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Although we had seen some rather creative attempts at Christmas decorations (a decorated Araucaria tree in Argentina springs to mind) the effort made by our hotel in Santa Cruz really brought home the fact that Christmas is nearly here.  We agreed to have a group photo around the Christmas tree in their sitting room and I tried this shot with the camera balanced on the table. The staff of the hotel then insisted that they would take the picture but the low light conditions and my choice of not using flash (wide angle lens and Nikon D200 flash do not get on) meant that these pics went into the recycle bin.

So here is a pic of me wishing you all a very merry Christmas and best wishes for health and happiness in 2011.

 And so, on to today’s report. We headed for Pichilemu where, on the rocks above Chile’s famous Surfer’s beach at Punta Lobos, we had found the then recently described Echinopsis (Trichocereus) bolligeriana and Eriosyce subgibbosa (very large plants aka as Neoporteria castanea).  How had this habitat survived the 2010 earthquake and the Tsunami that followed? Remarkably well, it seemed – S2152. Sure, nature seemed to have performed some pruning and tidying but to me there seemed to be little difference between today and our visit in 2007.

Our next goal was to check on the small and very vulenrable habitat of Eriosyce (Horridocactus) aspillagea, also visited before in 2007. At the time we had found the area being prepared for redevelopment for holiday accomodation with a second threat arising from serious erosion that threatened to deposit the whole population into the Pacific Ocean.

We made a wrong turn and ended up one cove too far north (S2153) where similar developments were well on their way. Juan reported that they had looked here as well on earlier visits but had never found E. aspillagea here. Still, another look could not do any harm. We found E. bolligeriana and E. subgibbosa, but not E.aspillagea. The area did however allow us to take picture across the cove to the actual population that would be our next goal.

When we finally arrived at S2154 we found that since our 2007 visit two more houses had been built, but well away from the water’s edge. Hoever erosion had indeed caused more of the area where the plants grew to crumble into the sea. It seemed that for now, all the development was aimed at nearby S2153, so that for now, erosion is the main threat. Again, we harvested seeds to help to maintain the existence of these plants when nature and human development ultimately destroy this habitat.

We then had a three hour ride to Lonquen where Juan had hoped to deliver Christmas presents for Flo and her family but where we had been pursuaded to stay the night. We hope to take some better pictures for our Christmas E Cards later.

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