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Archive for March, 2008

Saturday, 29 March 2008 – around San Diego

Saturday morning, but I was up at 6, out of habit I guess. Eunice arrived shortly after 8 so that we could copy each other’s images from this trip. While the laptops were whizzing away, back to Denny’s for breakfast. We discussed what cacti locations, if any, to look at. The original plan was the cactus garden at Balboa Park, where on 8 March I had given a presentation. But were there any wild habitat locations that might be of more interest? We briefly considered and then quickly dismissed the idea of shooting off to San Quintín, Mexico and back for the day. We would have had to take out more Mexican Insurance and on a Saturday evening, it would have taken at least 4 hours to get back into the USA.
Tempting though …..

We decided instead to take a look at the coast slightly to the north of Motel 6, obviously to see if there were any Dudleya there that we had not seen before.

The first stop was a public access spot inside a University campus. It looked all very colourful with lots of aster-like flowers covering the eroding mudstone cliffs leading to the Ocean. We spotted a few Dudleya, but none that would have won prizes anywhere. Next we pointed the car to the Cabrillo National Monument. To get there, take the road from the Motel to the Airport, but carry on along the harbour instead of turning right to the Airport buildings. Eventually you drive along a peninsula that separates San Diego Bay from the Ocean. Right at the tip of the peninsula is the National Monument, complete with visitors centre offering spectacular views across the bay. Many scenery photos were taken. Then we also spotted Dudleya and decided to follow one of the nature trails. Just as I was about to suggest that we’d turn round, I spotted a cactus, Ferocactus viridescens, in flower, on the hillside, then another and another. Eunice took pictures as I risked life and limb (not really) to climb to the Feros and finding Mammillaria dioica on the way. On the way back, we took a different route and added Bergerocactus emoryi to the list of cacti for the day.

The sun & sea air (how’s the weather in the UK, guys?) makes you tired and the thought of flying home and packing yet to be done meant we returned to Motel 6, had a coffee at Denny’s until at 5 p.m. the Chinese opened and Eunice and I each had a China Camp Special, just as we had
seen Ian demolish two nights earlier. I guess that this makes it a tradition for European cactophiles to have a Chinese meal here before their flight home the next day.

Back at the Motel, a quick check that all data had been copied as planned. Eunice announced that she had earlier formatted a 4Gig card with all her Anza Borrego pictures from a few days ago, before it had been downloaded on to her computer. Good to see that I’m not the only prat to make
this mistake 🙂 As in my earlier accident, images taken by the rest of us ensure that the experiences of that day were not lost.

Eunice left for a 90 minute drive home to Bellflower and on checking my emails I was pleased to see a message from Cliff to say that he had arrived home safely. Ian’s email system at home was thought to be defective, so I’m not expecting any mail from him until he gets to work on Monday.

And that just leaves me to return the car and fly home tomorrow morning. Plans for future trips are already being planned: Ian and family will visit the Canary Islands, Eunice will come to the annual ELK cactus festival in Belgium in September and I hope to be off to Chile as soon as the clocks in the UK change to Winter Time at the end of October, probably joined by Cliff who hopes to have his future life sorted out by then.

This IS the last Bajathon Diary, at least for this trip! Honest!!

Friday, 28 March 2008 – around San Diego

Obviously, when I said that the previous Diary page that I sent out was going to be the last, I lied, although I had no intention of
writing more reports.

So, after dropping Cliff & Ian off at the Airport, I went back to the motel, had breakfast at Denny’s, changed rooms and washed my jacket, so that I won’t look like a tramp due to its lack of cleanliness (leaving just the long hair & beard and the desert boots to raise suspicion). I also started going through the pictures of the trip, taking the data from the GPS picture that separates each photo stop from the previous one. This data was copied into my stop database and from there copied to create a waypoint on Google Earth. It’s a slow repetitive process, but the boredom is relieved by seeing where we had been and how close some of the stops were (unintentionally) to stops made in February. Obviously, there was something on both occasions that prompted us to stop.

While doing this, data was being copied to my new plug in hard drive (500 GByte for under GBP 60!)

Before I realised where the time had gone, it was time for another visit to Denny’s for dinner, and after that, time for bed.

