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We woke up with a shock as Alain’s watch showed 8 a.m. Palm trees were swaying in the wind and torrential rain came from the skies. San Diego was crying because Alain is leaving tomorrow.

We carried on with our plan to see Sea World, as the theme is ‘water’ anyway. US$60 for the day though – not cheap!

It was really quite miserable and we were surrounded by people in plastic capes all moping around – many of them staff. Still, we put a brave face on it – took loads of silly pictures and made ourselves and some of the staff and visitors laugh with our antics. One of the volunteers at the sea lions asked where we came from. Belgium, said Alain. Oh yes, he said, Luxemburg is in Belgium, isn’t it? No, said Alain, next door, but it’s pretty small. Oh yes, the guy came back again – I heard that they were trying to sell it on E-bay last week!

And so it went on. We visited the dolphins in action, saw the seals perform, took loads of pictures of flamingos who had overdosed on pink dye, saw some sad-looking egrets who looked as though they had swallowed the dye as well and by around 1 p.m. decided to go home. At the exit, a lady asked us if we would do a survey. What did we think of …. etc. The Polar Bear display? Where was that? The Penguins? Are they near the Polar Bears? The Baluga Whales? don’t tell me, near the bears. And the Orca display in 45 minutes? We thought it had been cancelled, due to the rain?

So, off we went to the bears, only to be met by another hostess. Do you guys like beer? Do we!!! Well, here is a ticket for the Anheuser-Busch beer tasting in the Hospitality Center (Anheuser- Busch is one of the USA largest brewers). So we made a little detour to the bears and learned that AB make an excellent stout. This delayed us a bit so we went to the Orca Show by Shamu and his mates, making sure that we were just above the first 16 rows that were officially designated as ‘soaking zone’. Took loads of pictures and beginning to feel a real affinity with these colossal animals.

The Arctic and Antarctic displays where ‘awesome’, really the only way to describe it. I guess I can now do a convincing talks about ‘Penguins in their Environment’. The displays were really excellent, kind of ‘Universal Studios meets David Attenborough’ and with the zoo keepers more like Hollywood actors, acting with a convincing passion.

Before we knew it, it was 4 o’clock and time to go back to the Motel to meet Mark Fryer, currently President of the San Diego Cactus Society. We had ‘met’ before on cactus forums and he was set to come with us to Chile in 2003, until his wife announced that she was pregnant with their second child and financial realities prevented him from joining us. He’d make an excellent travel companion.

We went out for a few beers and a burger and I’ll be sure to come back South to San Diego pronto, as he is between jobs, bursting with enthusiasm for cacti & showing me habitats and lining up visits to C&Js, Grigsby and lots of other smaller, specialist places. He was being groomed to take over at C&Js, but the difference he made to their business while he was there, meant that the asking price for the business kept going up.

I’ll try to set up a ‘high lights tour’ of nurseries at the end of the March tour, but only as a ‘plan B’, if we run out of things to see in Baja. Today’s rains seem to also have occurred in Baja, along the western coast, giving an extra boost to the flowering. Mark knows Jon Rebman at the University or Botanic Gardens here (not sure which) who is working on a Baja project that our pictures and observations could contribute to. It’d be a nice thing to get involved with and repay Jon in a way for his GPS coordinates that we received via Brain Bates in Bolivia that helped us so far.

During next week, I’ll send Cliff & Ian a spreadsheet and .kmz file of the cactus stops from this trip. The GPS data was taken from Alain’s GPS at the start and from Angie’s (I have misplaced mine, perhaps in Chile, at Flo’s) later on, when we discovered how to get different readings to the previous stop and identical to Alain’s. Perhaps Ian has the cables and know how of how to load this data into his GPS, so that we can tell if we’re close to any previously visited spots. I suggest that we aim to ‘fill the gaps’ in our stops on the way down, but I’ll guarantee to take you back to stops where we saw certain plants on the way back, if we haven’t already seen them before.

The alarm is set for 5 and we’re a bit down; Alain because he has to go back to reality, me because I’ll miss my travel buddy and in a way wouldn’t have minded a two-week break in the UK to see Angie, Anton & Chris, my Mum & sister etc. But the thought of other exciting things to explore and of Cliff & Ian coming over in 2 weeks will cheer me up, after I have done 3 weeks worth of washing at a future Motel.

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