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Archive for February, 2017

Monday 20 February – around Tangolunda

Today, the umpteen times revised itinerary said ‘rest day’, well earned and needed as we had travelled long distances in hot temperatures and feeling below par health wise. So today, we did …. nothing! Well, not quite true. We got up an hour later than usual, had breakfast and drove to a charming little cove where we sat at the Los Gueros Restaurant at Playa la Bocana. Huatulco, Oax., Mexico. We saw a few ceroids on the hill overlooking the bay, but could not be bothered to lift the camera to take their picture. I did take some images of pelicans, cormorants and white egrets fishing off shore, while we downed a bucket of freshly squeezed orange juice each, enjoyed two family plates of guacamole and, once the clock moved past midday, allowed ourselves a bottle of beer.

We drove back to the hotel and started planning tomorrow’s drive, when the internet collapsed. So I backed up my images to my hard drive, quite a lot, including all the dash cam images.

For Chris and Jonathan, this is the farthest point of the trip, so tomorrow we start the journey to Mexico City Airport and it becomes a matter of what other stops to make, other than ad-hoc leg-stretch stops.

Sunday 19 February – Tehuantepec to Tangolunda

As unlikely as it seems, it is getting hotter and more humid, so that the most comfortable environments are hotel rooms and the car, with the air-conditioning system set to somewhere between 16 and 20C. Not very good for sinuses and eyes that tend to dry out, but at least we are over the worst of the medical issues that befell us at the start of the trip.  Today was a reasonably easy day with  172.07 km driven from door to door of our hotels. The character of the towns has changed from ‘olde-worldy Mexico’ to any modern resort, anywhere, with large groups of Canadians moving from bar to bar.

We made two stops with a third stop included as we walked ahead of the car to the final stop of the day. And the target plant today was not a Ferocactus, but Melocactus oaxensis. Well, that seems to be the local name, but there is a huge list of synonyms that will require a closer look back home (Melocactus obtusipetalus, Cactus obtusipetalus, Melocactus delessertianus, Melocactus caesius, Cactus caesius, Melocactus humilis, Melocactus lobelii, Melocactus ruestii, Melocactus salvador, Cactus salvador, Cactus maxonii, Melocactus maxonii, Melocactus ruestii maxonii, Melocactus guatemalensis, Cactus oaxacensis, Melocactus oaxacensis, Melocactus ruestii oaxacensis, Melocactus guitarii, Melocactus dawsonii, Melocactus loboguerreroi, Melocactus holguinensis, Melocactus jakusii, Melocactus maxonii sanctae-rosae, Melocactus ruestii sanctae-rosae, Melocactus ruestii cintalapensis).

The first stop was at last year’s AB668 at the Blue Rock Restaurant, a rather grand name for a shack selling beers and Pepsi before we continued our journey. Cacti included various Opuntia sp. including one that was losing its fight against a mealy bug infestation. I photographed just four Melos,  none of which looked very happy – in fact very thirsty, growing exposed to the elements on a high rock.

We drove on to the second Melocactus location but before reaching it, stopped to photograph Pereskia lychnidiflora that had been reported from here last year. Then it was included under AB669 but for the purpose of my S numbers, I’ll give the plants photographed along the track today’s S#2, as the habitat is distinct from the Melocactus hill at the end of the track. S#2 had a Hylocereus sp., near where we parked the car. Along the track, on the raised side, were clumps of Mammillaria (M. voburnensis?), a yellow flowered Opuntia sp. (same species as at S#1) and one or two more taxa waiting for an ID.

Arriving at the final destination, there were some tall cerioids that need an ID. Here the majority of the Melocacti looked better watered than at the first stop, but at the expense of their attractiveness, as many had been protected from excess evaporation by a thick layer of grasses and herbs that now, with Spring approaching, were dying back, covering the Melos with their remains. There were magnificent views over the Ocean, where pelicans and frigate birds were showing off their prowess of fishing just off-shore. Close to the edge of the hill, the Melocacti were more exposed and offered some great shots with the Ocean in the background.