Thursday, 27 March 2008 – Carlsbad to San Diego and the party is over

Eunice suggested breakfast at Mimmie’s, the same one where I received complimentary muffins on my first visit. Ian enjoyed a fruit salad the size of a small greengrocer’s shop and yes, each of the ‘Mimmie Virgins’ received their complimentary box of 4 muffins each.

We had promised to visit Jürgen Menzel again, as he had been very helpful in giving me tips on finding various Baja cacti and we had promised to show him the pictures of our trip. Jürgen has a collection of some of the more unusual cacti, not often seen in general or hobby collections and enjoys propagation and seed producing to ensure their distribution, via the trade, to hobbyists. We were fortunate that he also had a small stock of Franziska & Richard Wolf’s book ‘The Ferocacti of Baja California’ at a ‘better than ELK’ price. Ian was impressed with a map book of detailed Baja maps and noted details, so that hopefully we can acquire a copy for any future trips, because I for one would like to return some time in the future to track down the few species that we missed this time, including most of the endemic island species.

Eunice and I had intended to take Cliff & Ian to Torrey Pines for the last ‘field experience’ of seeing cacti in habitat, but Jürgen suggested two alternative locations where Ferocactus viridiscens still survived on small plots of land, waiting perhaps to be developed, in an urban environment.

He took us to the first location where we found some 20 plants, hidden in the tall grass. These plants were much heavier spined than the plants I had seen at Torrey Pines. Jürgen explained that many more plants had grown here, but a forest fire some 10 years ago had severely reduced their number. Ironically, most of the Feros had survived the fire, but their spined had been burned off, so that, without this protection, they made juicy snacks for rodents who had lost their regular food source in the fire. Perhaps as a result, natural selection showed much heavier spined plant here today. I use my camera as a note book, so went to take a picture of the signs near the entrance to the site, after we had completed the picture session, to read:


Warning: Army Corps of Engineers has designated this site for future sweep of potentially unexploded ordnance.

Well, it’s a new approach to protecting plants. We are glad to report that we didn’t find anything explosive on ‘our sweep’.

The next stop was a narrow strip of waste land opposite a school. At first we thought that any cacti had been destroyed, but after a bit of searching we found Ferocactus viridescens again, in very tall grass and agricultural wheat! Growing there as well, a Dudleya sp.. On the way back to the car I found an attractive Oxalis sp., just one group – perhaps the result of someone dumping their garden waste there. Nearby grew Crassula  argentea, The Money Tree, an African native.

Ian & Cliff were getting tired and clearly their mind was already occupied with the journey home and the packing that precedes it, so it was back to The Motel At The End Of The Runway, where Eunice and I decided to make a quick trip to Fry’s, the discount electronics outlet, where I managed to pick up a 500 GByte external HD for just under GBP 60, as my 250GByte disc only had 12 GByte left!

When we got back, Eunice’s daughter Lachelle, had arrived to pick her Mum up, but first we went for the long awaited Chinese meal, in an interesting setting, resembling a Hollywood film set, but where the service left a lot to be desired.

Eunice, Ian and Cliff said their goodbyes and Ian set his alarm clock for 7:30. He need not have bothered, as the train right behind the Motel and the planes landing & taking off from 5 a.m. onwards made sure that we were already awake.

I dropped them off at the Airport and went back to the motel, where by midday I moved from room 117, to 128 – just around the corner from the swimming pool, I did not know that there were rooms there too.

I’m now enjoying organising my pics on the new HD and putting stop data on Google Earth for a virtual trip sometime in the future.

This will be the last Diary in the series – so, Diary Addicts, you have to get a real life, and perhaps join in with the next adventure in cactus country!

Wednesday, 26 March 2008 – El Centro to Carlsbad, CA

We were ready to leave around 8:30 and decided to have breakfast on the way. We took I-5 East to Ocotillo, then S-2 north to Anza Borrego. Breakfast was in the local bar & restaurant. We ordered the usual 4 orange juices, 3 coffee and what ever Ian was having plus variations on how to prepare an egg, or, in Ian’s case, the originator of the egg (chicken sandwich).

