Monday, 29 March, 2010 – Minas Viejas to Bustamante
It was a cold night. I finally found something that wakes me up, low temperatures! The coyotes howling at a full moon meant that it took a while before I dozed off again.
We had brought a supply of eggs sausages and bread rolls that Eunice transformed into breakfast, before setting off for an informal stroll up the lime stone hillside (S1802) in the general direction of the microwave tower at the top. Plants spotted were the same as those seen yesterday: Agave scabra, A. stricta, A. ovatifolia and A. lechuiguilla, Opuntia engelmannii, a Sedum sp., small leaved, similar to one that I have seen growing in nature in Cornwall and Somerset in the UK, Sedum sp. #2, Hamatocactus setispinus, Echinocereus enneacanthus and E. viereckii, and Mammillaria heyderi, with buds bursting to open anytime soon. All these plants sat on a lime stone hillside with other hills providing a marvellous back drop.
We were back at the Great Hall in time to meet Nacho, a retired miner who now acted as caretaker at the hall and who was going to show us some other interesting things. First was a short drive along the track that we had followed yesterday, to a parking spot from where we walked to and inside Mina Buena Vista (S1803). This was the same name as the mine where we had looked for Copiapoa tocopilliana and Eriosyce laui in Chile in 2008. Needless to say we did not find them here either. The track, that had been in the shade yesterday, was now in full soon and showed up many more Mammillaria heyderi, this time with their flowers wide open. It may be that I’ll revise the species name when I get home amongst my books, but for now, I’ll use this name as it is a good indication of what it looks like. M. formosa could be a candidate. Echeveria simulans was here, in bud and in flower.
Next, Nacho took us up the hillside, on a track that was getting worse by the minute, driving through the lime stone. With memories of Brazil still fresh in mind, I was expecting to see Melocactus. We were taking pictures from the car window (S1804) as we made slow progress and just before we reached the point to turn around (S1805) and continue exploring on foot, the sound of a stone pinging from underneath a tire did not sound quite right. Almost immediately, the tire pressure warning light came on. As I walked around the car I could hear the hissing of air escaping from the near side front tire. Where is Cliff when you need him? I posed for a number of pictures fixing the the tire, before letting Nacho do the job twice as fast. I think that Eunice managed to snap a picture of me reading the manual, while work was in progress.
The puncture dampened our enthusiasm somewhat as we remembered ‘Double Puncture Day’ in Baja California in 2008 and in Cuba, last month, and the track that had caused the damage was not going to improve on the way back. The pressure warning light had stayed on, not unusual following a puncture, but it did raise some concerns and the promise to ourselves to check pressures when we were getting the tire fixed.
We decided to return to the Great Hall, drop Nacho off and pick up our luggage and drive the 30 or so km back to Bustamante where we had pre-booked the hotel that we had stayed last time, and get the tire repaired. As we drove off, John noticed that the spare tire on the front looked a bit soft. Never mind, let’s go! Most of you will recognize ‘puncture-phobia’ when you are left without a spare, so I made a number of tire check stops, each time confirming that the tire was getting worse. 4 km from the gate to the main road, John hung his head out of the window to confirm that we were practically riding on the rims. Time to stop.
Eunice phoned the hotel where we were due to stay and put on her best impersonation of a Mexican blonde by telling the hotel owner that we were in trouble with two flat tires. With the use of the translation program on her mobile phone, the message was finally received. Help was on its way! We then remembered that the gate had a security lock with a 4 digit number to unlock it (1111 if you are ever there in an emergency) so offered to walk to the gate to open it. We took some pictures of a few Opuntia engelmannii now in flower, and of me posing some more as Mr. Tyre Repairman, while John took some 30 minutes to cover the distance to the gate at a brisk pace, arriving at the same time as the repair team. In 2008 we donated Ian to our rescuers. This time, the repair men left their trolley jack under the car and took Eunice as security as they went back to their garage to fix the two tires. Thirty minutes later they were back. The original front tire appeared to have been patched many times before and had an emergency patch that should be OK for use as a spare, but the puncture in the spare tire was fixed and would be fine.
As you can tell, there are some merits in having a two-car expedition team.
Tomorrow we head off in the direction of Monterrey, where Dollar have an office for a chat about a replacement spare tire.