Quite an ambitious day – driving to Vicuna ‘the wrong way round’ – we normally launch ourselves from Vicuna into tyhe Andean foothills (?).
We left Olmue too early for breakfast, so stopped at the Pronto in Pichidangui for the Spanish version of a full English, imvolving Advocado Pears. Just to aid digestion we drove to the beach so that Jonathan could also add the BCSS signs to his collectiopn of images. The gentleman from the house opposite the site came over for a chat and was pleased to see so much support from the English – he must have spotted Angie, Pablo and I here the day before. We were invited in for a cup of coffee, but had such a challenging program ahead that we declined this time.
The Pronto at Soccos provided another stop – just a coffee and hot dog this time and a full tank of fuel. Ovalle was easy to find, but how on earth do you find the road out to Hurtado? We pulled over tyo the Copec in Ovalle and tried for a while to persuade SatNav to go to Vicuna without returning to R5 and battle with the traffic in La Serena. I tried putting in Hurtado as a ‘via’ but Garmin had not heard of that or any of the other villages along the route. Out of desperation we decided to use the sun as our navigating tool, pulled out of the Copec and within 200 meters found a sign to Hurtado! If only we had looked up while battling technology in the car park.
The question now was, could we complete the journey before sunset? Jonathan was duly impressed with the magnificent spination on the Trichocereus here – must look up Ritter to see if he had a name for this form. With a limited time budget we pushed on (at around 30 kph) as, although much of the road is now paved, beyond the police station in the village of Hurtado, it was not and the old track had received a hammering from recent rains and rumbles so was a bit of a challenge to negotiate.
We made it to the ‘Golden Balls’ – Eriosyce aurata, the original ones, beautiful plants but on a site that had also been hammered by nature. There are now two deep (to 20 ft) gullies between the track and the main area where we would stamp around in the past. There were some very sharp stones (slate?) in these gullies – all in all too dangerous for the goats that used to keep the young auratas under control – hopefully they will have a chance of regeneration!
Our usual stomping ground was by now in the shade of the hills as the setting sun had popped behind the higher peaks. I guess the 20 images added to those from previous visits will have to do.
We arrived at the Hosteria in Vicuna around 20:00 hrs. Yes, they had space (2 nights) and the restaurant was still open!
Tomorrow we drive to the border with Argentina to see if I can still find the nice opuntioid that grows on the way to the Indio mine.