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Today marks day 76 of our 152 day long cactus adventure, so were half way through. I used to get a sad feeling when we were on 3 or 4 week trips when the half way stage was reached, but this time isn’t so bad. After all, we still have half the Peru trip left, followed by a 3 week tour of California and a one month trip to Mexico before arriving back in the UK! The picture stats so far are 12,190 files (Jpegs, a few RAW and MPEG2 Movie clips) taking up 89.5 GB, but I left home with an empty 500 GByte drive, so should be OK.

Rudolf mentioned the varied Peruvian cuisine that he finds great. Unfortunately we have seen little evidence of it. In Nazca, Puquio and Abancay, there are hundreds of Pollo (=Chicken) Shops. They warn you when you sit down ‘Pollo only!’ Which is tough when you fancy steak!

All along the coastal plain from Lima to Nazca we saw hundreds of chicken farms, with a similar number under construction, just as they were building at Maitencillo in Chile, so I hope that they are not signs of things to come. One Bird Flue outbreak and there’ll be severe hunger!

The first thing that we noticed driving out of town was that there were no cacti on show. Why? Intensive agriculture I expect, but was it really that more intensive than on the way in?

The second observation was that unlike the hillsides in Argentina and Bolivia, that looked promising for globular cacti like Blossfeldia, Parodia, Rebutia etc. here there were none. Lots of Tillandsia and in some selected canyons, ceroids (Neoraimondia hertlingiana and Weberbauerocereus sp.), but no ‘cactus small stuff’. Why?

And the third observation was of how much ‘import’ rather than endemics dominated the scene: Agave, Furcrea and Eucalyptus were very dominant. But how long ago had they arrived here? The native Peruvians are suggested to have arrived here from Tibet via the Berring Straits thousands of years ago, so their migration south would have taken them through Mexico etc. Their agricultural skills were already very advanced, before the Inca were in power. Did they bring seed of the Agavaceae along or did these arrive later, when the Spanish brought slaves from Africa (via the Caribbean Islands?) to work in the cotton & sugar cane fields along the coast? And what about the Eucalyptus?

Many questions on a very pleasant sunny day driving on an excellent road through a wonderful landscape. But few cacti to report and photograph today.   

Last year Angie & I enjoyed Cusco (as everyone here now spells it with an s, so will I) exactly a year ago, and I was looking forward to showing Cliff some of the impressive architecture, but today we found it a nightmare! Last year we were bussed around and shepherded into a safe and cosy hotel. This time, not knowing our way round and having to consider parking our car safely as well, became a hell. In Lima I recognised places and lay out of the city and this year we had an adequate street plan to guide us along. In Cusco I managed to find the hotel we had stayed, but this was way out of our price league this time as a similar place was asking US$ 180 for a double room!

So, what  to do? Head out of town and hope to see something suitable on the outskirts. We found one reasonable looking place but they claimed to be full up. Lies – I believe that they were so empty that it was not worth their while to open. And then the hotels, hostals and hospedajes ran out. The scenery was still stunning, but still no obvious cacti to be seen, and I had not yet done my homework to see what we should be looking out for, beyond Cusco.

We reached Sicuani, intended to be tomorrow night’s stop and found a Hostal sign lit up. At least we had a roof over our heads: two rooms at 10 Soles (c 2 GBP) each.

The young lady receptionist pointed us to a light across the road where we found an eating establishment. We joined in with the locals and had what was on the menu today (and probably every day): Soup with pasta shells and a main course of (you guessed it) chicken, rice, a slice or two of boiled potato and a cup of matte, all for the princely sum of 5 Soles in total! Having just been to the bank, we only had a 100 Soles note! Never mind, it seemed that a local education class had just arrived for food and a lesson from the TV, so our landlord managed to rustle up the required notes, while I introduced myself to some of the guys on the table, who mentioned things like Margaret Thatcher, Bobby Charlton, Chelsea, Manchester United and David Beckham and all things British, while I tried to explain that I was Dutch. They did not speak Spanish, but a local dialect that they claimed was similar to Portuguese.  

It seems that The Database is also light on cacti in this area, until we head farther north to Macusani for some Opuntia spotting, so at least we had not driven past some ‘must see’ plants.

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