We all pulled faces as we drank our orange juice, having got used to 4-5 freshly squeezed oranges in Mexico. ‘Don’t you like it?’ our waitress asked. ‘It’s different …..’ the British Citizens replied, diplomatically. ‘No’, said Eunice. ‘Neither do I’ said the waitress, ‘It’s thawed out frozen orange juice. Just give them back and I won’t charge you.’ Cliff had been having stomach problems and used the facilities to clear out last night’s dinner.

And so on to Anza Borrego; but first the impromptu formalities of a Border Police Checkpoint; not the smartest kids on the block, who thought that Ian’s passport had expired, while looking at the date issued. Still, spending all day in the sun among cacti didn’t seem such a bad job compared to office work in the UK, plus you got a gun to play with and a licence to kill! Oh well.

Anza Borrego produced everything that it had promised during my previous visits: several species of Cylindropuntia, Opuntia basilaris, Echinocereus engelmannii, Mammillaria dioica, Ferocactus cylindraceus, Fouqueria splendens and lots of field flowers this time, all in full bloom, in various scenic settings: on the flat with distant hills in the background and on the rocky hillsides themselves. These cacti have some of the showiest flowers in the plant family. I’m sure that I could fill a whole talk just on the Anza Borrega Desert State Park! We overdosed on photographing these wonderful sights, a bit like the last day of a Chile trip on the rocks of the Pacific shores at Pichidangui, surrounded by different species of Eriosyce in flower. We made it again to the visitor’s centre, watched a couple of programs in their cinema, more to be out of the heat (the outside temperature on the car’s thermometer reached 94 F, Ian’s thermometer reached 31 C), than because we were going to see things that we hadn’t seen already.

Coping with the desert heat adds a dimension of effort to the day’s proceedings so that we were all glad to see the familiar sight of the Motel 6 in Carslbad, where I had stayed several nights in late February / early March. We went through the checking in procedure for the pre-booked rooms, got the cards for the internet service and went to inspect the rooms. Oh, oh, just one king-size bed in each room. Now in a real emergency somewhere in Mexico, in the only hotel in town, we might have brought in our airbeds etc. but here we went straight back to reception. What had happened to the other beds? Sorry, that was how the booking came through. Never mind, can we swap rooms with ones with 2 queen / king size beds each?  No, sorry, we’re full up. Not for long, as we left them with two free rooms and after a reversal process of the checking in procedure, cancelling credit card payments etc we were on our way to the second Motel 6 in Carlsbad (they have 3). Here the rooms were inspected and found to be OK. Next item on the agenda: food. We risked our lives crossing a busy road where we had seen signs for The European Meat Company. Looked promising, but they were closed. On to a large intersection with lots of restaurant signs. We were greeted by Greek music. A quick look revealed entertainment provided by a belly dancer, but it all looked rather tatty, so we gave it a miss. On to the cross roads we waited patiently for the pedestrian light to turn green, only to start flashing red again when we were only half way across. Nothing too promising when we arrived there, so let’s cross again. Same story: red before we reached half way. We now spotted a promising looking restaurant ‘Islands’, promising Burgers and Drinks on signs with various letters missing. But it was on the other side of the road again, and so we made another crossing and got back to where we started, just behind Motel 6. All this looking for food is thirsty work, so as soon as the surfer babes (? – they didn’t live up to my expectations!) had sat us down with an ‘awesome!’ between every word they uttered, we ordered Margaritas and Burgers.

Anyway, a good time was had by all and the extra Tequila shot did the trick of filtering out the noise of Interstate 5 that runs about 100 m from our Motel window.

As a result, the Diary pages did not get finished and are therefore now being completed while I’m also chatting with Angie on Windows Messenger.

Better send them now, as breakfast calls.

Tuesday, 25 March 2008 – Ensenada to El Centro, USA

It was another long day and I’m tired after a long drive through a hot desert. We made more or less the same stops and saw the same things as reported in the Diary page of 16th & 17th of February, except that we saw more Dudleya and that this time we went from El Chinero straight to Mexicali rather than make the 1 day de-tour via San Felipe.

This time, we used the Mexicali East crossing, a tip that Eunice received from another American on holiday in Baja. Not sure if it was the different crossing or the fact that it was Tuesday rather than Sunday afternoon, but we managed the crossing in just 15 minutes!

