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Last night we checked that Argentinean Malbec (Norton Reserva) tastes as nice in Mexico as it does in Mendoza. I think that it does, but we have brought along some more, to get a second and third opinion in nights to come. As a result, I was rather slow to get going this morning.

We went to the Cascada Cola de Caballo (the Horsetail Waterfalls) from where Mammilaria plumosa had been reported. A bit farther on, M. glassii was said to grow. With SatNav systems and GPS systems loaded we eventually got on the road for a nice drive on MEX 57 south. We left the Highway at the well signposted exit to this significant tourist attraction and found ourselves on Ruta 20, a reasonable quality tarmac (by Wiltshire, UK standards) but one bit was being repaired – looked like a bad flood damage – and we had to take a very adventurous detour for a couple of km.

We reached the centre fro the waterfalls, paid our 20 Pesos (£1) for the car park – I think we were the only visitors there and were greeted warmly by the stall holders of the various tourist focussed material for sale. It seemed that each vendor used the same wholesaler as all stalls offered the same good. They had worked hard to put down a good path, fenced off to satisfy Health & Safety no doubt, so that it became clear that we were unlikely to find Mammillaria plumosa here. We did however spot some Selenicereus sp. growing on a rock and a epiphytic Opuntia hanging from a tree. Nice waterfall though and nice big swallow tail butterflies. (S2264)

After the waterfall we decided to carry on, on the 20, which seemed to loop back to Saltillo (a 120 km loop) that took us up very scenic zigzags, up and down mountains with potentially spectacular views – potentially, as it was very hazy due to the heat – although it was much cooler (21C) in the mountains than in Monterrey.

We failed to find Mam. glassii at the next stop. I remembered hearing last summer about heavy rains and floods in this area and we saw evidence of lots of damage to roads and nature, washing lots of plants down hillsides.

With c. 80 km to go to the main highway to Saltillo, we were down to a crawl with a track barely wide enough for our car with the proper road just washed away or blocked by a landslide. Should we go on or go back? Either option could mean driving in the dark. Turning back certainly would – going on – who knows? The scenery just got better and better – this is just the other side of a huge mountain range from Huasteca Canyon that we enjoyed last year and plan to visit again tomorrow. I can certainly recommend this route for the scenery, but not for the cacti – or at least with the uncertainty that lay ahead we did not want to stop to explore so found none. Just three short stops to photograph the hills and canyons with brief rock wall inspections that gave us at S2265: 2x Agave sp., Bromeliad sp. (in flower), Opuntia sp., Echinocereus sp (probably E. scheeri) and some very nice Echeveria and Sedum (?) sp. all snapped thanks to the 200 mm end of the zoom lens – and Eunice’s 400 mm monster.

S2266 was another wall full of Agave sp. plus A. lechuguia and clumps of Echinocereus (E. vierecki?), Tillandsia usenoides, Yucca sp. and some Echeveria. The images also include a stretch of tarmac that we had driven over. It seems that there was nothing (!!!!) underneath the tarmac – just hanging there. We had watched a truck go over it before so dared to do it as well.

S2267 was for a group of Agave montana (?) with flower stalks boldly announcing their presence. By now we had moved out of the mountains and seemed to be in a high plains area with farming activities around us.

All’s well that ends well. We hit the main toll road to Saltillo around 5:30 and arrived at the hotel in Monterrey shortly after 6, exhausted. Dinner was a Chinese take away delivered to the room where we sorted images, did the accounts and were ready for bed by 9:30.

Tomorrow we’re off to Huasteca Canyon, but after today we realise that it may be quite different from last year, due to flood damage.

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