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Archive for the ‘Chile 2001’ Category

Tuesday 5 June 2001 – Guanaqueros to Santiago

And so we reached our last day in Chile. The landscape, that had looked so dry when we had driven through it a month earlier, now looked distinctly green, compared to the really dry north where we had been.

Apparently deep in thought, digesting the glorious sights we had seen, we forgot that, even along the Pan American Highway, it is good to keep the fuel tank above half way full. As we were also running low on money, we passed by a petrol station that did not accept credit cards, thinking that we’d soon find another that did. Wrong!

As the fuel gauge approached empty, Leo slowed down to optimum speed, coasting down hills – anything to conserve fuel. We stopped at a small hamlet – Puenta Huentelaquin, some 38 km north of Los Villos where, according to the map, we would find our next petrol station. As we were convinced that we did not have enough fuel to get to Los Villos, we hoped to persuade people in the hamlet to sell us a few litres of petrol. We were in luck! The local tyre repair man had two very old pumps from which we were able to fill up the car – a close call!

We made only one stop today (S107), the last of the trip, at Pichidangui. How we wished we had more film and I made a note to return here on a future trip (see 4 June 2003) and to read up Fred Kattermann’s book Eriosyce before doing so.

Our original plan was to spend the last night at the El Parador cabañas near Calue, but as we had made good time, and Marlon’s flight to Brazil required a 6 a.m. check-in, we decided to spend the night in Santiago. However, we had to go to El Parador to return some spare car parts that we had borrowed on the way up and to cancel our bookings.

We arrived in Santiago, around sunset and made for the Airport, hoping to find some basic and affordable accommodation, but somehow got caught up in the flow of traffic, ending up in the centre of Santiago, surrounded by endless lanes and rows of busses.

We spotted a hotel sign, found a place to pull up and tired but happy booked in, to finish off the remainder of the red wine we had had on board while we did our final packing.

There’s not much left to report for the next day, other than that we made it safely to the airport, nearly missed the car-rental rep as he arrived just as we had to go to through customs into the departure launch.

It had been a fantastic trip: we had seen lots of marvellous plants and scenery, met some wonderful people and made some lasting friendships.

In the words of Arnold Schwarzenegger: ‘I’ll be back!’

Wednesday 9 May 2001 – Santiago to Caleu

John Ede and I enjoyed an uneventful Lufthansa flight from London, via Frankfurt, to Buenos Aires, where Leo van der Hoeven joined us.

The last leg, Buenos Aires, Argentina – Santiago, Chile took us over the Andes, with some spectacular views over the snow capped peaks, arriving safely at Santiago Airport where we were met by the representative of our car rental firm. Fortunately, Leo is fluent in Spanish, down to the arm and leg movements that to us northern Europeans are a little unusual.

We had rented a Nissan double cabin pick-up truck and this rather squashed vehicle was to be our home for the journey. With my long legs, I found the back seat particularly tight – still, a good excuse for frequent stops to stretch our legs, look for plants and take pictures.  I exposed 30 rolls of 36 exposure slide film – 1080 slides in all – and took another 2,000 plus digital images using a Nikon Coolpix 990 that I was privileged to have on loan from Nikon.

Again, without incident, we drove north along Ruta 5 to Rungue and then followed a track to Calue. We found the El Parador cabañas, run by a Chilean who was born in Belgium and who had lived in Birmingham, England for some 3 years before returning home. Here we met up with the 4th member of our ‘car party’, Marlon Machado from Salvador, Brazil, who had flown in the previous day and had been picked up at the airport by the owner of the cabañas.

Our first stop, (S001) covers an area of c. 5 km radius around the hotel where we found Neoporteria curvispina, Echinopsis (Trichocereus) chiloensis and Cumulopuntia sphaerica. The lush green hillsides around the cabañas at Hotel El Parador, some 60 km north of Santiago Airport, west of the Pan America Highway (Route 5), presents the perfect opportunity to stretch our legs and see our first cacti in their Chilean habitat.

Before long, Marlon was taking pictures of a globular cactus:  Eriosyce (Neoporteria) curvispina var. curvispina (Bertero ex Colla) Kattermann

The low shrubs provide ideal nursery bushes for a ceroid: Echinopsis (Trichocereus) chiloensis (Colla) Friedrich & Rowley. First described as Cactus chiloensis by Colla in 1826.  The name ‘chiloensis’, meaning from the Isla Chiloe, is incorrect and has been corrected by some authors to ‘chilensis’ (from Chile), but according to the rules of botanic nomenclature, the original spelling must stand. Friedrich Ritter lists 5 varieties of this variable species. The form common in this area is short spined and was given the name varietal name conjungens by Ritter.

Although lichens are common features growing on other vegetation, the bright coloured growth found growing on the stems are actually the flowers and fruits of a parasite: Tristerix (Phnygilanthus) aphyllus.  These parasites have a sweet taste and are the favourite food of guanaco – the ‘sheep’ of the Andes.