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Yesterday we failed to find Smiler. Our fear was that it was Smiler RIP with the understanding that there was no guarantee that we would find its remains among the thousands of Copiapoa cinerea subsp. columna-alba. I experienced a strong feeling of loss and I knew that Angie felt worse. Smiler had been our friend since 2003!

We decided to go back, this time with the GPS coordinates on Ian’s GPS. And we took a different route up to the plateau where he grows. We carried on photographing interesting plants, candidates for Smiler #2 and so on while we let Angie follow her instincts.

All of a sudden, a yell, Angie with her arms up in the air, she had found Smiler. She gave him a stiff talking to about hiding from us, although it transpires that we must have walked by him the day before. Never mind, he was found now. And close to him Eriosyce (Thelocephala) aerocarpa, again a plant that I have seen and photographed since 2003. And slightly farther away, again photographed since 2003 or even 2001, Copiapoa serpentisulcata, way out of its usual range, near the southern entrance to the Pan de Azucar.

While we gave Smiler a nick-name, we never bothered with the other two taxa. So why not send in your suggestions? The internet connection is again too weak to post images tonight, but I will remedy the issue once that I’m back home in the UK.

Smiler (left) and Angie (right) 16 years after we first visited this plant!

Next we headed to Taltal and drove straight through to take a look at the monument of the Paposo Virgin (S3838) where we saw Copiapoa humilis in its various forms. We saw lot of plants, both in their juvenile short spination and adult plants with it’s more robust mature spination. Sadly, no flowers on show. We saw Copiapoa cinerea subsp. haseltoniana but this time the path was too narrow for me to risk life and limb. I left that to Al.

With today’s goal achieved, we drove back to Taltal. On the way I was happy for Al and Ian to call the stops for Copiapoa cinerea subsp. haseltoniana. More by accident then science, they selected a spot with large (gigantea) plants, some of which had fallen apart by the lack of water. (S3839)

We’re in Taltal for six nights and are contemplating the 106 km run to Botija (and 106 km back) tomorrow. Not for the faint-hearted as we don’t know how far the tarmac goes now. 10 km after Paposo it stopped abruptly in 2015.

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