Not much later, we pulled into the Motel 6 in El Centro and after a bit of searching (we did not want to end up at IHOP, did we, Alain?!) we ended up at Famous Dave’s BBQ restaurant, where the size of our meals confirmed that we were back in the USA. Stuffed and watered, we are now gasping for air in a ex-smoker’s room – all the none smoking rooms were booked. We’re a bit away from Reception & the router, so we’ll see if this message gets through.

Monday, 24 March 2008 – San Quintin to Ensenada

The advantage of staying last night in San Quintin was that we could have a lie in – well, some of the others did as I woke up at the usual time and had a chat with Angie via Windows Messenger. It was about 11:00 when we finally left for the 115 mile journey to Ensenada. There was not much going on on MEX1, so I started browsing the AAA Baja California Guide and discovered the opportunity for two side trips: one turning east at San Telmo de Abajo would take us towards Meling Ranch and then to the Parque Nacional Sierra de San Pedro Martir, the other turning west 6.2 miles north of San Vicente and leading to the coast at Puerto San Isidro.

By the time I had spotted these side trips we appeared to have already passed the turning at San Telmo, so had to do a U-turn (a ‘Uwee’) and drive some 7 km back.  It would take much too long to make both side trips in full so we decided to drive east until 12:30, noting potential stops for the way back. We found a nice place for a plant stop at 12:29 ad found Echinocereus maritimus (in flower) Myrtillocactus cholla (in flower and fruit), Pachycereus gummosus, Mammillaria sp. (dioica or blossfeldiana?) and Opuntia and Cylindropuntia sp. A first on this trip was to find Bergerocactus emoryi in bud and in flower. It seems to rely on vegetative propagation, as only few plants had buds and only two or three were flowering. On the succulent side, the place was awash with Agave shawii, very large single headed plants or multiheaded plants with smaller heads. And Eunice was in heaven as Dudleya were everywhere, D. brittonii was massive here and snow white, but there was also a smaller plant with cylindrical,  mainly green leaves that we later found in greater numbers at the next stop.

I noted yesterday that the area we were passing through seemed to be past its peak in terms of field flowers. Here, farther north, I estimate that it was roughly at its peak.

We made several more shortish stops on the way back to MEX1 an, hidden between the shrubs, grass and wild flowers, found a few Ferocactus, some in flower (yellow). They looked to me as though they may be the southern extreme of F. cylindraceus that tomorrow we should see in great numbers along MEX3 around Valle de Trinidad and again the next day, as we drive through the Anza Borrega Desert Park in the USA.

We found the next turn off, this time west, without difficulty and again were treated to new, photogenic scenery. Tarmac ran out at Ejido Eréndira, and rather than proceed at 15 km per hour, it seemed better to devote more time to plant stops on the way back to MEX1. There was an impressive Bergerocactus emoryi hanging down a rockface. Walking along the road, we could photograph Echinocereus maritimus, Mammillaria sp. and P. gummosus, but the stars of the show were the Dudleya. Here they were large green rosettes clinging to the rock face.

We made a few more brief stops on the way back to MEX1, and drove over a few rattlesnakes, that unwisely crossed the road as we were heading back. I think it was Ian’s way of getting even with the rattlers for scaring the wits out of him yesterday at the E. lindsayi stop.

Back on MEX1 it didn’t take long before we reached the outskirts of Ensenada and battled through traffic, anxiously looking for road names to get to the hotel district. After some negotiating and haggling about price, we’re in the Desert Inn / Hotel La Pinta – one in the chain that we had missed out so far. For Alain,: from the balcony on our second floor I can just about see the huge flag on the Malecon, a couple of blocks away. Eunice is in her element as she has discovered a Starbucks near by, although still too far to walk for American custom. Hope she brings the car back in one piece 🙂

Tomorrow will be our last day in Mexico, so not a bad thing that I’m down to my last 70 pesos (c. GBP 3.50), but well up in the group kitty.

