Brian turned up for breakfast and we would be going first to his family home, on Colon, to collect his travel luggage and drop of John’s camping gear that he was donating to the Bates household. Many South American towns have streets named Colon, and it always brings a smile to my face. Shit happens. But the real reason for this tribute is that in Spanish, Christopher Columbus is known as Cristobal Colon. As I helped to bring the gear in, I briefly renewed my acquaintance with the lovely and the much maligned Mrs Bates, Patricia as well as being introduced to Coco the monkey of which we would hear many tales (tails?), of how he mistakes heads (Brian’s and Patricia’s) for toilet facilities and assists Brian during his shaves in the morning. We made sure that Coco had not stowed away in Brian’s luggage and were on our way.
We made five nice stops today (actually, all stops made this trip were ‘nice’ or I would have deleted them from the list) starting with S2463, at the Microondas (Spanish for Microwave Communication towers that are dotted around the landscape in cactus country, usually at the top of a hill, with a half decent service road providing access) above the town of Tarabuco. At the top of the hill, we were treated to an Echeveria sp., Echinopsis (Lobivia) cinnabarina, a Puya sp – in flower, Rebutia (Aylostera) fiebrigii and Rebutia (Sulcorebutia) canigueralii, s.n. Sulcorebutia tarabucoensis. The Rebutia were in flower. My images finish after we left the site, with a trio of Karakara birds of prey picking the last bits off a carcass along the side of the road.
At S2464 we saw Echinopsis (Lobivia) cinnabarina and a Echinopsis (Trichocereus) sp. but it was at S2465 that I finally saw one of my favourite cacti in habitat: Rebutia (Sulcorebutia) pulchra s.n. Sulcorebutia rauschii, again growing at a Microondas, in sand, at the top of a hill. John told us that he had never seen S. rauschii flower in habitat, but then had to change that as he (or was it Brian) came across a plant in flower. I also found some plants in bud. John found the plants unusually easy to spot as they were raised as a result of recent rains. These were ‘the green form’, although some had developed tinges of blue and purple. John explained that his searches in the surrounding hills and had found great variability in the body colour.
Wiebe and I made a short walk to a near by hill (S2466) that we had passed on the way to the microwave tour and where Wiebe had spotted bright red flowers. These were Parodia tuberculata and made more excellent subjects for our cameras. Plants growing on rocks, like these Parodia, make much better subjects than plants that grow flat with the ground, such as Ariocarpus kotschoubeyanus in Mexico, Thelocephala in Chile and S. rauschii on the neighbouring hill top.
Some two hours later we arrived at the last stop of the day (S2467), again for a Sulcorebutia, the recently (2008) described Sulcorebutia heliosoides. Nice plants! Time will tell if the name will become submerged into one of the more familiar older names. As the name implies, the spination is dense and tight, reminiscent of Rebutia heliosa, but this is a Sulcorebutia while R. heliosa is an Aylostera. We were observed by six kids, 8-12 year olds I’d guess, who were curious as to what we were doing. Wiebe and I took their pictures and than took more as we took turns to show the giggling group the results of the pictures that we had taken. Wiebe treated them to Garibaldi (‘dead fly’) biscuits that had become part of our daily diet during the trip.
The sun was setting as we arrived at the Hotel Padilla where we had knocked on the door at about 1 a.m. in the night 23/24th November. Fortunately this time they had space for us. These were simple rooms with a shared bathroom with a shower that produced plenty of cold water, but no hot. Wiebe and I shared a room and found a huge moth, the size of a hand, sitting on the wall in our room. Wiebe managed to put it outside of our room, where it posed for more photographs.