Sunday, 8 March 2009 – Navajoa to San Bernardo and back
Diary addicts amongst you may have spotted that yesterday’s diary was quite brief. and ask themselves ‘Is everything OK?’
Everything is fine, but I found myself dissatisfied with the plant stops we were making. Best I could master for yesterday was a stop list with the plants that we saw – not the usual banter that I hope entertains a bit as well.
Why? I guess I am somewhat disappointed with the cacti & scenery that we are seeing and it’s probably due to inadequate preparation. Had we not been to Baja last year, things might have been different but most of the plants that we have seen up to now have been ‘Baja plants’, nothing new and previously seen in a better, more photogenic settings. Nobody’s fault, but never the less disappointing. I sense a similar feeling among my fellow explorers. The Sonora that we have seen (and I hasten to add that it is only a fraction of this huge State) has been along Mex 15 and to the west, where the Sea of Cortex was a natural border. Yes, the Fero’s on Isla Tiburon were ‘special’, but to very spoiled people, ‘not really special enough’.
The area that we’ve travelled through has been very flat, heavily cultivated, even if currently left to waste, and industrialised. Most of the time, the roads are bordered by barbed wire fences. Are these aimed at keeping people out, animals in or simply to ‘stake a claim of ownership’? In any event, to us they act as a deterrent, not inviting us to enjoy the flora. In that respect it is not too different from the coastal zone in Peru, south of Lima. There are more cacti here, but they are the same at each place that we stop, or at least – they seem to be the same taxa.
In Peru we found a much more interesting experience was had by travelling inland. As the roads climbed into the Andes, the change of altitude and the resulting changes in climatic zone gave rise to an ever changing flora and spectacular scenery.
So today’s solution was to travel 50 km inland to Alamos and returning to Navajoa to avoid changing hotels. The Database told us that we might see Ferocactus pottsii here as well as some Agave and Pilosocereus alensis. We arrived at the scenic town of Alamos still frustrated. It seemed that as we approached the mountains, they moved away to the left and the right of the road, never allowing us to reach the foothills. After some touristy pics of Alamos, we re-read notes and found that ‘our’ plants actually grew near San Bernardo, some 35 km to the north east of Alamos. Did we have a town map of Alamos? Of course not. Eunice’s SatNav system was programmed to guide us there, but did little more then tell us to ‘stay on the trail’ for 35 km, no matter which way the car was pointing. So back to first principles – find out where the North East was, take any track in that direction and ask any human being if they can help us get there. Several dead ends later …. ‘Yes, go back the way you have just come and follow the road past three haciendas’ was the helpful answer from an elderly gent sitting by the side of the road.
Just past Alamos, now on dirt, the barbed wire fences relented a little, either being farther away from the track or missing altogether. We stopped (S1313) to take pictures of the Kapok Tree, Ceiba pentandra and also saw Cylindropuntia thurberi (syn. Cylindropuntia alamosensis) in flower, Opuntia sp. and Pachycereus pecten-arboriginum.
Near Los Tanques (S1314) we spotted an Agave , A. angustifolia and Pachycereus pecten-arboriginum was hard to miss again. We did not stop for very long.
On to Technabamba (these names were becoming very reminiscent of place names in Peru and Bolivia!) for S1315:
Agave augustifolia, Ferocactus pottsii (ssp alamosensis is said to come from here – I’ll have to do more reading to learn how it differs from ssp pottsii), Janusia gracilis (Desert Vine), Mammillaria sp #1 (I ought to know this one as it’s short stubby central spine is very distinct, or was it an Escobaria or Coryphantha? – sad when it becomes difficult to determine the genus, let alone the species!), Mammillaria sp #2, Opuntia sp., Pachycereus pecten-arboriginum.
Driving on again, I spotted a strange sight worthy of a quick stop. terrestrial cacti growing epiphytically in a tree! This became S1316 with Stenocereus thurberi and Opuntia sp, as subjects.
We arrived in San Bernardo and drove in the direction of an interesting view of 4 volcanic plugs in the landscape. The track turned out to terminate at the cemetery ( S1317) where we found Agave augustifolia, Cylindropuntia thurberi, Ferocactus pottsii, Mammillaria sp. 1, Opuntia sp., Pachycereus pecten-arboriginum and Stenocereus thurberi.
The journey back to Navajoa became a bit of a race against time, as the sun was getting lower and lower in the sky and the road just did not allow us to do the speeds needed to arrive back at the original forecast time. Bad light made it more difficult to see pot holes and bumps, so that my back is very sore of the pounding it got. We made three more brief stops:
S1318 Agave angustifolia, Ceiba pentandra, Pachycereus pecten-arboriginum
S1319 Ferocactus pottsii, Pachycereus pecten-arboriginum, Stenocereus thurberi
S1320 Ferocactus wislizeni, Stenocereus alamosensis