Sunday, 23 March 2008 – San Ignacio to San Quintin

We left San Ignacio soon after 8 a.m. with a long day’s drive (347 miles or 551 km) ahead of us. There were really only two stops that I wanted to make: The turn off MEX1 to the west to Santa Rosalillita and a repeat of the stop we made on the way south, to see if we could find more plants of Echinocereus lindsayi. As it turned out, we succeeded in finding several more E. lindsayi’s (thanks to Ian, assisted by Eunice, while Cliff and I explored for 90 minutes in the opposite direction and found none) and managed five additional stops on top.

Overall impressions of the day: it had got much drier since we drove past here earlier, particularly the rape seed plants that had escaped into the wild, were over and had left brown remains, creating a parched look, rather than the fresh green look to things in February, rising to the peak of flowering on our way down south in early March (is it really only 2 weeks ago?! Time flies when you’re enjoying yourself!).

I uhmed and ahhed about trying to see if there was room at The Desert Inn at Cataviña (we had been told by the receptionist in San Ignacio, who had phoned on our behalf that they were fully booked) and suggested that as we had reached Cataviña with at least 2 more hours day light to go, we could and should push on to San Quintín. I also resisted the temptation to get some fuel off the back of a lorry as I had read warnings that this stuff could be of uncertain quality and cause more problems than it solved. I had done some mental arithmetic and worked out that we could just about make it to El Rosario where the next fuel would be available. Some 45k m before El Rosario the fuel light came on and an anxious half hour was had with frequent re checking of calculations and estimates. We made it, but judging by the amount of fuel we took on board, we must have been close to driving on vapours.

And on to San Quintín, in the dark, as the queue for the petrol station and the next queue, for the army check point, had thrown my calculations out. We made straight for Hotel Marie Celeste, but were told that they were full – although there was only one other car in the car park. Never mind, let’s try next door and Hey Bingo!  We were in. All we have to do now is work out how to get access to the internet, to send out today’s Diary page. If you receive this, we succeeded.

[PS: We did succeed, thanks to a modem cable that Eunice carried in her luggage and her know-how in getting me to my server via this cable.]

Saturday, 22 March 2008 – San Ignacio, whaling

When you’ve had a great experience and return later to do it again, there is always the danger that you’ll be disappointed. Will the whales always come to the boat? Want to be stroked? Play with the boat? Judging by today’s performance – yes! Was it the same whale as last time, that they keep on a lead and get to perform its routine on a daily basis? No, because other whales were doing their thing at other boats in the bay, while other whales seemed to be waiting their turn! A couple of times, a couple of dolphins came by and tried to get our attention. ‘Our’ whale actually seemed to leave our boat, to see them off, before coming back for more whale-play-time. I’m really not sure as to who had to come to see who.

So, was it better than the February time? No, it was exactly the same experience, both score 11 out of 10. But there were a few differences which I’ll mention for Alain’s benefit:

  • The tarmac road out of San Ignacio is now ‘finished’, i.e. it takes you some 10 km out of San Ignacio before it turns into a graded track with bad wash-board affects all the way to the launch site some 70 km down the road.
  • This time there were more people wanting to go, so we had to hang around for about an hour and wait for another boat to return. There are only 18 boats allowed to be in the watching area at any one time.
  • This time, there were 3 to a bench in the boat, i.e. Ian, Cliff & I and I missed the freedom of moving around the boat a bit that was possible in February.
  • I took fewer pictures – after all, how many pictures do you need of ‘an inflated car tyre inner tube covered in barnacles’?
    Instead, I hoped to take some classic video shots. I filmed some 10 minutes in total and may have some 1 minute’s worth of video. BUT I had all bases covered as I bought a DVD at the shop in town from which I can take clips for a presentation if need be. I’ll see that I copy it for you Alain, at least in time for ELK if not much sooner.

We bumped our way back along the track, impatient to download our images to see if they are any good. I’m pleased with mine, but have not yet seen the video.

Tomorrow we had hoped to drive in one go to the Desert Inn in Cataviña (with plant stops of course), but when Eunice tried to book it through the Reception at the Desert Inn where we are staying, we learned that is was fully booked – it is Easter after all! As we’ll be passing anyway, we’ll stop and see if the booking we tried to make in the same way had actually gone through. It seems that when the answer to the question is ‘No’, the Mexicans revert back to speaking only Spanish. Our back up plan is to reach San Quintín in time for the night – there is plenty of accommodation there and there will be less distance to drive to Ensenada the next day, which will be our springboard for a long drive via Valle de Trinidad to Mexicali and a X hour wait in the queue to cross back to the USA.  Going home is really coming closer.

