Technically we made four stops today with the last stop at the cake shop on the corner of the old R5 and the road to Vallenar, but as I took no photos here, I have not allocated a Stop number.
For the first stop of the day, (S3822) we headed north along R5 and turned east at the difficult to see sign to El Donkey. This is now a good salt track. We briefly hit the beginnings of a pea-souper fog as experienced in 2003, but it lifted quickly, producing a bright sunny day, again at the expense of the fauna and flora. The Eulychnia were simply too dry to give an accurate ID but so far from the Ocean it has to be E. acida. These plants practise stem-sacrifice at times of extreme drought. They also demonstrated spine sacrifice with bald stems surrounded by piles of long spines. Not sure that this is a good idea on their part as the spines are useful to catch fog droplets and direct them to the plants root. I was bluffing about my ability to find the location for Copiapoa coquimbana subsp. andina having only been there on three previous occasions, the last one five years ago! Of course, I had brought my Garmin Nuvii SatNav along, but the wrong one – this one had my US and Mexico data on while the one with my Chile data is still in England!
Never mind, the location where I had been shown them by Rudolf Schulz appeared in due course along the side of the road and sure enough,we were able to detect clumps of Copiapoa on the lower part of the hill. We walked over for closer inspection and I managed some nice pictures.
On another occasion, with Bart & Marijke Hensel, we were taken to another location and another and another, but the track that we had been on could not be found this time.
We wasted a bit of time trying to find the turning but then decided to head back via the Parque Nacional de Challe to see if we could improve on yesterday’s hunt for Eriosyce (Thelocephala) challensis. Checking back in the hotel last night it transpired that we had been on the wrong hill, 790 meters from the coordinates where we had found them in the past. It took about an hour to get to the ‘next’ hill but once again, it was very dry, so the chance of finding them was slim.
I saw Al lying flat on the ground and took a picture while composing the heading ‘BCSS Editor lies down on the job’ when he suddenly jumped up, did a little dance and called over: ‘Got them!’ And sure enough, he had found them, hence the stop at the cake shop where we had promised to pay for the cake of the first person to find the plant!
As usual, finding one leads to finding more.
As our special bonus we drove on in the direction of Carrizal Bajo where I knew of a population of Copiapoa dealbata – again, fewer in number and soon to become smaller still, as there were signs of a tunnel being built, presumably to stop the road from flooding.
We took a good number of images before I allerted the others about the possible closing time of the Vallenar Cake Shop. Great how quickly everyone was back in the car.
PS Decided to go back to the Pizza restaurant on the Plaza, which was full of a happy family orientated crowd with lots of flag and banner waving people, all smiling, chanting and lots of pogo jumping. Ian and I bought a flag each in order to blend in. Got back safely to Hotel Atacama on Sereno.