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Merry Christmas!

Hope you had a wonderful day – we did!

So, what does a dedicated Cactus Explorer do on Christmas Day? He goes looking for cacti to take their pictures of course!

But first, as the cabanas did not have breakfast included, we went to the COPEC/Pronto north of Pichidangui for breakfast. We had checked yesterday that they’d be open and they were glad to see customers, because there’s nothing worse than being bored during your shift. Juan managed to negatiate a special deal for scrambled eggs, ham and toast plus coffee.

Cliff was our driver today,  so the simple instruction was for him to drive 200 km from Pichidangui to Fray Jorge. S2157 was a stop necesitated by mother nature as Cliff could not cross his legs anymore while driving. Eulychnia acida had been used as a fence here along Ruta 5 around km 355. But this E. acida did not have the bald, smoth fruits prescribed in their description – there were some spines from the areoles on the ripe fruits! Not enough to look like tall upright growing E. castanea but enough to be unusual! – S2157.

Soon after we turned west onto the track to the Fray Jorge National Park, which itself was closed for Christmas.  We made two random stops, S2158 and S2159, along the track to the National Park. We did not care that it was closed because all the cacti that we wanted to see was growing along the track. We saw Eriosyce aurata, Echinopsis (Trichocereus) chiloensis, and Cumulopuntia sphaerica.  I had been here about one month ago with John Ede and Mark, so really did not need to do more exploring here, but since then my 18-200 mm lens had broken and I was forced to use a 60 mm fixed focal length lens and a different lens makes you see the world in a different way, so I still managed to take some 73 images, mainly close ups of the Eriosyce’s fruits and still the odd flower.

Next we drove on to El Trapiche – most of the stops on the remainder of this trip will be repeats of well known stops, just to show John the neauty of the Chilean cacti. Here, at S2160, he was introduced to Eriosyce (Thelocephala) napina ssp. riperia, which is perhaps too similar to E. napina ssp tenebrica for comfort, E. (Horridocactus) heinrichiana, Copiapoa coquimbana, and Eulychnia and Miqueliopuntia miquelii – all old friends to Juan and me but brand new first time in habitat for John.

There’s lots more to come John! 

It seemed that we would be the only guests at the Hosteria Vallenar. As a result there was no catering tonight. However, some more guests arrived and the catering staff were tempted away from their Christmas festivities. We managed to find three bottles of an excellent Cabernet Sauvignon wine called Cassa de Lonquen. We must track the origins of this down for a future visit!

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