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It started off a bit of a strange, strained day, as it was time to decide how to break the routine of not finding ‘plants of interest’. Part of this was due to me not having the time each day to check what delights we needed to hunt for, partly nobody’s fault, because the land we travelled through had nothing new to offer – we’re just too spoiled.

The end result was that it was late in the day when we were ready to start of expedition for the day. This would take us to Escuinapa de Hidalgo, where Eunice had a location for Agave impressa. You can see a nursery grown example at http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/showimage/225443/

After the previous days’ poor findings, we were sceptical of finding anything this time, so she knew that it had to be a good set of data to ‘impress’ us cactophiles. When we re-enacted the ‘Who wants to be a millionaire’  scenario by asking ‘Are you sure that this is the place you want to take us?’ she replied: ‘Can I phone a friend?’ and made what turned out to be 3 phone calls home to California. By the time we received the definitive data, we were already near the turn off for the spot. We knew that we were unlikely to come face to face with the plants as they were reported to grow high up on steep cliff faces and the only way to approach them was from the bottom. The habitat for this plant is said to be very restricted so it would be good to be able to slip in some casual pictures in a UK ‘Other Succulent’ presentation.

Confident with the data, we soon spotted the steep hillsides and Agave growing on them. How close could we get? We followed the GPS instructions, into a Mango orchard, down a farmer’s tracks to an enclosure where two farmers and two ten year old boys were cutting up scrub. They were as cautious as we were when I approached them with Gentry’s Agave book in hand, and in my best Spenglish asked them if they knew this plant, pointing at the picture of A. impressa in the book. ‘Oh yes, up on the hill.’ ‘Could we get near them?’ ‘Oh yes.’ As we parked the car and got ready to go (S1327), it transpired that they wanted to show us the way, cutting a path through the dense  deciduous scrub with machetes while climbing the hills at the bottoms of the sheer rock face in 30 C heat.

First Alain decided that he had gone far enough, followed 10 minutes later by Cliff and another 10 minutes, on a bit of a clearing in the scrub forest, Eunice and I also agreed that this was far enough; dripping in perspiration with warnings of spiders and ticks dropping from the trees. We could clearly see the plants through our zoom lenses and clicked away to get the best shots with reserves including pictures of Juan Luis, his brother Manuel and their sons Samuel and Jose.

It took less time to descend back to the car and we agreed there was time enough to check out another location ‘not far away’ – but everything in Mexico seems to be ‘far away’. We started to see a few interesting plants along the dirt track as we approached the coordinates for our next stop – an Echinocereus sp. , made one brief stop on the way, S1328, as there were more plants of yesterday’s Hylocereus (?) sp. along the road. Brian Bates writes:  ‘So I’m going thru NCL and find Hylocereus ocamponis from COL, JAL, MEX, NAY, SIN That seems to be the only one from Mexico.’  So that is what I’ll call the H. sp. until I learn different. For the record, there was also an Opuntia sp. (boring) and an Apocynaceae tree with peculiar fruits that may be Matelea porbifolia. The stem had large thorns on it, just like Ceiba.

We were still sceptical about finding Echinocereus here and the sun was getting now when we reached our location.(S1329) Turning a bent in the road rock boulders appeared and we were getting more hopeful.

It turned out to be a great spot as we ran around clicking away with the setting sun providing some extra colour to the plants before eventually bad light stopped play. In that time I took pictures of: Agave sp. (same as yesterday? with short flower stalk, too short for an Agave? Is it a bromeliad?), Agave orrithodroma, although with filiferous leaves, resembling A. geminiflora?, Echinocereus subinermis ssp. ochoterenae (I think, the buds look different than those in my collection in the UK), a thin 4 -5 ribbed ceroid that could be Stenocereus martinezii? clumps of orchids growing on rocks and on tree stems and a thin stemmed cactus that at first glance made me think that we had discovered Aporocactus in habitat – now that would be a find! Looking for more likely solutions, I see that Selenicereus vagans and several Peniocereus and Nyctocereus serpentinus all come from this State. Tillandsia were hanging in the trees.

Absolutely tired out, Cliff drove us back to Mazatlan where we arrived at around 20:15 and were off after a quick shower for another sea food binge with Margaritas and beer to wash it down.

Tomorrow we head inland to Durango, with great expectations of better cactus spots.

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