We all know that I should have headed south along R5, in the direction of Santiago, but something had been niggling me about yesterday’s Eulychnia – I had seen those strange hypanthia before. Then it came to me – at Totorallilo, a small posh seaside resort south of Coquimbo in 2008 (?) when Cliff & I stayed on to help Juan & Flo host Steve Frieze and his wife from California. We spent a day here and after a nice lunch (I believe Juan & Flo spotted a TV personality amongst the guests in the restaurant) we climbed the rocks next to the car park and found these Eulychnia as well as Copiapoa coquimbana and some Eriosyce. Ian commented in private that I had not reported seeing many Eriosyce on this trip and while were were not particularly looking for them, that is certainly true. Many that I did see were photographed and recorded as ‘Eriosyce sp.’ as there is no point at me guessing their name – Juan knows them much better and I can look up the names he suggested in the past once I get home.
Things had changed a little here as well. The facilities looked much posher from a distance – they wanted $3.000 for me to take a closer look, but I was not that keen. The car park was now high security, surrounded by a fence, so there was no getting to our earlier spot easily. But I found some space higher up the hill and found the Eulychnia without problem, and accessible! But the ground had been well-trampled by the cheaper beach holiday crowds, so there were no ‘small’ cacti such as Copiapoa and Eriosyce during the 30 minutes that I allowed myself. I happily snapped away at the Eulychnia that indeed had a similar ‘halfway stage hypanthium’ spotted yesterday at Playa Blanca. Not that surprising, as across the bay I could see the outline of the hill which has Guanaqueros at its foot and Playa Blanca is just on the other side. So it could be a micro-environment feature? But wait a minute! Yesterday’s plants had their flowering laterally down the stem – an E. acida feature, but here all flowering appeared at or near the Apex – a E. breviflora feature. Yesterday’s plants showed no sign of differential spination – the horse hair-like spines on stems that had flowered before, but here they did! Another change from E. acida to E. breviflora features. I wish I had stayed away but also know that this would have niggled me all the time until another visit – earliest possibly in 2015! A long time to be niggled! The distribution for E. breviflora ‘tambilloensis’ now covers an area from Playa Blanca in the south, along the coast to Totoralillo and inland to Tambolillo. I guess that a future trip to Chile will involve another stop at Guanaqueros for more Eulychnia spotting. I’ll line this years images and information up with what I have already and present it as ‘Unanswered questions’ to those who might know.
With still plenty of time left for a leisurely drive along R5, I pulled in at the ‘ecology mirador’ at one of the wind turbine farms. Found lots of info about the size of these giants and their output and made some videos and pictures without having to try to do so while steering a car at 120 km.p.hr. The blurb claims that the farms protect cacti and other endangered species from other human development, and I’m sure that they are right, but again – will they allow us access to admire and photograph them. Or will they be so well protected that they’ll spill over from the protected area in time to come? Or will the turbulence experienced near the masts be detrimental to the plants and just leave bare patches of soil to be blown away? Only time will tell.
[PS – since coming home, I read (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taltal_wind_farm) that there is a wind energy project under construction for Chile’s largets windfarm to be built north of Taltal. Let’s hope that our favourite cactus spots are not affected and that the construction of these windmills will lead to the construction of roads to open up this inaccessible area, allowing many new habitat locations to be discovered.]