We entered the State of Guanajuato and it felt as if we had stepped 30 years or more back in history, feeling much more ‘Mexican’ than the modern cities where we had chosen to stay on the way. Yet, we still had wifi! We had stayed the night in San Luis de La Paz, not the best hotel I’ve ever stayed in, but not the worst either – rooms very small and although we had two twin beds, there was little space between them and the bathroom was titch.
We had been following the exploits of Wim Alsemgeest and Bertus Spee on their Mexico trips (search for http://www.Agaves.nl) who were here at the end of March 2009. We had noted their stops for that day and decided to take a look.
Their first stop had been a field near the hamlet of La Luz, where they had found Ferocactus macrodiscus – and where we failed (S2301). All the fields were now full of cattle being minded by humans. Our attempts at verbal contact did not go down well. These people seemed shy and frightened. We aborted our search and moved on to S2302, a hillside at km 18 on Hwy 110, where we found a similar selection to their reported sights: Ferocactus echidne and F. latispinus, Coryphantha erecta, a number of Mammillaria sp. that Wim has IDed as Mammillaria gigantea, M. compressa, M. uncinatus en M. muehlenpfordtii, Stenocactus sp. and some huge Agave.
We made an extra, brief stop (S2303) for some scenery pics and found Mammillaria muelenpfordtii here.
Then through the village of Xichu (bless you!) – ET used the same joke on the traffic cop who stopped us on the highway back to SLP and fortunately he saw the funny side. S2304 is for tourist pics of the town and of the road north out of town. Eventually there was a fork in the road – Wim writes that they took the fourth canyon after the new bridge out of town. That was 2009, several floods and bridge building projects later, things looked different. Which was the new bridge, what did they count as a canyon and which was just a crack in the rock?
We had GPS coordinates from three other sources that suggested that we should cross the river. We stopped at a canyon (S2305) very close to the first coordinates and I decided to walk in – very narrow. ET stayed near the road. I soon hit a ‘dry waterfall’ Go back and give up? Let’s just take a pic of that Mammillaria candida, then another and another – but no turbs. I had allowed myself 30 minutes in and 30 minutes back. But as usual, back (down) takes longer than in (up). Exactly 30 minutes after setting off I saw three T. alonsoi plants at the limit of my 200 mm zoom lens, took their picture and went back. The sun was now behind me rather than in my face and I started to see alonsoi right next to me (we have ‘zoom lens range’, ‘within hand reach’ and ‘within kissing range’ added to cactus photography technical terminology). The canyon was at times so narrow that both elbows scraped along opposite walls at the same time.
Among ET’s associates, the Echeveria from here, E. xichuensis is the rare plant and yes, I found only 2 while once I had reached the point where cactus tourists had stopped collecting, alonsoi was reasonably abundant.
Finding this plant had become a bit of an obsession as we failed to find any Turbs anywhere else on other days. I joked that we were doing it all wrong – we should look for them in alphabetical order – alonsoi first. We had tried to find v – valdezianus first about a week ago and that was obviously the wrong thing to do.
I got back to the road where ET informed me that I might have gone up the ‘wrong’ canyon. As she had walked up the road with the GPS she had found 10 m. farther along another, much wider canyon than the one I had galloped into.
So we explored that as well (S2306) and sure enough we soon found more plants as well as lots of other goodies, but only in ones and twos. like one Mammillaria schiedeana!
And Astrophytum ornatum – they have all looked f*cked and out of range so far. This one would not stay in a UK collection for long, but it was alive. Another A. ornatum turned out to be a Fero covered in mealy bug.
Back at the hotel we downloaded our pics and I found that in the picture of that first Mam. candida, my first T. alonsoi
in habitat was sitting right next to it in the moss! I could have saved myself 30 minutes of collecting scratches and thorns. Still, that’s life
Today’s bonus – Echeveria xichuensis