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Apologies for the silence during the last few days. Wifi was not available to my laptop, no matter how hard we tried, although others with mobile phones had no problem.

This morning started with a sterling effort by Al, despite last night’s generous intake of Pisco Sours. Despite his protestations, I don’t think his stomach upset had anything to do with the part eaten pizza that he had. 4-5 pisco sours might tell a more believable story. Anyway, congratulations to all of last-night’s revelers for surviving and to Dave Appleton with his birthday sometime this week!

We had an early-ish breakfast (07:30) and by 8:30 we were on the road as we had 503 km ahead of us to Vallenar where we now rest at the same hotel as on the way up, the excellent Hotel Atacama! We managed to reach the Vallenar Cake Shop at 17:30 hrs where we managed 1.3333 cake portions each, with the exception of Al who passed, claiming to still feel delicate.

Ian took an image of the lady who contributes to making the cakes and asked her to pose with today’s produce. She was so pleased and impressed that she went and told all her colleagues around the shop!

Plant wise we managed to make a Stop at km 912, as once again we had overshot km 910. It featured the same plant: Copiapoa calderana, looking a bit better than two weeks ago, after a light rain. Many plants now in flower – that makes all the difference!

We tackled a few retournos as both fuel stations had been the subject to vandalism with as a result, no hot dogs for lunch and credit card payments for fuel only at the Copec.

Then we followed the Ruta del Desierto along the coast – slightly longer but much more varied, with both live and dead Eulychnia along the road.

We made a leg stretch stop and I joked – ‘mind where you are standing, there are Thelocephals here’! Angie laughed in disbelief, looked down and sure enough, there was a single headed T. odieri! Al found another one near by.

We drove on until some 30 km before Carrizal Bajo I saw clumps of C. dealbata in flower along the road. The back-row of Ian and Angie were asleep and Al was concentrating on driving so it was no big deal that I spotted them. Again, the plants seemed to have had a drink of water and the recent dry spell seemed to make their spination stand out even more!

Angie had walked on a bit as always and reported a ‘different plant’ probably a Copiapoa species. A closer inspection revealed large clumps of C. echinoides, Nice find!

Ian is waiting to join us for a Chinese meal or at the Pizza bar at the Plaza – the latter sells large Schopps (pint glasses of Cristal beer. This has been in poor supply up north, possible due to the social unrest affecting supplies.

I’ll try to catch up on missed days later, probably not until we are back in England, with pictures at that stage.

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