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We managed to squeeze five people into the car as we had promised to give Carlos a lift to La Serena. The social unrest and public strikes had taken their toll on public services, with buses running while they could rather tan to a regular timetable. None of us were too certain where we were going, but just before I thought that we’d soon be out of town, Carlos asked to be dropped off and we continued our journey, at least until the Copec station for fuel and of course, a hot dog!

We didn’t see much of the Cuesta due to the Camanchaca that sounds a lot more interesting when you read about it than when you are driving around in it! We had made the exit to Los Choros before we knew it. (S3805) There seemed little point at looking for Eriosyce riperia in this drought, the plants would be well hidden, pulled down into the soil by their contractile taproot. Soon after the turn we stopped for a leg stretch. A lot had changed since our first stop here on 24 June 2003, when it gained my location reference L0202, although all the cacti reported then were still seen today: Copiapoa coquimbana, Cumulopuntia sphaerica, Eulychnia acida, with somewhat hairier buds than ‘normal’ E. acida, and Miqueliopuntia miquelii.

S3805Copiapoa coquimbana

By 2007, the then newly described Eriosyce (Thelocephala) napina subsp. riparia had been added to the list, but time constraints stopped us today to search for it.

Next stop S3806 will always be known to me as JA001, Juan Pablo Acosta’s first recorded cactus stop. The scenery, from the top of a low hill, down the dry Rio Choros is great and creates many angles where it forms the backdrop for the cacti that grow here. Again, it was striking how dry the plants were. The Eriosyce here is called E. (Horridocactus) simulans as it closely resembles the Copiapoa coquimbana (Ritter’s C. pseudocoquimbana) that is grows alongside with. Except that today there were no flowers or fruits to differentiate between the two taxa.

The Eulychnia has a low, upright growth, not procumbent like E. chorosensis, but the hypanthium is bristly, just like E. chorosensis. Another mystery Eulychnia! A transitional form or a different taxon? It’s all happening in this area!

S3807 was a stop for a herd of some dozen guanacoes and later joined by a family ? pack ? of foxes. We tend to carry some bread roll remnants, left over from breakfast and they were very happy with this sudden meal! Only when we drove on did we see the request not to feed the animals, in Spanish of course, as inappropriate food for animals under stress could kill them! We hope that they are all OK.

(S3807) Zorro chilla

We arrived at the port of Punta Choros that seemed deserted. Under the overcast skies the shacks looked impoverished. All the pangas seemed to be in. There was a bit of a breeze, too heavy to take passengers to Isla Choros and Isla Damas where Humboldt penguins build their nests under the stems of Eulychnia chorosensis. Perhaps tomorrow? Come at 8:00!

We found cabanas to sleep four and, after a walk through the village found a restaurant that was open (or did it open specially for us?)

Fingers crossed that tomorrow’s weather will allow us to make the boat trip!

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