Just as well, as I’m down to my last US$ 20 and MN$ 600. Fortunately I’m well ahead in the kitty, so that I have no real worries. I’ll be sure to leave Mexico with Nil Peso, although I’m sure I’ll be back some time soon.

Friday, 21 March 2008 – Mulege to San Ignacio

It was surprisingly cold during the night, but we had drunk enough ‘anti-freeze’ not to be bothered by it, except for Cliff, who had asked me to buy him a large air mattress that would support his weight. Eunice had taken me to a shop in Carlsbad, USA, where we had bought a Queen-size air bed with a pump that ran from the car cigarette lighter. Problem was that a) the nozzle that would have fitted the airbed was missing and b) the
airbed was too large, so that it had to be inflated inside the tent, after which Cliff had been unable to zip down the tent flap.

We decided that for those who wanted breakfast, this could wait until we reached Mulege, some 30 km up the road (Alain, we ate at Restaurant Jalisco, just inside the new ridiculous looking arch into the town).

As we drove past the other coves along the Sea of Cortez, the tents and cars packed along the seafront confirmed how lucky we had been with our spot last night.

By 8:46 we stopped (S923) for P. pringlei in full bud and some flowers. Pachycereus (Lophocereus) schottii was also in flower, confirming my suspicions that it is an early morning flowerer and that it closes its flowers when it gets too hot.  Mammillaria were here as usual, looking as though they would be aff. dioica, but impossible to say without flowers or fruit. Some formed large clumps with small heads while others
were solitary and growing to 15 cm (6″) tall.

I swapped seats with Cliff, so that I could keep my promise to Alain to take a picture of the traffic sign on the outskirts of Santa Rosalia, warning motorists of vibrators in the road. These were not the battery hungry utensils that ladies may be familiar with, but large metal balls, placed several rows deep into the tarmac, to take the place of ‘topes’ (sleeping policemen) as a traffic calming device. They shake the car and passengers up pretty good if negotiated at too high a speed, hence their name.

Next stop, S924, was at the turning off MEX1 to a string of three volcanic cones called Las Tres Virgenes. Temperatures were already in the upper 80s Fahrenheit and with the hangover from last night’s camping feast, we only stopped long enough to see and photograph Echinocereus brandegeei (here growing on flat soil rather than its rocky slopes habitat further south), Opuntia invicta and Pachycereus pringlei, both in bud. I
found Cliff inspecting a 5′ 6″ tall stem of P. pringlei that had retained its long, usually juvenile spination, while other specimen of similar age around it had already formed their much shorter spines. The Ferocactus here (F. peninsulae) had very long spines, even on young plants; yet another thing to be weary of as we struggled our way through spiny Acacia shrubs and chollas that wanted to come home with us. Cliff found that one of the vicious hooked Fero spines had gone straight through the thick sole of his walking boot and into his foot.

The last plant stop of the day, S925, was prompted by some Agave that Ian had spotted for Eunice. When we managed to find a place to pull off MEX1, it seemed to be in the middle of a rubbish tip, with nappies, toilet paper and plastic and glass bottles decorating the cacti – who needs civilisation!?! The spines on the Ferocactus here were still getting longer, Opuntia invicta was getting larger, E, brandegeei was not as nice here
as the golden spined clumps near Mulege and I found a young stem of P.pringlei that looked more like a South American Eulychnia or Trichocereus than anything else that I had seen in Baja. For the record, we also saw Mammilaria, Pedithelantus, Cylindropuntia, Fouqueria, Yucca sp.

As we arrived in San Ignacio, we pulled into the Oasis Motel, but as there was no one in reception, we moved on. Back to the trusted but expensive Desrt Inn, with its wifi in reception. Yes, they had rooms for two nights. Although it was only early afternoon, we were glad to have the assurance of a bed, air conditioning, showers and the ability to send Diary pages home.

