is like a museum full of wine themed antiques, but with a price to match.

No cactus stops today (2nd day running) although we did see some Echinopsis (Trichocereus) chiloensis on the hills along the road as soon as we left Ruta 5, some 160 km south of Santiago.

We have cooked up some ambituous plans for our remaining time in Chile and this includes showing John, who is still a Chilean cactus virgin, a wide selection of plants farther north with hopefully New Year’s celebrations in Taltal! We’ll see.

In the short term, we hope to see Echinopsis (Trichocereus) bolligeriana at Punta Lobos and Eriosyce aspillagea a bit farther north tomorow.

PS: It is not often that I add a postscript to a day’s Diary entry, but today is an exception. We were told at the hotel that there was a good restaurant on the plaza. A few years ago I joined Angie and her kids for a family Christmas in Cologne, Germany. Christmas Markets are a big thing in Germany. Well I can tell you that they are also big business in Chile and the advantage is that the weather allows you to walk around in shorts and shirt sleeves rather than wrapped up in umpteen layers of clothing.

I realised by now that I had been in Santa Cruz before and had bought a rather expensive artisan belt during a visit with Leo, Juan and Florencia in December 2007. In fact I was wearing the belt as I walked past the shop where I bought it! Today I bought two identical belts for a fraction of the cost on the market. This will test if my sons read my Diaries and as a result have some idea of what I got them as a Christmas present. There was also a wonderful statue of a horse, made out of gypsum that I know Angie would have loved, but when I tried to lift it, I realised that its weight was probably more than my total luggage allowance for the flight home, and so Juan took a picture of me holding the statue but I’m afraid that the statue stays in Chile.

The stall holders suggested that I should stay in Chile and send the horse to England. I suggested instead that Angie should come to a future Christmas market in Chile and personally admire the horse and be prepared to leave all her other luggage behind in order to take the horse statue home.  Again, time will tell……

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