When I left, the plan had been to go back to the track to El Sauce, some 11 km before the National Park entrance.
With only 11 km to the entrance and this being a Sunday, I thought it was worth a look to see if the Park was open for a change. And guess what! Gate open and ranger ready to take my money. ‘Were there any cacti in the park? Copiapoa?’ he had reached the end of his English knowledge and while he gave me an English description of the park (to be returned at the exit and not that informative – just Health & Safety stuff, what to do in case of sudden fog (sit tight) and of forest fires (get the hell out). So it was a case of follow the track, visit the visitors centre and take pictures for all the displays, for all of you who have been faced by shut gates in the past. It seemed that the visitors centre was completely different to the one we visited briefly in 2003 (?) when time budgets stopped a longer visit – Fray Jorge is one of those places that you tend to pass on the way up from Santiago or on the way back south, just long enough for a cactus fix along the track on the way in, but never long enough to do the full visit.
I did spot a lone mega large E. aurata on the hillside near the entrance (still outside) (S2963).
Once inside the park I pulled in near the top of the hill (S2965) to take some more images and video of the camanchaca doing its thing, when on the ground, almost next to the car, I spotted several globular cacti – Eriosyce sp – whatever grows here, plus one clumping plant that looked different, may be C. coquimbana, although the fruit looked wrong. No hairs on the fruit, so not sure if it can be an Eriosyce either. One or the other I guess.
On the way back I took the Tongoy exit off R5 and took some more images of the hotels that have ruined the coastline here. That’s why I love Guanaqueros that still has a ‘1960s small seaside resort’ feel, even if that means sitting on a chair in the sun next to the office, while a yank is hovering around waiting for ‘my’ seat to become free, just to get a wifi signal..