It was one of our usual circuits from Taltal. After a bit of shopping for snacks and water we drove out towards R5 but before getting there, turned right towards Cifuncho. Before hitting the coast, we took a left to Planta Las Luces, the mining processing plant that had provided the better than expected roads in the area. Just like on Saturday we took the track signposted to Tigrillos and Last Maderas but instead of following the signs to these Quebradas later on, we carried on towards R5 until we found the sign to Caleta Esmeralda and turned in. Quite a difference with the way we found this in 2001 when there were no signs or SatNav and our navigation had been rather hit and miss.
Before reaching the quebradas we passed through a canyon of rather darker rocks and saw the first cacti – Eriosyce microcarpa. This was a different passage through the same range, a few km along where again the Eriosyce were the first cacti spotted, i.e. if we had come from the coast, these were the last plants before the dessert became too dry even for cacti. A quick leg stretch allowed us to snap pictures of plants of all ages, young (c 5 years old, based on growth rate in the UK) to larger mature specimens, some still in bud and one, conveniently growing next to the road, in full bud with one flower open.
In the Guanillos Valley we drove straight on to the beach and once again took the opportunity to say hello at the small monument dedicated to the late Alan Craig who died in 2001. Alan loved his Thelocephala but try as we had in previous years I believe we had never found any. I believe that the plants here would have been T. weisseri, so what better reason to have an extra hard look in the company of Pablo Weisser himself.
Angie has officially been nominated plant spotter this trip as she soon found one in bud, or rather, found the buds, with the plant itself burried in the coarse granite gravel. After the usual photography she then went a step further and found a fully open flower, again with the plant body itself fully open. Well done, Angie!
- On to ‘Puma beach – it seemed that the C. longistaminea and C grandiflora had suffered from the recent rains – lots more dead plants than I recall on the past. Some old friends, like the C. grandiflora growing inside a clump of C. longistaminea was still in tact, but a dozen or so heads of longistaminea had died.
TO BE CONTINUED