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The 2013 whirlwind tour of Chile continued with another visit to two classic Copiapoa locations above Papaoso. The first was at the Virgen del Carmen monument along the Cuesta del Paposo (S2844), where everything was fine, but again very dry. Some Eulychnia taltalensis had given up the fight to live. In other years we had often been disappointed when C. humilis plants had gone, with just holes left behind where once we had taken their picture. Since 2010, this seemed no longer to be a problem. May be the illegal collector had filled his greenhouse or had saturated the market. More likely, since the Paposo to R5 road had been significantly improved, guanaco had been too frightened to come and help themselves. Just as in 2010 it was now possible to find both mature and juvenile plants in good numbers. Eriosyce (Horridocactus)paucicostata was also looking good and the Copiapoa cinerea ssp haseltoniana at the end of the ridge were at rest, but otherwise OK.

Angie at the monument for the Virgen del Carmen on the Cuesta del Paposo

Angie at the monument for the Virgen del Carmen on the Cuesta del Paposo

[Later, in Taltal, we learned that in July there had been so much snow on the hills above Paposo, that the Antofagasta to Taltal bus had been unable to negotiate its way downhill. This was the first such event in 60 years (1953).]

We moved on to, for us, a relative relatively new (2010) location (S2845) for Copiapoa cinerea ssp haseltoniana, described by Ritter as C. eremophila, off the B-710, the Paposo to Ruta 5 road. For the first time this trip the plants looked happy, with large orange felted discs and the remains of recent (last year’s?) flowering. Again, I could not resist taking even more images of these fantastic plants.

Copiapoa cinerea ssp haseltoniana (= C. eremophila) on the edge of the Desert, east of Paposo at 850 m altitude.

Copiapoa cinerea ssp haseltoniana (= C. eremophila) on the edge of the Desert, east of Paposo at 850 m altitude.

We briefly popped back to Taltal to fill up with gasoline – queues in the morning are horrendous – why do they only have half the pumps working? At least they still accept credit cards, a fairly recent development.

And on to Cifuncho. On the way, we stopped to check on the C. taltalensis ssp desertorum location (S2846) to see if any of them were in flower. I have only seen red flowers here, but flowering plants are fairly rare and it could be that ‘normal’ yellow flowering plants flower at a different time of year – that’s the problem with being here only to take snapshots in time.

Copiapoa taltalensis ssp desertorum

Copiapoa taltalensis ssp desertorum

For the final goal of today we went to check on ‘Benjy’s plant’ at Cifuncho. Angie has a fantastic photographic memory and more or less walked straight to the spot. I’m perhaps better at pointing at maps to show where things grow. I used to find the plant by parking close to a large sign board, but this had gone, so I was lost. The plant looked as good as I have seen it, with abundant evidence of last season’s flowering, although no seed was found. There is just one other, solitairy plant left, a bit lower down the hill so pollinating flowers must be a bit hit and miss with so few pollen donors around (S2847).

Angie posing with the plant we first saw here in 2003 and christened 'Benjy's plant' - Copiapoa longistaminea fa

Angie posing with the plant we first saw here in 2003 and christened ‘Benjy’s plant’ – Copiapoa longistaminea fa

We drove back to Taltal along one of my favourite stretches of roads, the coastal road between Cifuncho & Taltal (S2848).

Tomorrow we start heading south. Angie is glad to have seen all the goals on her northern wish list, but sad that it’s over so soon. But there are lots of new things to look forward to, as I introduce her to northern Patagonia. We’ll be back! Me, in a few weeks time.

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