It seems that the Canadian contingent is hell bound on celebrating the result of the Winnipeg v. Ottawa ice hockey game that was broadcast all over town. Every time a point was scored a large bell in the restaurant was rung and more beer was requested.  I’ll rely on sleeping on my good ear, with the deaf ear blocking out the BeeGees singing Staying Alive and Abba singing about the Dancing Queen. I must be getting old!


Saturday 18 February – Oaxaca to Tehuantepec

We woke up at 7 a.m. as usual and by 8 were enjoying a very civilised breakfast on the Cathedral Square. We needed to collect the car from the off-site car park by nine and we anticipated some delay there as last night cars were parked bumper to bumper, using up every inch of space. However, this morning we were only one of a few cars left and there were only two turns between the car park and the hotel, and no traffic so early in the day.

The drive out of town was also not the nightmare of last night and so we found ourselves on the road to Tehuantepec. We had just one stop planned, AB666 from Alain’s previous trip. But some 10 km before getting there, we asked for a quick stop to photograph the Pilosocereus sp that had started to appear along the side of the road.

The next stop, at AB666, gave us Mammillaria nejapensis growing in the shade of a dark rock wall, as well as Pachycereus pecten-boriginum and Ceiba pentandra (kapok tree), Stenocereus (Isolatocereus) dumortieri, Neobuxbaumia scoparia and the Pilosocereus. CactiGuide.com lists the following taxa for Oaxaca P. chrysacanthus, P. collinsii, P. purpusii and P. quadricentralis. That will take some more sorting out when I get home.


Friday 17 February – Tehuacan to Oaxaca

We had really enjoyed our stay in Hotel Blancavilla, but it seems that all good things come to an end, until we could visit again on our way back to the Airport in some ten days time.

Today we’d aim for some more AB stops from his 2016 trip with others, starting with AB662. On that occasion Ferocactus flavovirens, Coryphantha reduncispina and Mammillaria carnea were listed, but I’m sure that I photographed many more taxa this time. More homework for rainy days in England. For a Ferothon, it seems important to mention F. recurvus. As a general observation, after last year’s Baja Ferothon, the Fero’s here seemed to much more in favour of partially shaded forest locations as opposed to the Baja plants that were mostly happy to battle it out on more exposed places and so were easier to spot. The ceroids were again numerous and varied and often in flower. And Mammillaria sphacelata seems a candidate for a semi mat-forming plant with elongated stems, cowering in the shade.

We walked back on the track through sugarcane fields to the main road where we had parked the car.

The next stop was due to be AB663, but we found a nicer spot with the same plants, according to Alain so had an early leg stretch to see very large plants of Ferocactus recurvus growing under trees on hillsides with clumps of Coryphantha calipensis (?) and giant Pachycereus (Lemaireocereus) weberi. This was near San Juan de Los Cues.

AB664 was a view point over scenery with dense stands of P. weberi.

The large modern hotel in Tehuacan seemed deserted, should be full of coach trips at the peak tourist season.


Thursday 16 February – around Tehuacan

The lodgings at Hotel Villablanca in Tehuacan proved so comfortable last light with excellent food, that we decided to stay another night.

Our first goal of the day was a newly opened archaeological site at Tehuacan Viejo. We were greeted on arrival by an army of …..soldiers. We were asked to go and register at reception where the girl was clearly impressed by the multinational make up of our party. Unusual for such a huge new tourist attraction all the signage was in Spanish and none of the guides or soldiers spoke English. We were told firmly that we would not be allowed to take our ‘Professional Cameras’ inside as they did not want foreigners steal images of their national treasure. So Chris, with his Sony Compact (excellent camera) acted as our official photographer, supplemented by images by Alain & Jonathan taken on their mobile phones.

The Archeological content was disappointing – piles of old rubble with the centre piece newly restored with fresh cement and plaster and paint. Alain thought that it looked like Lego Town. If I had been able to take pictures, they would have been ruined by heavily armed security guards making it difficult to imagine that we were not in some science fiction film like Planet of the Apes.

We did see some interesting plants, duly photographed at our request by Chris. The first was a tree with attractive flaking bark, covered in red flowers and with Tillandsia.. But wait a minute, these flowers were Fouquieria flowers, coming from the tips of the tree’s branches, but not from the Tillandsia. So which Fouqueria is it? Once I receive Chris’ images I’ll send them to Eunice for ID.

