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It’s wrong to talk about Teniente Bello and the hike in general (see yesterday’s post), without mentioning a bit about Parque Mahuida (ma-WEED-a). It’s the most accessible slice of nature available to Santiaguinos, and is relatively unvisited. There’s a kid’s park (Granjaaventura, where people have birthday parties), picnicking areas, the rodelbahn (alpine slide, like a bobsled without the snow), and a bunch of other activities. But a quick walk up a steepish and either dusty or muddy road, and you’re on another planet.

The ascent up the Cerro La Cruz side brought us some unusual sights, like this bright blue (carnivorous!) bug, dragging this juicy spider around:

colorful carnivorous insect dragging spider

And this nearly dead chagual stalk next to the quisco cactus with what I imagine is a parasite wrapped around it. I couldn’t get any closer without risking impalement, and I’m no botanist to identify for sure what the red boa around the cactus was. In this photo you can see that the winter smog is already setting in.

chagual y quisco con flores/parasito?

Which, come to think of it, I saw something very similar on the cacti on that ill-fated trip to El Roble last year with those locos with their piston legs and their multiply-suspended bikes.

And here’s a naked quisco, one of a few cacti that grown near Santiago, which are kind of saguaro-looking, but without all the shoulders. Spines? Very pokey.

quisco from below

And I know the quintral is a parasite, but for me it’s a total show-stealer, regardless. The quintral is the blooms on this esclerofilo (hard-leaved tree, like a holly, called schlerophyll in English).

Quintral (parasite) on sclerophyll/esclerofila

Here’s a closer look at what we were calling, affectionately enough “my parasite.”

Quintral (parasite) on schlerophyll/esclerofila  2

And no trip to a bosque esclerofilo (a native forest of these hard-leaved trees, which are now just in small stands as development encroaches, and which are an important environmental niche) would be complete without mentioning my favorite seed pod. What? You don’t have a favorite seedpod? Go find your own, this one’s mine!

favorite seedpod

And since it’s not a pod, I can also equally love this seed-delivery system. I call it “planta plumavit” or styrofoam plant. If you touch it, it falls apart into tiny triangles which constitute the sphere.

planta plumavit?

And here’s where I knew I really had a photography problem. I looked at these dead leaves (original image):

dead leaves original

and immediately knew they would look better in black and white:

dead leaves

Which opens a whole ‘nother can of worms about how photography purists seem to allow black-and-white as a legitimate use of photoshop, even though, I don’t know about you, but I see colors. Daily. And thank goodness, or I’d never ever have noticed the quintral.

But the eagle eye award goes to Mr. Still Life for spotting this local fauna on our way out of the park.

that's a snake!

Another trip is tentatively scheduled for mid-may. Quién se suma? (Who’s up for it?)