After a couple of hours rest, we went into San Ignacio vilage, for the tourist shots of the Mision building and to book up a whaling tour for tomorrow. The place where we booked our February trip was closed, but the other place, with an excellent selection of books, was open and this time a much more efficient member of staff confirmed that they could fit us in tomorrow, for the same price as in February and they would pick us up and drop us back off at the Desert Inn!

Next we headed for Renee’s, not the best Restaurant in the world, but it was open and the beer was wet and the food filled a gap. Back afterwards to the hotel where people took naps and showers, ready for an early start tomorrow.

Thursday, 20 March 2008 – Todos Santos to camping south of Mulege

‘1471 km to Tijuana’, said the sign outside Todos Santos. A daunting number and a reminder, if one was needed, that we were on the way home, having reached the farthest point south yesterday as we passed by Cabo San Lucas.

Not only did we set ourselves the challenge of driving 568 km (355 miles) today, but our destination were the golden sand beaches along the Sea of Cortez and Bahia Concepcion. There was one particular beach, with a thin sand bank connecting a small island to the main land that had taken our fancy on the way south.

But first we had to get there and hopefully see some plants on the way.  S918 was prompted by a large Agave with the appropriate name of A. gigantea, but also had the usual cacti alongside: various Cylindropuntias, Pachycereus pecten-arboriginum and P. pringlei, P. thurberi and some Bursera trees. And all before we had to tackle the Lap Paz by-pass again! We had now become expert in spotting the landmarks (a large beer can sign on the left of the road) instead of the expected sign posts. We again hit a section of dirt road but carried on confidently to get out on the dual carriage way that lead to the large monument depicting the doves of peace, a symbol of La Paz which means ‘Peace’ in Spanish. Alain and I had earlier thought that the monument was the tail fluke of a whale – never mind.

I don’t know what had prompted S919, where the pictures taken show a Bursera sp., Cylindropuntia sp. and Mammillaria sp. but none of them exceptional or new. Perhaps, after some 3 hours of driving, we just needed to stretch our legs.

We had breakfast at El Taste, in Cd. Constitución, where we also had breakfast on the way down and from where Ian managed to call his wife, Sarda, to wish her happy birthday.

S920 had P. gummosus, P. pringlei, P. thurberi, Mammillaria aff. dioica, Ferocactus peninsulae and Opuntia invicta in bud. We were now crossing the rocky hills south of Loreto, and made up for the lack of plant stops by photographing some nice scenic views.

We were beginning to catch glimpses of the Sea of Cortez and also spotted yellow spined clumps of Echinocereus brandegeei and decided it was time for another stop, S921. As we had seen this Echinocereus before, I took my time to improve on previous pictures by looking for the most dramatic settings of plants on the rocks, together with other cacti (Mammilaria sp.) where possible. One of the golden spined Cylindropuntia was in flower here and offered lots of photo opportunities for bees who jumped straight in between the stamens and rolled among the pollen to their hearts content, emerging with the pollen baskets on their hind legs fully loaded.

Back in the car, the outside temperature sensor confirmed what we knew already – it was bloody hot, with figures ranging from 92 to 97 F. No wonder that we kept the plant stops fairly short.

S922 was our campsite – not the place we had in mind, which had been jam packed with tents, reminding us that this was the Thursday before Easter.  Our next goal was a little bay with a hotel where we had called in for enquiries on the way south. They charged US$10 (GBP 5) for
us to put up our tent, a charge that seemed to put off Mexican campers, as the beach was virtually empty. Those that have been on cactus trips in the past will know what follows.

We had bought charcoal for the campfire, tents were pitched with amazing efficiency, Ian demonstrated where Master Chef gets its inspiration from by doing amazing things with a potato, onions and God knows what else, wrapped in aluminium foil. I tested the bottle of Conch Y Toro
Cabernet Sauvignon, to confirm that it was as good as I remembered it in Chile while the others improvised on making Margaritas. It was a full moon and I have some reasonable shots of the moon over the bay. We then recorded the antics as Cliff, now truly Margaritaed, attempted entry to his tent, first forward, than backwards. My ribs still ache from laughing.

Memories of another night to add to those in Chile.