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 Today was a day full of surprises – what a day!

The plan had been to start our journey back towards the US today, but yesterday’s great day had persuaded us to spend another day in Bahia de los Angeles where Kyle was keen to show us some cave paintings in the hills near the track to San Borja. We did not want to spend another night at Raquel & Larry’s – Angel was doing his very untrained best to be the caretaker but at US$60 per night for accommodation where we had to use the toilet in the room next door because ours was blocked and also the shower in the room next door as ours had no water pressure to it, this was not good value for money despite the fact that it offered some of the best sunrises in the world.

So on Kyle’s recommendation we moved into Hotel Costa del Sol where at 9 a.m. we were treated to a first class cooked breakfast. The location, still along the main drag along the Sea of Cortez has potential for excellent sunrise pictures, but 6 a.m. may be a bit early for me. Kyle joined us for breakfast and then offered to take us to cave paintings out in the desert.(S22

While Kyle was very knowledgeable on marine matters, he was keen to learn more about the cactus and other succulent plant flora around Bahia de los Angeles, so as we drove slowly along the sandy desert track (S2231) we pointed out all the cactus & succulent plant species that we encountered, explained about the cephalium on Pachycereus (Lophocereus) schottii – we saw some amazing specimens with stems over 3 m (9 ft) tall! – explained the three different types of Chola, the three different species of Fouqeria that we saw (columnaris, diguetii and splendens) and how the ribs on the stems of Pachycereus pringlei allowed the stem to expand significantly through a concertina effect once rains became available. Kyle might well try this out as he is keen on time lapse photography and has the plant material right on his doorstep. We look forward to seeing the results, Kyle!

We turned the car round to move to another location but then heard a strange noise that at first sounded like a scrambler bike coming up behind us. After a minute I asked Kyle to stop and saw my worst fears realised – a punctured rear right tyre.

The car was a Chevy Silverado Suburban – a great car in its day, but that was several years ago. It was on loan to Kyle by the project Director. We found the spare tyre easily, but where was the jack? This was eventually spotted in the engine compartment as was the length of metal rod to raise its height. But where was the spanner to undo the eight wheel nuts? We searched high and low but this essential tool could not be found.

We took a long hard look at the tyre that seemed well past its best-by date and found the large hole where a sharp stone had punctured the tyre – we agreed that it was beyond repair. And so the only solution was to sacrifice the tyre and drive with the puncture at least to the main road (some 24 km we guessed) where we could flag down a car and borrow their spanner. The sandy nature of the path made this a reasonable crawl at under 10 km per hour and slower when the track became more rocky (all pictures filed as S2232). Including one toilet stop, it took us some three hours to reach the main road where two days ago Eunice and I had kissed the tarmac when we reached its safety after our adventure with dodgy electrics and a leaky power steering system in Elsie.

It took 10 minutes before the first car was spotted – and we watched in amazement as it drove straight past us despite our waving and shouting. We had more luck with the second car, five minutes later and owe a vote of thanks to the driver, Stephen and his friend Ricardo who lent us their cross key and their much better quality jack. In no time at all the old wheel, with tyre in shreds, was off and the spare tyre in place. This was probably at half the recommended pressure, so that the last 20 or so km ride on nice smooth hard top in the fast fading light was made at a slow and steady pace.

We had an invitation for dinner that evening, as guests of Kyle’s neighbour – Mary and George Fricker. This had come as another tremendous surprise to me, as in the UK, Sonia Barker Fricker is still quoted as the main British authority on the genus Dudleya even though she died suddenly some ten years ago.

Last summer, I had been able to borrow the slides of her Dudleya talk from the BCSS slide library in an attempt to identify some of the plants that I had photographed in habitat in California and Mexican Baja California. I have a small collection of Dudleya at home and each of the vendors and friends from whom I obtained the plants assured me that they were propagated from original Sonja Barker Fricker material from habitat collected seed. As a result I have been working on my own Dudleya presentation of plants that I have seen in habitat of only those species that I have been able to give a positive identification for. It was great to meet George and his new wife, Mary and to learn how they enjoy life six months of the year in Bahia de los Angeles and the remainder in Bath, back in the UK, where they still attend some meetings at the BCSS Melksham Branch. A most enjoyable evening with lots of digging up of old memories and we hope to meet up again in the UK this summer.

This really was a day full of surprises! 

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