Just another WordPress.com site

Archive for March 14, 2011

Monday, 14 March, 2011 – Ciudad San Luis Potosi to Gomez Palacio

The laptop that has been my faithful travel companion since 2007 seems to have finally given up. Not entirely unexpected, so I had already brought along a 10″ Notebook for emergency use and a replacement laptop awaits our return to Bellflower.

Our drive to Gomez Palacio took us through Zacatecas, a very uninspiring state as far as our cactus finds are concerned. At times I thought that I was driving through a very dry Holland, the scenery was so flat, but with hills on the horizon.

We were probably experiencing Explorers fatigue, all ‘cactussed-out’ after the incredible range of plants seen in San Luis Potosi and Tamaulipas. I certainly had to push myself to go looking for cacti. I had hoped to see and photograph at least one Stenocactus here as an excuse to show off the longest (old) cactus name: Echinofossulocactus zacatecasensis.

Just one stop today, S2327, where all we found, cactus wise, were Opuntia sp, Cylindropuntia sp and Mammillaria gummifera which at least cheered me up by being in flower.

We were quite looking forward to our fourth stay in 3 years at the Best Western Hotel in Gomez Palacio. After our first visit in 2009 we were recognised and greeted warmly on subsequent visits, which always makes a difference. This time was no exception – the gentleman who has the unenviable task of cleaning our car after weeks on limestone / gypsum dirt tracks called on two friends to give Ruby a good rub down and the car looked as good as it did when we picked  her up from Dollar Rent-a-Car.

Just one event soured our experience of Gomez Palacio. As we turned off the highway into town we were stopped by a traffic policeman on motorbike. He claimed that we had driven through an ‘Alto’ sign without stopping. Neither Eunice, who was driving, nor me in my navigator’s role had seen such a sign, but in such situations the officer of the law is always right. He only spoke Spanish, so it was difficult to argue our case or plead for a warning only. The ticket book came out and when Eunice asked how much the fine would be, he said that this would depend on how much the judge might decide in three or four days time. ‘But we are passing through!’ Eunice explained, ‘You’ll get the verdict in the post, in the US.’ He explained. ‘Roughly how much?’ Eunice asked. ‘About a day’s earnings.’ he said. But, as we did not offer to pay him cash here and then, he started to tell us that he could tell that we were good people and that in his heart he would be happy to let us go, but that he was hungry and that if we could give him some money ….. Eunice offered 200 pesos (less than US$20) and this was eagerly accepted. We then asked him for directions to the hotel and he told us to follow him, until we knew where we were.

At the hotel, reviewing the event we realised that for the first time of driving in cactus country we have fallen victim of bribery / corruption at the hands of law officers. Shame.

Sunday, 13 March, 2011 – Ciudad Victoria to Ciudad San Luis Potosi

We had a long day and my eyes are struggling to keep open, so I’ll just list the stops with the key plants photograhed. The amazing thing is not what we saw, but what we passed without stopping. And that is just the locations that have been reported and thathave made it through to my database. If I were to link the dots and assume that a particular species occurs virtually everywhere within that area, then many of the plants thatI had assumed were virtually extinct are in fact fine and exist in large numbers in habitat. Of course neither the doom stories that we hearand my overly optimistic view are true but somewhere between the two extremes lies reality and that reality changes day by day.  

What did we see?

S2320 was a stop requested by Eunice along MEX 101, as on the three occasions that we drove past this spot she had been admiringthe Agaves, Hechtia and other flora at about roughly 100 km.p.h. as huge lorries were chasing us and there were very few pull off points. It was Sunday, so traffic was much lighter and so a stop could be made. We still have to analyse what Eunice saw through her 400 mm lens and I still need to blow up the images I took of plants growing way out of reach on a steep cliff.

S2321 were sightseeing pictures of the village of Jamauve. During our stroll along the square we had nice friendly chats with some of the inhabitatnts, including policemen on duty – a very friendly village, juding from this brief visit. We learned that the town has a hotel, a bank and a Pemex, in brief, everything that a dedicated cactus explorer needs on a future visit.

 S2322 was to be a stop for Turbinicarpus pseudopectinatus but it seems that again the road building that we are reaping the benefit of may have caused the destruction of this location. There was nowhere to park for a decent exploration and if there had been, we would not have had the time for anything but a cursory look.

 S2323 was just outside Tula and soon it will probably part of the growing town. We thought that we might have had to dig up the foundations of a bungalow to get to the GPS coordinates for this location but found our target plant, Ariocarpus kotschoubeyanus v albiflorus eventually, about half a dozen plants encrusted in the gypsum / lime stone silt. We’ll have to assume that the original explorers ID for the white flowered form as being correct – there was not a flower to be seen. Lots of other cacti too. 

 For S2324 we had pulled off MEX 101 just before El Huizache, on to a track sign posted for Los Amoles.  Various cacti found but nothing special.

S2325 was at the microwave station on top of the hill that overlooks Entronque EL Huizache, aka Huizache Junction. Lots of cacti and a nice view with the star plants in my opinion Ariocarpus retusus ssp elongatus, although the ssp. name could only really be applied to one large multi headed clump growing in the shade of a Hechtia. All the other Ariocarpus conformed to the normal retusus tubercles. A thirteen headed clump of Lophophora was also worth a picture.  

That would have made my day perfect, but Eunice had one more stop up her sleeve, the Type Locality of Ariocarpus bravoanus (S2326). These were perhaps the easiest plants to find as, after we had walked some 300 m. through quite dense scrub – yes, Cylindropuntia leptocaulis once again stapled our trousers to our legs!! – the tiny plants had been painted bright red with indellible paint and tagged to discourage unscrupulous visitors from collecting the plants. This project has been the subject of an article in the CSSA Journal a few years back (Cactus and Succulent Journal 81(2):56-58. 2009) and it is good to see that the paint is still in tact. It also shows how slow growing these plants are.

It was approaching dusk when we rolled back into the Holiday Inn Express at SLP – our third and last visit here this year, but with the intention of returning sometime in the future.