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Today could be summed up with three words: Pan de Azucar. That is the Parque Nacional Pan de Azucar, named after the island that lies in the Pacific Ocean off the north side of Chanaral Bay. But with 147 images to file today, I’ve divided them over 5 stops.

S3832 starts with the statue of a lama on R5 that marks the turning to the southern entrance of the Parque. We drove across the plain that seems to be taking on a healthier colour as the chemicals from a spill at one of the mines much farther inland were finally cleaned away. At the time, the fishermen thought their luck was in as fish were easily caught doing the back stroke. The fish was eaten by the people of the town, many of whom still have ailments relating to Arsenic poisoning.

But today the sun was shining bright and we noted that today was the 11th day of the eleventh month, and that in about one hours time there would be a minute’s silence in those countries that had had soldiers involved in the two World Wars and other events since.

We started seeing clumps of Copiapoa cinerascens along the side of the road. We were all keen to take their picture but I urged everyone to wait just a little longer for a spot (S3833) where these silvery looking plants were growing on very dark rocks, with the very white sand and the waves crashing on to rocks provided the perfect setting for a photo shoot. I could have stayed here for days, but I have also seen it on days when the typical Chilean coastal weather covers the area with low hanging clouds, with a fine light drizzle in the air. Not so nice then. But today it was heaven.

The server still refuses to upload my images so you’ll have to come back in the future when the server at home is hopefully more obliging.

We arrived at the main ranger station and were pleasantly surprised to meet Domingo again, who five years ago had taken us to Angie’s Smiler, a crested Copiapoa cinerea subsp. columna-alba that she first found in 2003 and that we have visited every time since as we were passing. All the Copiapoa here had shrunk but some stems showed new off sets, so at least here, the plants were not done yet! We always knew that one day we would visit and Smiler would be gone. Angie normally walks straight to the plant, past some thousand C. columna-alba, but not this time. We’ll go back tomorrow with the GPS coordinates embedded in one of my images from previous visits, but the signs are not good.

But first we had been given the keys to the chain across the track to Las Lomitas. The rangers had told us that this area now had research projects in progress into the lichen that form a thin crust on the soil and also to protect the guanacos that have made this their favourite home. It wasn’t to be, as none of the keys in the bunch fitted the padlock with the same story again at the chain to El Mirrador.

And so, back to Chañaral where we found that most of the restaurants are closed on a Monday evening, but where we were fortunate to find a snack bar that sold typical Chilean bar food alongside pints of Crystal beer.

Tomorrow we move on to Taltal.

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