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The alarm went off at 5, and we had an early breakfast as Angie needed to cross the road to the departure’s launch at 6 for her 8 a.m. flight. I joined her for breakfast, saw her off through security and went back for a coffee and to wait for Jonathan to wake up and then collect Dodgy from Alamo.

It all went a bit too smoothly. The car was driven up and presented at the driver’s side and although the tyres were not new, they were certainly good enough to last until the end of the rental period. Until we checked the passenger side. This still had the same tyres that had caused part of the problem during the previous 3 weeks.

Back to the desk for another chat. There were no other tyres available. I had spotted a Nissan Xtrail and asked if that was available. It could be. I checked the tyres, which looked fine. We’ll have it. We had lost the 4×4 functionality but had gained a car with legal and reasonable tyres that would last the remaining 4 weeks.

Eventually, by 12:30 we drove off, 2:30 hrs later than hoped and so there was insufficient time for a look at the cacti at Pichidangui about Jonathan had heard so much. We did stop at the Pronto for a bite to eat and was surprised to see how much fuel was still left. Dodgy had been thirsty!

We made Fray Jorge around 17:30 so decided there was enough time for a quick drive along the track to the entrance and stopped (S2887) as soon as I spotted Eriosyce aurata, Trichocereus skottsbergii, and Eulychnia acida in the fields along the road. A quick leg stretch and photostop in a very windy hillside and Jonathan had also been introduced to Cumulopuntia sphaerica and Eriosyce subgibbosa ssp nigrihorrida (= ssp subgibbosa in the NCL – not a bad crop for Jonathan’s first Chilean cactus stop. He needs to be complimented for his understanding for such a brief stop on his first day. We’ll see much more in days to come!

S2887 - track to NP Fray Jorge - grain is now grown on the hillsides where up to 2006 many cacti could be found

S2887 – track to NP Fray Jorge – grain is now grown on the hillsides where up to 2006 many cacti could be found.

We arrived at Cabañas Club Bahia at c 18:55 but were told that he had just rented out the last accommodation. Disappointed, I turned the car round and asked where I might have more luck. That’s when he told me that may be my Dutch friends had arrived and had rented a cabaña that would sleep 4 …..

We raced on to Restaurant Pequeñia and indeed, there were Bart & Marijke, patiently waiting for us – we were 5 minutes late by now.

Tomorrow we would decide on a whether to stay in Huasco or Vallenar.

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