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Archive for January 13, 2009

Tuesday 13 January 2009 – Around Abancay

As reported yesterday, GPS data in The Database suggested that yesterday we were very close to a location for Oroya peruvianus. The trouble was that although in terms of ‘km as the crow / condor flies’ we were almost on top (19.8 km) off the location, in reality we were some 2,000 m below it. and 63 km along a patchy track. Still, the relatively short distance and the novelty (for us) of seeing Oroya in habitat was enough to devote today to finding it.

Cliff was feeling marginally better and took control of the car. Having a steering wheel in his hand gave him better anticipation of bumps and turns and so helped him.

S1172 was for things seen between the turning to Andahuaylas and S1173 where we saw Oroya peruvianus. It included one scenic stop and lots of ‘from the car window pictures’ – throughout the day, the views were magnificent as we travelled through a range of climatic zones.  We saw Agave sp (aff americana), Furcrea sp., Weberbaurocereus cuzcoensis (?), Browningia hertlingiana, Opuntia sp., Orchidaceae sp., Oxalis sp., Ferns and ‘Rape seed’. I’ll ignore all the crops that we saw, interesting as they were.

Eventually we reached the GPS coordinates and were a little worried that by now we had driven into the cloud zone and had had the windscreen wipers going flat out for a while. Fortunately the rain reduced to a light drizzle but our surroundings still looked extremely unlike prime cactus country. Things changed however as soon as we stopped the car and got out, as we could spot at least a dozen of cacti growing on a rocky hillside between areas of cultivated crops. We soon found a place to access the hillside and finally were face to face with our target for the day. Just as a bonus they were in fruit with ripe seeds! We also photographed Austrocylindropuntia floccosa here, as well as a couple of species of Peperomia. It was clear from the mud-bath road that had led us here and from the vegetation that included mosses, liverworts and lichen, that this place was usually wet. I’ll apologise to plants in my collection in the UK and change their environment as soon as I get back (if they have survived the ‘severe’ winter that we keep reading about on the internet. Did it freeze?)

S1174 is for the short stretch of road from the Oroya stop until we had enough. The rain was coming down so hard that even if a rare cactus had jumped out into the road in front of us, we would probably have missed it and certainly would not have got out to take its picture. From the car we did however photograph a very nice tree lupine with silvery leaves – would do great as a garden ornamental in the UK!

I was also dumbfounded by a Volvo truck coming from the opposite direction, claiming to be the property of Gebr. Groot BV from Bovenkarspel, Holland! What on earth was a Dutch lorry doing here (although clearly with Peruvian plates and occupants). I might search the internet to see if the Brother Groot from Bovenkarspel still exists and send them a picture of their truck. Was it stolen and sent abroad? Sold off? In any event, most unexpected.

S1175 was for pictures taken on the way back down. It took nearly 4 hours to cover the 63 km with only very brief stops for some scenic shots. These included some nice pictures and movie clips of humming birds feeding around the large inflorescence of the Agave and various natives dressed appropriately. We were practically forced off the road into a rain course along the track by a local bus (more of a people carrier) but escaped miraculously without scratches and as we approached Abancay, we looked for the place where water runs from the mountains across the road and found a young lad keen to clean our car. He had quite a nifty set up with a powered hose that soon made our car look like new. He (Juan) was extremely conscientious and for about 45 minutes insisted to clean the car inside and outside, underneath and on the roof (fortunately he left no dents) so that our car looks as clean as it did when we picked it up in Lima. All for the princely sum of 7 soles. We realise that we were probably done but gave a 10 soles note anyway – great value for money by UK standards. He seemed happy too.