I had not seen Brian Bates since our trip in Bolivia in 2011, so we had plenty of catching up to do. We had agreed with Bart & Marijke to go to Las Maderas to look for the Copiapoa esmeraldana / angustiflora that we found here a few years ago. I had been here already with Pablo Weisser and with Angie a few weeks ago and we had been impressed with the huge number of Copiapoa columna-alba that grew here, but I had failed to find the quebrada which we believe is near to what Rudolf Schulz had called ‘Confusion Hill’. Bart had his location maps readily available and took us down a track that I recognised from a few weeks back but that had produced no results then. Similar results this time, except that Bart’s data allowed us to park the car and walk towards the coordinates from the previous visit. On that occasion we had seen numerous small cacti that we identified as C. esmeraldana, identical to plants growing at Las Lomitas and overlooking planta Esmeralda. They grew in the fine sand, much of which seems to have been washed away. We were unable to find these plants this time. There were still a large number of C. columna-alba here and that included a number of plants with a remarkably large number of stems growing at the apex – these must have been here last time as well but not specifically noted. Rudolf’s name ‘Confusion Hill’ was well chosen as instead of clear species – longistaminea, grandiflora and columna-alba – it seemed that there were a number of intermediates around and relatively few ‘pure’ species, such as could be observed in the Guanillos Valley.
Bart wanted to go on to Guanillos, but in the excitement of chatting with Brian, I had forgotten to fuel up at the Taltal Copec before departure. Our fuel gage was very suspicious with readings increasing the more we drove! It seemed therefore best to return to Taltal, especially, again, not paying attention, I had followed the wrong car (just a cloud of dust) at a junction. The number of plants along the road had decreased quickly, suggesting that we were driving away from the Ocean, i.e. in the wrong direction. Not good when we needed to conserve fuel.
At the turning (‘car park corner’) to the Taltal coast road we decided to stop and look for more Thelocephala weisseri. No plants in flower this time – we had found them here before with Pablo and Angie, but there were plenty of fruits appearing above the soil.
Surprising how difficult it was to find a restaurant open for an afternoon bite to eat and a beer – everything was closed for lunch! We ended up at Las Brisas and had an empanada and Corona. Cristal seems to be out and foreign beers and local micro breweries are in. The beer was cold and that was all that mattered.