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for an updated version, including images.
Throughout the night Angie kept me informed of the developing weather situation: Still thunder and lightning to the south, wind getting stronger, absolutely bucketing down etc. I slept on in the certain knowledge that the internet weather forecast said: clear sunny day – chance of rain 0%.
I guess that they keep that forecast as a permanent feature on their site and just change the date – why not, they’d usually be right! But this time, sadly, they were wrong. By 8:00 I received an email from our Capitain to say that the weather was wrong for the trip. I wrote back and asked if they had any submarines in their fleet. Sadly not.
So I’m writing part 1 of today’s missive from the palm leaf covered terrace of Kurt & Marina’s, overlooking the Sea of Cortez, with the clouds breaking and the sun making it difficult to read the monitor. We will check with the boat people to see if we can try again around noon.
Watch this space!
It was a long drive and not quite what was planned.
We should have looked for accommodation as we entered Baja California Sur, in Guerrero Negro, .but it was still early and I thought that we would gain an hour by crossing the State border.
In any event, after five previous trips I finally spotted four plant of Mammillaria dioica with very distinct flowers to say that they were not. My guess is M. blossfeldiana judging by images on page 90 of John Pilbeam’s 2015 ‘Cacti & succulents of Baja California’ book.
It is becoming clear that our main focus this trip seems to be the Ferocacti that we pass on the way south. Jonathan has learned that it is better to read Nigel Taylor’s paper published in Bradleya (1984) in the hotel rather than as we speed past a myriad of cacti. He’s happy that we have seen F. gracilis in its various forms but what happened to F. fordii? Angie and I concentrate on spotting the Feros and taking their pictures, happy to worry about their names when we get home.
Jonathan has developed a technique for his 3D videos of approaching the plant with the camera skimming the grass and low vegetation and slowly rising as he approaches the plant. Although we are all on the same trip, I’m sure that we’ll end up with three quite different presentations.
We are also finding numerous Mammillaria of the M. dioica complex. We’re a but later in the season than usual, so I might be lucky and spot some of the named flower colour variations on a theme – fingers crossed.
The Catavina boulder fields always provide a scenic settings for cacti and succulents, so we’re adding many hundreds of images to the already overflowing image database back home!
After a couple of months of dark and often wet weather we’re off!
Nice bright sky as Peter drove us to T3 at Heathrow Airport without any hold ups. Although we had a BA Flight Number, we were directed to the American Airlines desk for check in. Who are they kidding with these multi numbered-all on one plane deals and of course every provider with a different price ticket.
During the online check in process we found that Angie and I had been allocated seats at opposite ends of the plane. Not a problem as I tend to sleep most of the way while Angie plays computer games to pass the time. But neither of us had the sought after aisle seats that allows me to stretch my 6ft 4 frame along the isles and so trip up the air hostesses while Angie avoids climbing over people on her way to the toilets. We could change seats, but at £54 per person (and no doubt again on the way back) you have to draw the line somewhere. We did change seats so that we were at least sitting next to each other – me next to the window and Angie on my deaf side. At take off, the aisle seat next to Angie was still empty so a swift game of musical chairs saw her next to the aisle and the central seat empty for stretching. Great! and all for free.
We arrived at LAX two minutes early; this was all going very smoothly, until …. we hit immigration! Lots of signage to say that US Citizens and folks like us with ESTA approval could go to the automated control stations, except that there, a man directed all non-US passport holders to the ‘visitors stations’. This coincided with the arrival of a number of mega airliners from China so that we still had to endure the mega-shuffle to the manned kiosks where eventually we were welcomed into the US. That was the first 75 minutes on US soil.
Eunice was there to meet us, having anticipated the queueing. We loaded our luggage in Elsie, her Land Cruiser that had been our home on various trips since 2008 and headed to Dollar Rent-a-car as this was the only car rental firm in California as far as we were told that allows rented cars to be taken into Mexico, at an additional cost of US$ 27.50 per day. The rate had changed from US$ 15 in 2008, but comparing total rental cost with those in Mexico were still slightly cheaper.
While queuing an irate customer came in, loudly insisting on seeing the Manager. She had paid for an SUV, only to find that there were none to be had! Slight concern, as that was the type of car that we needed.
After completing the pile of paper work – during which the strongly recommended International Driving Permit and the new Unique Driving Licence number for UK drivers were NOT required, off we went to find a car.
The lady had been right. Their stock was down to – (yes, minus!) 36! We could wait until the next car was returned, checked and cleaned inside and out, expected to take another hour OR take a KIA van: similar size to an SUV but no 4×4 and less clearance. I negotiated to take one so that we could at least go to the Naples Rib Factory where last year I had enjoyed one of the best steaks, washed down with a Blue Cadillac Margarita. These trips are not all about food and drink, but there are standards to maintain! We could swap this for an SUV at San Diego the next morning. We had to pick Jonathan Clark up at SD, so the car swap was not too much of an inconvenience.
The steak was excellent. We even got a US$ 10 discount voucher to celebrate the fact that we had visited them 12 months earlier!
We may be enjoying one of the warmest / mildest winters on record, but give me a bright sunny day with a light frost any day!
In exactly one month Angie and I will be flying to LAX to meet up with Eunice Thompson and introduce Angie to the delights of a Prime Rib at the Naples Prime Rib Factory, exactly where we left off on my last visit to California in 2015.
The next day we head south to meet up with Jonathan Clark again, who has also caught the ‘seeing cacti in habitat bug’.
The four of us will head across the border into Baja. Our goal is a visit to Isla Cerralvoa / Jacques Cousteau Island.
On the way, our goals include:
We’ll return to Alto California a few days before flying back to England after recording some aerial film clips of the Anza Borrego Desert State Park and meeting up with friends at a meeting of the Los Angeles Cactus & Succulent Society.
As usual, I aim to bring you daily notes, health, wealth and Internet access permitting, on these pages. Once back home, some 30 presentations will keep me busy for the summer.
I hope again that you’ll follow our adventures here. Once back in the UK I will clean up the text and add images and produce a book version of the adventures.
By the way, the book version of the Chile 2015 trip can now be viewed and bought at http://www.blurb.co.uk/b/6792181-the-cactus-trip-diaries-chile-2015
I’m writing the last report of this trip from home in Amesbury. The washing machine has just finished the load of washing that I have dragged with me for five weeks to ensure that it is ready for February 2016 when Angie, Jonathan and I will be doing it all again, this time for three weeks in Baja California.
Many thanks also to Pablo, Bart & Marijke and to Brian Bates for their companionship these last few weeks. Angie and I have pencilled in our next visit to Chile for 2017 – health & wealth permitting, as always.
We’ll be off for a short break to Angie’s family in Cologne and to visit the Christmas Markets, all without the internet. I’ll be selecting the best images from this trip for the Cactus Trip Diaries book for this trip and to add a selection of the images selected to these pages. I’ll post a message once the job is done, so that you can take a look over Christmas.