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We made a few stops along R5 to look at the Copiapoa calderana, this time in the sun. More pictures were taken – did I need any more? Of course I did! and I witnessed another lizard heaving a large dead mouse around. I managed to get photo and movie records of the event.

I wanted to show Bart & Marijke the remains of the Hotel where we used to stay, but got horribly lost in town. We re-united at the Hosteria where they booked in for a few nights later next week.

Then the long drive ‘home’ to Taltal. R5 passes inland behind the coastal mountain range, through an atrea where traditional no or very little rain falls. Not sure whet happened here last March during the heavy rains that caused flooding along the coast; there were no physical signs of rain here.

As we approached the turning to Cifuncho, Jonathan mentioned that he’d like to see (not so) Secret Valley – it is clearly marked in Rudolf Schulz’s 1996 Copiapoa book. We had driven past it with Angie and Pablo a week earlier, but without stopping. This time  Jonathan was keen to see the C. longistaminea and C. columna-alba growing side by side. The road builders had been bussy again, depositing heaps of sand that had then been built into a wall, almost 75 cm tall along the road, so that parking off-road was impossible. We found a potential lay by and entered on foot.

Sometimes it’s best not to return to paradise-like places. The area was unrecogniseab;le. Were we in the right place? The entrance was right and the GPS coordinated coincided with those in Rudolf’s book, but that’s where things stopped. It seems that over time the rock had disintegrated and during the March rain had washed down the surrounding hills to fill up the valley.

There were still some columna-alba and longistaminea around, so the objective of the visit was met. We drove to Taltal, passing Mina Las Luces and taking the coast road, to find that Bart & Marijke had had similar ideas, had been to visit Cifuncho and had arrived just before us. Back in our room (11 this time, Pablo’s old room) it turned out that Brian Bates was in town, staying at Oswaldo & Maria’s Chavez’ place, which was being demolished to be rebuilt as a two story house.

It was good to see BB again, he had not lost a bit of his Midland’s accent and before long was giving Jonathan his opinion on botanists, not always complimentary. It took a while for Bart & Marijke to switch on the sub-titles, but once the wine started flowing in Club Taltal, all was fine.

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