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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!

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