To all intents and purposes, the trip was over. We reached that stage that seems to happen at the end of all cactus & succulent plant trips: you’re cactussed out. Just can’t get excited by looking at yet another cactus and the mind is already moving ‘home’ where ever that is, or in Alain’s case, to his next trip, as his wife Greet was whisking him off for a week of visiting Christmas markets in London!
The date of the picture is 10 December 2018, flying from Rio de Janeiro to Schiphol, Amsterdam, in the Netherlands. Alain had a connecting train or flight to Belgium where he arrived safely we assume – we did not see him again until the traditional BBQ the night before ELK 2019 – it matters not, as the Cactus Trip was over.
Billy met John at the arrivals gate at Heathrow. Chris’ car was parked at my place in Amesbury, but as Angie and her son Peter were in Cologne to help her mum celebrate her 89th birthday, we now had to make the journey back to Wiltshire by National Express coach, after a couple of hours wait in the unheated waiting room at the Heathrow bus station. Considering the heat experienced in Brazil, warm winter clothes seemed inappropriate during packing, but essential now. I became chilled to the bone and administered some chocolate bars to get my blood sugar levels back up. I had become quite disorientated but got better during the 90 minute coach journey to Amesbury. Close to midnight, the town was deserted. We dragged our luggage to the local kebab shop and asked to ring for a taxi, just as one drove by empty. We managed to wave down the driver who dropped us off home. Next ‘crisis’: where were my door keys? I had expected Angie to let me in, but she was in Germany! So, in the rain and by the light of the lamppost in front of my house, shivering in my inappropriate summer clothes, I unpacked my luggage and finally found the keys right at the bottom of the suitcase! Alain and Marlon had promised me copies of their stop notes, but to date, nothing has been received. So the information in this trips Diaries is based on my memory which appeared to improve with time as I presented my images at BCSS branches in the UK and at the Convention of the Scandinavian Cactus Society in Odense, Denmark in August 2019. Apologies for errors and omissions, but I’d rather have an imperfect set of memories than go into the next trip, to the Chilean Atacama Desert without having written up the previous trip.
In Chile, I’ll be back to recording all stop details myself and not to rely on others. Angie will be along, so she can bring the beers at the end of each day while I write up each day’s notes and sort the images by stops. All I’ll need is a bit and a following wind and hope that the internet and my laptop cooperate in getting the messages out each day.
Ian Woolnough will be setting off from Santiago one week after us, with a group of eight Brits. We’ll meet up in Taltal and hope that they can find the labels that we’ll leave behind so that they don’t need to worry about plant IDs in the field.
PK – 8 October 2019