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Archive for November 14, 2011

Monday, 14 November 2011 – Cochabamba to Mizque.

Well, Oruro had been the plan, but John’s quick look on the internet showed that the Municipal workers in Oruro had put up blockades to prevent people entering or leaving the town. Such rumours and reports are frequent, some are for real, others are just sable rattling to add force to their arguments (which we are not sure of). You’d think that with such regular blockades etc. they’d put up a website to alert people to the latest troubles. They did put up a website – but it has been blocked for the last three months!

We decided not to take the risk of driving a full day and then not be able to get into town for however many days that the blockade persists and to head for Sucre instead – too far to get to in one day, hence the stop over in Mizque. It’s great having John onboard, as he knows alternative options to get us around the problems.

Oh, nearly forgot – today’s cacti! ‘Only’ 5 stops, mainly along the side of the road.  By the way, the roads have so far been remarkably good. Many are gravel roads, but are well maintained. Apparently a few days of rain can change that in an instant. We’re in two Toyota Landcruiser Prados. Ours has two petrol tanks built in, holding a total of 180 litres! But at approx. 60 pence per litre, it costs about the same as filling up our cars back home.

S2381 gave us a charming little Parodia, P schwebsiana, Coryocactus melanotrichus, Cleistocactus sp., Echinopsis sp. and Opuntia sp in flower. This was probably not an endemic, but imported years ago for its huge juicy spineless pads.

S2382 was for a location that John referred to as ‘Gertel’s Island’. I remembered John mentioning that this is the type locality of Sulcorebutia tiraquensis var electracantha, described by Willy Gertel and now lumped under R. steinbachii, if you follow the New Cactus Lexicon as a starting point for selecting a name from among the long list of synonyms that takes your fancy. After posting this report, Brian writes to tell me that I suffered memory failure (again): “This is Rancho Zapato and the TL of S. tiraquensis var. longiseta not electracantha. Which was described by Cardenas not Gertel.” Ah well, we do our best and thank you for the correction.

There was also a charming little Opuntia (Austrocylindropuntia?) with bright red flowers. And I should mention the many Puya, probably several species and so far all smaller than the ones that I have become familiar with in Chile.

S2383 was a stop for a nice red flowered plant that we called Sulcorebutia oenantha. I’ll have to check when I get home what the NCL calls it. [PS: It is another synonym of R. steinbachii] Angie, please pack my copies of the NCL. By the way, I don’t necessarily agree with everything it says, but it is the most useful central reference from where the synonyms can lead to a name I like.

S2384 was still R. stainbachii (s.n. Sulcorebutia oenantha), but very few.

I should say that at every stop there are other cacti too, usually Echinopsis sp, Cleistocactus sp and Roseocereus sp. but I intend only to mention the keynote plants from each stop.

S2385 was for some huge (3 m +) shrubs of Quibentia sp., one of those few cacti with leaves. There were some dozen flowers on each plant.

Another excellent day, finishing in an unexpected modern hotel, but unfortunately without wifii.

Monday, 14 November 2011 – Cochabamba to Oruro

Just an unusual brief note first thing in the morning as I wait to go into breakfast.

Although our plan is to drive to Oruro today, John has just picked up info on a Bolivia website that today roadblocks are due to commence in a number of Bolivia towns, including Oruro. But these reports are two days old. Usually there is a lot of sable rattling between protesters and the government with websites posting info on a whole host of potential trouble spots with details of the intended actions. Over breakfast we’ll have a serious think about what we’ll do. It’s 200 km to Oruro with plant stops on the way. If we can’t get into town, we would need to come all the way back – there is no accommodation in between. There are alternative options that include driving back a bit to Epizan and taking another route that may go to Sucre, but this too could get blocked if the issues elsewhere escalate. A new dimension to cactus trips and one that has been there for Bolivia as long as I can remember. It has been one of the reasons that I left it so long to make my first trip here. With all cactus trips featuring time budget constraints, sitting around waiting for a political situation to resolve itself is not the most apealing option.

Looking at the bright side, we are surrounded by cacti out of town, all new to Wiebe and me, but not so appealing to Brendan, Lucy and Chris who have already seen some of the alternative options in the weeks leading up to our arrival.

It may be some days before we’ll be in a hotel with internet facilities again, so I’ll post this ahead of today’s events. Who knows, we might be back here tonight!