Greetings from the Hosteria Vallenar where room 118 will be familiar to some of you from previous trips. Wifi at last!!!
I should have mentioned yesterday that as we passed through the tunnel at El Melon, the camanchaca was out on the other side – with a temperature drop of some 10 C. My fears of reaching melting point before leaving Chile were eased. Here, everything alongside Ruta 5 was much lusher than I remember with thousands of yellow flowered Puya and white flowered Echinopsis (Trichocereus) chiloensis doing their thing.
The other notable change was that the cost of tolls seemed to have increased significantly (doubled?). When I get home I’ll compare the cost this year against previous years, although it still feels like good value, especially if you see the task of what is / was involved in building & maintaining this road in a land that regularly experiences earth quakes.
Yesterday’s camanchaca had persisted and the Dodge’s wiper delay of once every 5 or so minutes was just right. Unfortunately everything looked dull so that the cameras stayed in the car for much of the time. We overshot Lider in Coquimbo for a bit of shopping, but found the Jumbo a bit farther along just as good – except that their ATM’s did not accept any of our cards – has there been a financial collapse in the UK? Paying with the credit cards is fine. [It turned out that we just needed a bit more time to read and understand the text on the screen.]
It’s only 234 km from Guanaqueros to Vallenar. Work is in progress to widen Ruta 5 beyond La Serena and presumably turn that too into a toll road. The major change so far is that the area that will be taken up by the dual carriage way with generous central reservation has been marked out AND FENCED OFF!! So no more stops along Ruta 5. Our regular stop at Los Hornos (that in 2010 was beginning to resemble a rubbish tip for the expanding village) is now off-limits.
Worse was to come as the only spot that I know of for Eriosyce napina ssp. riparia at El Trapiche had trucks and bulldozers parked on it!! I hope that the plants were rescued and saved to a safe area. Juan? Florencia? Any news? Angie’s camera played up as we drove past, but we’ll do better on the way back.
Things on R5 had changed even more dramatically at Vallenar where the familiar cross-roads with Copec filling stations and ATM were now side-lined and R5 carried on uninterrupted towards Copiapó. As we were much too early to check into the hotel, we carried on until the first Carrizal Bajo turning – now a good hard top (oil / salt) road. There was also a new turning to Maitencillo. A new mine has opened and a continuous stream of yellow trucks was going back and fro. I think the mine is too far in land to affect known habitats but may make it easier to explore for new habitats. Updates later, once Angie has gone home.
We carried on to Carrizal Bajo and took a right turn over the bridge. I had not yet loaded up the GPS data for the crested dealbatas to my SatNav, so although we both feel that we were near, we failed to see them. Weather still heavily overcast so only a few pictures taken, of Eulychnia breviflora in full bud, but with only a few flowers opening. No sign of the desert in flower yet. All images filed as S2834.
Time for dinner and my first Pisco Sour of the trip – nowhere to drive to until tomorrow morning!