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Archive for January 1, 2011

Saturday, 1 January, 2011 – Around Taltal

Less than 12 hours into 2011 and we picked up another puncture! Not a good omen for the new year!

We had decided that it would be OK to give the car some gentle exercise by taking the Taltal to Cifuncho coast road to show John some nice views of Taltal and to show him Copiapoa desertorum and Thelocephala weisseri.

We stopped just past Bahia Isla Blanca (S2194) as the first cacti – Copiapoa columna-alba – appeared on either side of the road. We wondered if Eriosyce occulta might grow here. We did not find any, but that does not mean that they do not. ‘Occulta’ means ‘hidden’ and few cacti are better at playing hide-and-seek when not in flower. We did however find a few plants of C. taltalensis, not at their best. The C. columna-alba added a few more pictures in the ‘Cactus with Ocean background’ category.

At the Playa Los Dos Amigos we decided to follow the good quality gravel track along the coast for some unexpected exploring. But before we could reach the end of the track, Cliff, with his window open, reported a hissing noise and sure enough – the puncture.

Today is the first day that 1 January is a compulsory holiday in Chile, except for restaurants and hotels etc, so all Vulcanisation places are shut, leaving us to again catch up on Cactus Explorer’s Admin. And that included a phone call with Angie at the Hotel.

We had established that most places would be shut today, but Club Taltal had said that they would be open for lunch until c. 17:00 hrs. We were there around 14:00, but they were closed. Fortunately Las Brisas was open and the new Peruvian waitress was rushed off her feet. We timed our arrival just right – thirty minutes later and people were waiting outside in their cars until a table became available.

Nothing wrong with having dinner during the afternoon! Except – what do you do in the evening. We took a stroll into town in the hope to find somewhere to at least have a beer, but everything was closed. Back on Capt. Arturo Pratt (aka Taltal High Street) two policemen seemed to be trying to help a tourist couple with the same challenge. We walked over, keen to learn their advice. Juan was the first to recognise the couple: Elizabeth and Norbert Sarnes from Germany, whose Patagonia presentation we had enjoyed at ELK 2010.

The policemen could not help, so in desperation the six of us returned to the Plaza where at least the kiosk was selling Coca Cola and Sprites plus crisps, Duritos etc. An amazing 4 bottles each! A whole evening of mainly cactus related chat and without a drop of alcohol to pass our lips! It is possible!

Saturday, 1 January, 2011 – Taltal New Year’s Celebrations

After New Year’s Eve in Pichidangui 2007/2008, I had high expectations for New Year’s Eve in Taltal.

Not knowing what to expect, we had made some advanced enquiries – first at Club Taltal where we had learned that the fireworks would be set off at midnight on the hill above ‘the Taltal Flyer’, the little steam loco and two carriages that remain as a memorial to the local railway service. To be able to join in with the festivities, the staff explained that they would open thirty minutes earlier than usual at 19:30! And close at 21:00. Great, we would not be hungry leaving 2010.

We turned up at 19:45 but everything was still shut. We looked at other options: Las Brisas, the fish restaurant at the end of town was closed; Las Brasas, the ‘new’ find tried on 30 December had said that they would be closed and only re-open on 4 January. The new ‘sometimes open’ restaurant opposite Hotel Plaza had its doors open  but all the chairs were stacked on top of the tables, suggesting ‘closed’. Not keen on a rumbling stomach New Year’s Eve we walked back towards the square and were very pleased to see the staff of Club Taltal turn the corner to open the restaurant at their regular time of 20:00 – the routine is just too deeply ingrained.

It was only 22:00 hrs as we left, fully fed and watered (wined) when we were back on the Plaza – the ONLY people on the Plaza – where was everybody? We decided to go back to the Hotel where I promptly fell asleep.

Juan was good enough to wake me at 23:30 and within minutes the four of us were walking towards the Taltal Flyer. The streets were still empty, but there were now Guy Fawkes type dummies along the road – either stuck on small bikes, too small for previous owners or on stakes with very surprised looks on their faces. The UK has a tradition to do something similar on 5th November – Fireworks Night – when dummies of Frenchman Guy Fawkes are set on fire to commemorate his attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605 as part of The Gunpowder Plot.

We reached the Taltal Flyer and stood around with twenty or so other people who, prompted by their mobile phones, suddenly started to kiss each other and wishing each other Feliz Nuevo Año!

And that was that. We walked back over the Plaza, but apart from a dozen policeman hugging each other as they passed on best wishes to each other.

Back at the Hotel there was a family party in progress. I went to bed and went straight to sleep again. Others complained that the party went on until early in the morning.

Happy New Year everyone!