Saturday, 12 November 2011 – Samaipata to Comarapa
From Google Map I had learned that it was only 110 km along Ruta 4, a one hour and thirty minutes drive, but past experience suggests that local conditions can add several hours to that – distances in South America are often best described in terms of the time it takes to get to your destination rather than the distance.
Since leaving Santa Cruz, Ruta Nacional 4 has taken us along the huge (442,500 ha) Parque Nacional Amboro. Tomorrow, when we cross into Department Cochabama, another Parque Nacional, Carrasco, continues with another 622,600 ha (6,226 sq. Km), The combined area of the two adjoining parks is 10,651 sq km. By comparison, the area of Luxembourg is 2,586 sq. km. The Parks range in altitude from 208 to 4,717 m! Such huge variation in altitudes and geology has provided a great bio-diversity, with an estimated 3,000 plant species, including many orchids.
It turned out to be a good day’s drive.
John’s outline itinerary promised Gymnocalycium pflanzii, Parodia, Neoraimondia and Weingartia neocumingii. We made 10 Stops that allowed me to add lots more ‘cacti seen in habitat’ ticks on my ever-growing list. All plants promised were delivered – thanks John! Should have some nice pictures.
We start with S2362, images taken of plants in cultivation at the Landhause hotel where the German owner had a nice collection of cacti and other succulents planted out in the garden. The images were mainly of his potted Cleistocactus winteri ssp colademono that grows in nature on a nearby hillside that’s on our planned stop list.
In fact, S2363 should have been that stop, but we turned off RN4 too early as this turning too was sign posted to another Bueno Vista. We realised quite early on that this was the wrong turn but thought that it could lead to something new and as yet unexplored. It ended up on a semi typical Bolivia football pitch. This one at least had grass, but like most of the others we would see, if you missed the ball you had to run a long way down hill to retrieve it. Do the rules of the game suggest a maximum permitted slope on a pitch?
Back on RN4, we stopped at a waterfall (S2364) surrounded by some tall rocks covered with Bromeliad sp., Peperomia sp., Rhipsalis sp or Lepismium sp ? These were flat leaf-like stems, like Epiphylum, but with small flowers / buds, unlike the long flower tubes in Epiphylum, Cleistocactus sp., hanging from rocks, Pfeiffera ianthothele and Rhipsalis sp, possibly R. floccosa ssp. tucumansensis.
S2365 was for a group of Cleistocactus, C. candelilla, in fruit & flower, growing along the road, while S2366 was prompted by a snakelike cactus, possibly Hylocereus undatus. The problem with plants growing some distance from the camera, in trees or on rock faces is that it is difficult to find buds, flowers or fruits that may provide a hint of a plant’s identity. We also saw Harrisia sp. Rhipsalis sp, Tillandsia sp
At S2367 we saw Cleistocactus candelilla, Castellanosia caineana,and Opuntia anacantha, perhaps not the most dynamic of cacti and certainly rarely found in European collections.
S2368 provided some more flowers, on Gymnocalycium pflanzii, Opuntia sulphurea as well as Cleistocactus sp., hanging from rocks, but without flowers on show, almost impossible to identify and Castellanosia caineana.
S2369 was prompted by the flowers on a Pereskia, P. sacharosa. I also photographed Tillandsia sp, growing on telephone lines, trees and even on cacti, on an Opuntia sp., and on Castellanosia caineana.
Two more stops, S2370 (Echinopsis calorubra, Cleistocactus sp., Echinopsis sp.) and S2371 (with Echinopsis sp., Rebutia (Weingartia) fidana ssp cintiensis? Cleistocactus samaipatanus, Bromeliad sp., Tillandsia sp, Pfeiffera ianthothele) made a total of ten stops for the day, nearly enough to cause cactus indigestion so early in the trip! John had warned us that it would be different!