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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.

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