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Archive for November 29, 2011

Tuesday, 29 November 2011 – Padila to La Higuera

After a good night’s sleep and another scrambled egg breakfast Wiebe and I took a quick look with our cameras around the Plaza that five nights earlier we had only seen in the middle of the night in pitch darkness.

S2468 was an unscheduled stop, prompted by a large bird of prey sitting on top of a tree by the side of the road. Surprisingly it looked on curiously as Wiebe and I slowly and quietly got out of the car and snapped away at this unusual target. In fact, I had to clap my hands to get it to fly off. It might have been a young bird as it seemed still unsure about flying and landing, but produced some nice images as a result. No cacti or other succulent plants in habitat found.

S2469 was very much scheduled as it gave us our first look at Espostoa (Vatricana) guentheri, an Espostoa that somehow seems to have become detached from its Peruvian cousins. There were lots more cacti and plants of interest found and seems to be a regular stop on John and Brian’s cactus trips. Also photographed: Castellanosia caineana, Cleistocactus sp. (although, on reflection, this is more likely to be a seedling E. guentheri), Echinopsis sp.-in flower, Gymnocalycium pflanzii, taller than those seen elsewhere, Harrisia pomanensis, H. tetracantha, Neoraimondia herzogiana, Opuntia anacantha (s.n. Opuntia retrorsa, O. anacantha var. retrorsa), two Pereskia P. diaz-romeroana and P. sacharosa, Puya sp, an aroid, the poisonous Synandrospadix vermitoxicus, and at least three Tillandsia sp.

S2470 was for images, most shot from the car, as we descended down toward the Puente Santa Rosa and drove through an area with tall Neoraimondea herzogiana, Harrisia and Castellanosia caineana growing among trees, bedecked with Tillandsia. We stopped to take the picture of a particularly nice  Bursura (?) but the picture of three bottle trees (Ceiba sp) was taken from the moving car.

We stopped for some Parodia (P. augustinii was suggested) in flower (S2471), growing along side the taxa already reported for S2469. In addition there seemed to be an unusual Echinopsis (Trichocereus) sp. here and it was suggested that this was perhaps a natural hybrid with one of the Harrisia .

S2472 was for a tree, or rather,the cacti growing on the tree: Pfeiffera ianthothele, Rhipsalis floccosa and lots of Tillandsia.

We continued on the Ruta del Che to arrive at La Higuera, where we would spend the night. Wikipedia reports about this village:

La Higuera (Spanish: “The Fig Tree”) is a small village in theProvince ofVallegrande, in the Department of Santa Cruz. It is situated in the La Higuera Canton (civil parish) belonging to the Pucará municipality.

The village is situated some 150 km (bee-line) southwest of Santa Cruz de la Sierra. La Higuera lies at an elevation of 1950 m. Its population (according to the 2001 census) is 119, mainly indigenous Guarani people.

On October 8, 1967, the Argentine Marxist revolutionary Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara was captured by the CIA-assisted Bolivian Army in the nearby ravine Quebrada del Churo, ending his campaign to create a continental revolution inSouth America. Che Guevara was held in the schoolhouse, where he was killed the next day. The body was then brought to Vallegrande, where it was placed on display and afterwards secretly buried under an airstrip.

“Tourists from all over the world visit La Higuera on pilgrimage. A Frenchman has opened a hostel at the telegraph office where the guerrilla fighters made their last attempt to establish contact with the outside world. Next door, Cuban doctors provide treatment to the destitute farm workers free of charge. Images of the revolutionary hang in the villagers’ huts, and many people pray to “Santo Ernesto” who is said to bring about miracles.”

A monument to “El Che” and a memorial in the former schoolhouse are the major tourist attraction for this area. La Higuera is a stop on the “Ruta del Che” (Che Guevara Trail) which was inaugurated in 2004.”

I seem to have crossed paths with Che on a number of occasions, geographically, but not historically. In 2005 we visited his birth place, Cordoba, in Argentina and in 2010 I spent a month in Cuba where it is hard to escape his images and tourist merchandise. Now I found myself at the spot of his final moments. I have seen the ‘Motorcycle Diaries’ film about his youthful adventures and bought his biography as a souvenir in Cuba. I remember the news reports surrounding his time in Cuba and subsequently about his exploits in the Congo and lastly in Bolivia. His death was big time news, but now seems to pale into insignificance against more recent reports on the deaths of Sadam Hussain, Osama bin Laden and most recently Muammar Gaddafi. I can not see Che in quite the same light as the other three evil men in recent history.

I took lots of pictures (S2473), we stayed in the hostel that Wikipedia reports as having been the telegraph office in Che’s day.