No signs of any earthquakes at Club Bahia, Guanaqueros. Nice easy drive mainly along R5, cruising at around 100 kph.
I had forgotten to put the coordinates in for Thelocephala riparia and there were no obvious places to park and do so along R5, so I turned right at Domeyko and suggested a run to Copiapoa domeykoensis. Angie requested a stop around km 6 as millions of Caladrinia were colouring the desert nicely.
The coordinates were duly put in and so we headed down R5 towards El Trapiche to see if Eriosyce (Thelocephala) napina subsp. riparia required an ‘extinct in nature’ rating or not. There was no obvious place to pull off as we approached the Pylon 227, so we followed the signs to El Trapiche, using the original R5. That eventually ran out as the road had been blocked but seeing Copiapoa in flower on the embankment, we were soon tempted out to stretch our legs and point cameras at Copiapoa coquimbana (is this still ‘armata’, now suggested by recent DNA studies to be a good species? We are certainly north of the Rio Choros, but then, so is Tocopilla!)
It didn’t look hopeful as we drove along the outside of a works depot to one of the pylons, this one # 276, just one out, with ‘our’ #275 across the bussy PanAmerican highway. We found a ‘work-in-progress’ ‘retorno’, yet without signage, that in future will warn us that this is one way traffic only. Still, no arrows, no signs, no police …… and I found a parking spot a couple of hundres yards away from #275. It seems that our fears that the area had been a truck and heavy goods yard in 2013, right on top of the small habitat of T. riparia had been unfounded. All the expected plants were here and looking in great shape: Copiapoa coquimbana ‘armata’, Eriosyce heinrichiana, as usual during our November visits, in full flower, the Eulychnia, a cross? with the hypanthium of E. chorosensis, but the short upright stems of E. breviflora. Unusually, the ground was covered by grass, Callindrinia and other annuals as befits a desert that has flowered. Finding Thelocephala is a challenge at the best of times. I won’t cheer and announce that the Thelos are alive and well, but did take some images of candidates that might be the plant or might be young plants of E. heinrichiana to confuse us. Time will tell. But I was greatly encouraged to see that if these plants had all survived, without obvious signs of habitat destruction, then the Thelocephala ought to be OK as well and, depending on future plans for the area, should be capable of being re-introduced from seed from grafted ex-habitat seed raised plants growing in Santiago. The future is looking brighter!
A bit of shopping at the huge Lider superstore in La Serena and on to the Cabanas at Club Bahia, bring the Diaries up to date before dinner at La Pequenia, quite possibly with a Pisco Sour and some wine to wash down the fish and chips!