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I’m starting today’s Diary while waiting to go to breakfast. Choosing where to go today (and what to miss as a result) is a nice but almost stressful experience, particularly when you need to consider the wants and needs of fellow travellers. To solve the issue I have promised myself a return visit, pencilled in on my ‘wish list of places to see (again)’, when it seems a good idea to take at least a month,  based for example in Torreon, and spend a week each on the 4 quarters of the compass. Not sure if it will ever happen, but at least it makes me feel better about the plant stops that we just can not fit in this time.

When we left, after breakfast, we were surprised to find that it had rained during the night, making the dust covered car look a real mess. As we drove out of Gomez Palacio (= GP), we were even more surprised to find that it was raining again! About an hour later, as we approached the turn off the main Mex 40, we were not only surprised but also a bit worried, that it was still raining, but relieved to see bits of blue sky between the clouds.

We had agreed on just 3 locations today: Eunice had requested a stop to see Agave victoriae-reginae (‘A. vicky’) that had been reported from near the lake were we made our last stop yesterday and Alain had requested two stops, very close together, along Mex 34, in the hope that we’d find Echinomastus durangensis and Leuchtenbergia principes.

We had good data for all these stops and very happy with what we had found the previous day in this area, so confident that we’d find plants of interest.

Imagine our surprise when the data for ‘A. vicky’ turned out to be less then 100 m from yesterday’s S1337. Today, after the rain, and now in the morning sun, the plants looked very refreshed. I’m using a new Stop number, S1339, as my stop numbers reflect both location and time (when I remember). We knew that we had to look in different places for ‘Vicky – not in front of our boots, but high on the edges of the rock face, just like A. impressa earlier in Sinaloa. And so, zoom lenses were set on the max zoom range and binoculars were trained on the rock face above us and sure enough, I spotted five impossible to get to plants within five minutes. But with Eunice’s 400 mm zoom lens, on tripod. I was able to fill the frame with each plant. They tended to be silhouetted against the sky, but were clear enough to see. We each went our own way to see if we could find plants closer to our lenses (we did, only some 5 m (15 ft) away.)  So the species list for S1339 is the same as yesterday’s S1337 plus Agave victoriae reginae and also plus Mammillaria pottsii that Cliff found, but I did not.

While looking like a professional photographer, in the road, with my camera on Eunice’s tripod and her 400 mm lens on my camera, an elderly Mexican came along on his bicycle. He got off for a chat, until he discovered that I spoke no English. He turned out to be a ‘Volunteer vigilante’ – a neighbourhood watch man, and suggested politely that our car would be better parked 10 m. along the road. In my best Spenglish (which is becoming more like Spanglish), I explained that we were taking pictures of plants and that my friends – including Eunice with the car keys, were on the hillside. He then started talking about Indians and I started losing the plot (again) until he asked me to follow him, to the base of the cliff where he showed me some petroglyphs, that he said were ‘very old’. Keen to compete with Juan who found petroglyphs in San Ramon. Eunice joined us and agreed to act as decoy for our Mexican friend while I carried on with the photography. As a result we have a set of very interesting plant and other points of interest pictures for this stop.

S1340 was a simple stop because Alain spotted a large clump of Echinocereus sp. in flower. Naming the plant was the tricky bit – I know I have it at home in my collection, but I can’t read the label until April. Echinocerei reported from here include E. enneacanthus, but it is not like the E. enneacanthus that we used to grow at Holly Gate Cactus Nursery by that name, so it’s a case of going back to first principles (checking out original descriptions) to see if that name fits what we saw.

S1341 was a location from the database near Nazas on Mex 34, for Echinomastus durangensis and we were not disappointed, finding large and small specimens and even some plants in flower and a tiny amount of seed, not enough to share I’m afraid. The species list was impressive: Various Agave, Yucca and Opuntia sp – I’ll spare you the details, Coryphantha sp., Echinocereus sp. (the name E. stramineus keeps cropping up, but plants look very similar to E. engelmannii that I have seen in habitat elsewhere, more so than like the E. stramineus that we grow in the UK. The taxon is said to have the largest flowers of any Echinocereus. The ones in my collection certainly do. In habitat we were too early for flowers.

S1342 was another location from the database, just 7 km up the road, this time for Leuchtenbergia principes. The shadows were getting long, so it became more difficult to find cacti but we found one plant at the exact coordinates in the database – usually such coordinates are from the place that the Cactus Explorer parked his car, and you have to use your guile and experience to see where the plants might be.  All the other plants from S1341 were here too. Once we got back at the hotel, we had a nasty sense of deja vu, as it turned out that S1342 should also have shown us Ariocarpus intermedius! Arrrrgggghhhh!

So guess where we are going tomorrow!?

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