 The second interesting plant was Ferocactus flavovirens – large heads, some 90+ heads to one plant! We’d see them again at later stops.

 Stop#2 of the day was along MEX125, south of San Antoinio Texcala, AB658 in 2016. That time Alain reports finding Ferocactus recurvus, Cephalocereus columna-trajani, Myrtillocactus schenkii, and Echinocactus platyacanthus. This time, I also photographed Ferocactus flavovirens and Beaucarnea gracilis, the latter making a useful addition to the pachycaul / caudiciform trees seen when I was in Madagascar on the previous trip.

 Stop #3: We arrived at the Jardin Botanico Dra Helia Bravo Hollis, set right in the middle of the densest stand of Cereus cacti I have seen – it easily puts the Argentinean Oreocereus forest to shame. Individually they are not the prettiest, most impressive plants in town, but en mass, they take a lot of beating! Just look at them and remember that they are all endangered species. The road to this place was the perfect road for the Dashcam and I sweated to get the thing working. All the right lights were flashing and the monitor was showing some extremely impressive images, but back at the hotel, the card was empty. It would have been the icing on the cake, but not mission critical.

I found the solution to this problem, The Dashcam came with a 32GB SD card and I thought that I had done the right thing by replacing it with a 64GB card. Wrong! Not compatible! I put the smaller card back in and everything is fine – until…. I managed to lose the tiny little card a few days latter! Aarrgghh! We are now hopeful in finding a replacement card in an Oxxo Shop!

Most of the Fero’s on our hit list were here, as well as some impressive Ponytail Palms (Beaucarnea sp.) plants. We walked in the heat up a steep stairway (to heaven?) followed by a walk along Fero alley to a view tower. Up to the top to film a 380 degree view, then back to the reception area for an ice lolly each, made of frozen cactus berries – mine were xlotl (?) berry juice. I knew that I should have photographed the wrapper.

The ceroids here were mostly Neobuxbaumia tetetzo. Fero recurvus and F. flavispina were there, as well as some very impressive Agave.

 Alain asked us to make one more brief stop, at a Salinas, a place where traditionally salt was harvested from large pans.


Saturday 11 February – around Ixmiquilipan, Hidalgo

Apologies for the longish silence. First of all, internet facilities, if present, were poor, probably not prepared for four people with electronic gadgets descending on them. Secondly, we met up with Ian and Cliff last night. Cliff reported a news item that the WordPress server had been hit by a hacker. In any event, I have not been able to access it since the previous message. Thirdly, soon after arriving in Mexico we took turns in being laid up by ‘The Airline Lergy’, bugs picked up as we pass through the ‘petridishes of the world’ on the way here. Anyway, Alain was the first to go down – I’ll spare you the details – Jonathan was next, followed by Chris and finally I succumbed. Anyway, after two days of not getting out of the car for stops and not being able to finish off a pint of beer at night – yes, it WAS SERIOUS!!

So, this message comes as a test from Jonathan’s laptop. An earlier attempt to use Alain’s keyboard (thanks for the offer, Alain) failed due to the fact that his laptop has a Belgium keyboard, with all the keys on a UK keyboard taken like a letters from a game of Scrabble, throwing them up in the air and rearranging them in random fashion. The result was worse than my usual laughable attempts, but would have so confused my proofreaders, Jonathan Clark and Brian Bates, to make them reach for that well known song of the 1960’s: They’re coming to take me away haha hihi’ by Napoleon XIV.

So let’s see if this baby runs!

Sunday 5 February – around Coalcoman

Today’s entry in the itinerary says ‘explore for F. reppenhagenii around Coalcoman’. Well, we explored by car and some on foot and saw lots of interesting plants, many in flower, but few cacti and certainly no Feros. As in previous reports, when there is a draught of cacti, the texts of these missives tends to concentrate on wonderful scenery, details of the hotels and the food and their respective costs, to which I say ‘Ditto’.

So I’ll test the width of the broadband and see if I can upload some pictures.

Lots of flowering trees - ID anyone?

Lots of flowering trees – ID anyone?

Correct substrate, with cacti, but no Feros

Correct substrate, with cacti, but no Feros

bulb in flower

Bulb in flower