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Once again I’m paying ‘Diary Catch up’: full days and struggling with the internet connection at Hotel Gali and a relatively high number of stops to process. But all are old familiar locations as we continue our attempts to impress John with Chilean cactus flora. I think that we are succeeding by showing him areas inland where nothing grows, combined with areas along the Pacific Coast where temperatures are very pleasant with the light sea breeze and where exploring for cacti with the sound of waves breaking on the rocks is the norm – not much chance of this in landlocked Bolivia!

Eight stops today, starting with a stop (S2175) not for out of Caldera where we saw Copiapoa calderana, relatively small plants with lots of young plants coming through – no goats or cattle! We failed to find Eriosyce (Thelocephala) krausi here this time.

We made up for this at S2176, a dead-cert krausi stop and were not disappointed. John is getting a Copiapoathon, Thelocephalathon and Eulychniathon all rolled into one at double fast speed! C. cinarescens was here as well, although not in great numbers. This location is a quarry and the plant’s days are numbered.

We drove past ‘Hoot The Virgin’ as this is more and more resembling a public toilet with paper and nappies everywhere.

 S2177 was on the way from Chañaral to the Pan de Azucar National Park at the usual stop for C. serpentisulcata. Again we failed to find any seed or plants in flower.

S2178 and still just outside the Park was our regular ‘C. cinarescens-on-dark-rocks’ stop – just too photogenic to pass by.

S2179 was at the hillside marked Copiapoa cinarescens and where in October and November we had found Eriosyce (Thelocephala)  odieri ssp. krausii (s.n. T. malleolata in October and in November, but this time, a month on, it was just too hard – no more plants in flower and any seed pods seemed to have gone as well. Without these features, plants are very hard to spot!

S2180 was a continuation of the ‘Smiler’ site, but across the track that ultimately leads to Ruta 5. We were here in 2001 when I admired many young seedlings (small yes, but probably 10 – 20 years of age) many covered to various extends in ‘Nostoc’ the cyanobacterium that grows on the lower part of C. cinerea ssp. columna-alba. If ‘Nostoc’ grows too fast, it covers the body of the small Copiapoa, making it impossible for sunlight reached the chlorophyll in the Copiapoa and so condemning it to death.

For S2181 we had moved to Cifungo and were relieved to find ‘Benji’s Plant’ in better shape than I can remember. We had not been here for a few years (2004?). People are still calling it ‘sp. Cifuncho’ but I have little doubt that it is no more than a northern form of C. longistaminea. Seeing it, or any of the solitary plants that grow nearby, in flower would help to see if the stamens are indeed longer that the petals, as the nae implies. Clff had followed John to a spot where 2-3 plants were looking good – then fell and cut his leg quite badly – bad enough to need paracetamols, but not bad enough to require us to stay longer than planned.

The last stop of the day – S2182 was to satisfy our curiosity as to where Ritter’s Copiapoa rubriflora grows. Ricardo and Ingrid reported finding red-flowered C. taltalensis at the northern end of the Bay of Cifuncho. We found quite a few plants and took some pictures of a large clump in good shape, but as none of the plants were in flower, there was no way of telling if this was indeed a red-flowering Copiapoa. egular readers of these pages will remember that we have found red-flowering plants of C. desertorum along the Cifuncho end of the coast road to Taltal. I have never found a yellow flowered form of these plants that are now classified as a subspecies of C. taltalensis.

We had booked ourselves into Hotel Gali for five nights as it appears to be the only place in town that accepts credit card payments. Shame that they have still not resolved there wifi issues, with Cliff being the only one to receive a signal intermittently. Even when I plugged their cable straight into my laptop I was unable to get any signal. Sorry for the delay in transmissions!

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