It’s been a frustrating year, healthwise. Around this time last year, we were all set to travel to Chile. Angie had asked if we could include a short break for her to go horseriding high up in the Andes, at a farm near the town of Hurtado. After a year of visits to Salisbury hospital and initially placed under a ‘long-haul flying ban’, she will have some stents inserted in some two weeks time. Fingers crossed.
You can’t keep good folks down so in March 2018 Angie and I drove down to Frijas and Monaco on the French Riviera to visit the oldest cactus nursery of Kuentz and the Jardin Exotique respectively. We even bought some cacti to see how things might work after the UK leave the EU (Brexit), as we headed home via Switzerland, also outside the EU. No problem. The border officer was only keen that we bought a carnet, a sticker to allow us to drive on Swiss motorways. Brexit negotiators, please take note!
We also visited the Sukkulenten-Sammlung Zürich before crossing into Germany to visit the nursery of Uhlig’s.
We were back in Germany again in July to visit the Dahlem Botanical Garden in Berlin, the oldest cactus nursery in the world of Haage in Erfuhrt and to visit Angie’s mother in Cologne.
Today marks the day when in one month’s time I fly out, without Angie this time, but with friends Alain Buffel, Chris Hayes and John Child to Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil to meet up with Jared Marguiles from Mayland, USA and Marlon Machado for a month of cactus inspired travel in the states of Minas Gerais and Bahia.
As usual, I’ll try to find an internet connection to keep family and friends up to date with our progress and to tell cactophiles of the plants that we saw and photographed.
I hope that you can join us on the Blog and enjoy with us what we’ll see.
I regret that we’ve decided to postpone our forthcoming trip to Chile.
Angie has been feeling unusually tired of late, enough to visit her doctor, which led to a series of tests. She is now waiting for a date to have a Cardiac CT scan but it is unlikely that this will happen before our departure in 9 days time.
In the mean time, her specialist has recommended against long haul flights until after the investigation has been completed. Most of the time she feels fine and continues to go to work every day, so no cause for serious concern.
We’re considering to slot the Chile plan in for Spring 2018, so look out for the future message to update you.
Yes, just one month and Angie and I will briefly visit London Heathrow Airport to fly to Madrid, where we change for our flight to Santiago de Chile. During a three week period we plan to re-visit our favourite spots from the last sixteen years and meet up with old friends:- cacti, people and hotels and restaurants, between Pichidangui, some 240 km from Santiago Airport and up to Tocopilla.
The internet has been awash with stories and images of one of the best flowering deserts for years – they seem to become more frequent in recent years! Coincidence or a by-product of global warming? Let’s hope that the flowering continues on for another month or two!
Fingers crossed that unlike the rain that caused the desert to be in flower in 2015, there is not as much damage as there was on that occasion. The Chilean coastal hills have little, often no vegetation or soil to support it. So any water that falls here immediately finds the fastest way down, carrying any dust and gravel down with it as a thick sludge. In 2015 there were reports of Copiapoa megarhiza floating down the Rio Copiapoa. In Chanaral we saw the damage done to houses where the mud filled the ground floor up to their ceilings.
I have ordered the new Nikon D850 DSLR camera, so, at least equipment wise, I should come back with the best images ever. Its release was oversubscribed, so although I am next on the local camera’s shop waiting list, the next box that they receive is mine. Hopefully with some time to spare to get used to its new features.
As usual, I’ll aim to send daily blogs to keep the folks back home informed, up to date and entertained.
Just a brief note to confirm that I arrived back home in Amesbury safe and well, having been picked up at Heathrow T5 by Angie and her son Peter at 13:45, having landed exactly an hour earlier. Not bad!
Over the next few weeks I’ll be correcting the worst of the typos and incorrect grammar from the Blog pages and ask my friends Brian Bates and Jonathan Clark to find time to proofread the Blog texts, but not before I have filled the gaps caused by lack of internet access and from my spell of being unwell at the start of the trip. I also aim to add some pictures of the best things that we saw.
The next cactus event will be a coach trip with Alain and other members of the Belgian C&S Society Grusonia to visit cactus nurseries in the Czech Republic at the end of April / start of May.
The next Cactus Trip to see plants in habitat is planned in October 2017, to Chile, with Angie.
These flowering gardens are known as Chinampa (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinampa for more than you’ll ever need to now on the subject) and the famous tourist attraction is found at Lake Xochimilco.
Being there on a week day was absolutely ideal, with hundreds or even thousands of brightly painted sightseeing boats lying empty. But during weekends and public Holidays, the canals must be heaving with them. In between the tourist bands, there are others selling food, drinks, souvenirs or even with musicians – complete Mariachi bands – entertaining the tourists. We managed to capture it all on digital images and video.
The floating gardens at Xochimilco
Apart from some display gardens that could be visited, with some plants for sale, there was also a small exhibit of reptiles.
Alain complained of being hungry. BTW the snake (below) is a real Boa constrictor!
Alain loves his snakes
The weather forecast had warned of thunderstorms around 17:00 hrs, and sure enough, 30 minutes earlier and safely at the Hotel, copying our image files, the rain burst out. By 17:00 hrs, it was all over so that we can venture out for a Margarita!
HOORAY, it’s official : Final score: Cactus Explorers 3 – corrupt Mexican Police 1!!! For Cactus Explorers read Alain Buffel who again performed magic by weaving our car safely through the mad Mexico City traffic, safely back to the Europ Car depot. Yes, you’re right; we’re a day early! While we hugely enjoyed the hotel and some rest in Tehuacán, Alain suggested that if we went back a day early, we could spend the day (tomorrow) at the floating gardens of Mexico City, built by the Aztecs hundreds of years ago. Monty Don did a BBC TV documentary on the subject. Tomorrow it is our turn.
Today we dropped the car off at 13:00 and by 13:30 were at a cheap(er) hotel at the airport, stuck between the expensive hotels where we can use the ATM machine and the pedestrian footbridge to Terminal 1 from where we leave on Wednesday. The first part of the walk to the airport is along a narrow, uneven pavement – no joke with 7 weeks of luggage + souvenirs, so we may pay a few pesos for a taxi.
Faced with an afternoon of doing nothing, we asked the reception desk if they could recommend a good reliable taxi – they could, so that by 15:00 we found ourselves on the Zócalo, the common name for the Plaza de la Constitución, the main square in Mexico City.
Mexico City Cathedral, with the Metropolitan Tabernacle to the right.
I spotted the Mexican equivalent of the London City bus, an open double decker from where you can see the town at your leisure and hop on and off, if time permits. It didn’t. We made it back to the pre-arranged taxi pick up point exactly one minute before our man arrived, exactly on time. So he has been hired as our driver for tomorrow’s trip – if it doesn’t rain! We had a few spats while sitting on the open top deck of the tour bus.
The commentary on the bus claimed that the Zócalo is one of the largest squares in the world, but a search on the internet reveals that it was ‘only’ the 70th largest.
Not long to go now!!
You need to take my word for it that Sunday was a ‘No News’ day, in fact a repeat of our last day in Tehuacán with Chris and Jonathan, getting the car washed – they remembered us!
We went to the shopping mall to find a barber, for Alain to have his traditional haircut while on holiday – he succeeded eventually just around the corner of the hotel!
Lots of margaritas were enjoyed (last night) and waiters cried as we said our goodbyes.
No images taken today, so a good excuse to fill the space to the right with another image of Ferocactus haemathacanthus in flower yesterday at S3649.
Yesterday’s F. haemathacanthus