Around Diamantina: – Mendanha to Inhai
Memories of today’s Diary pages – or for most of them – are a little bit hazy so I am relying on Marlon’s notes – in Portuguese and Google Translate. Marlon took a month off from his regular business of providing garden plants and services to local customers. He was taking numerous mobile phone messages from client’s chasing orders, so he needs to catch up.
We’re based in Diamantina for few days, ideally situated in the middle of Uebelmannia country, specifically for members of the U. pectinifera complex I was first here in 1999, with the late Keith Grantham, Brian Bates to meet up with Rudolf Schulz and join Rudolf and Marlon in explorations for their 2000 book ‘Uebelmannia and their Environment’, our first Uebelmanniathon.
Today’s program similar to the one for Monday, 16 November 2009 when I traveled with Cliff Thompson from Waterlooville. That time, Marlon was unable to join us for the Minas Gerais stretch of our trip, so that we relied on Google Translate for our communications in Portuguese. Today’s stop list records eight stops where we saw and photographed the following taxa: Cipocereus minensis
Uebelmannia pectinifera and its subspecies flavispina
This time our first stop was said to be the type locality for U. pectinifera. It had rained overnight. The rocks were covered in a cyanobacterium that gave the rocks a black appearance. This cover was in turn covered in Algae and Lichen making the surface rather slippery. Also, many of them were loose and so, within minutes I made my first tumble grazing my head, unprotected following Angie’s dramatically short haircut, both arms and a cut over by kneecap. The bleeding was not too bad, although it did seem to attract a large number of mosquitoes. But worst of all, the tumble seemed to have damaged my self confidence, so that although I had already started the day as the slowest thing on two legs, I was now being overtaken by snails. Hummingbirds flew by my face, but I was too slow to get their picture.
Uebelmannias grow on rocky outcrops, so I blame the lack of pictures of these plants on the slippery nature of the rocks that they grow on.
It’s been a frustrating year, healthwise. Around this time last year, we were all set to travel to Chile. Angie had asked if we could include a short break for her to go horseriding high up in the Andes, at a farm near the town of Hurtado. After a year of visits to Salisbury hospital and initially placed under a ‘long-haul flying ban’, she will have some stents inserted in some two weeks time. Fingers crossed.
You can’t keep good folks down so in March 2018 Angie and I drove down to Frijas and Monaco on the French Riviera to visit the oldest cactus nursery of Kuentz and the Jardin Exotique respectively. We even bought some cacti to see how things might work after the UK leave the EU (Brexit), as we headed home via Switzerland, also outside the EU. No problem. The border officer was only keen that we bought a carnet, a sticker to allow us to drive on Swiss motorways. Brexit negotiators, please take note!
We also visited the Sukkulenten-Sammlung Zürich before crossing into Germany to visit the nursery of Uhlig’s.
We were back in Germany again in July to visit the Dahlem Botanical Garden in Berlin, the oldest cactus nursery in the world of Haage in Erfuhrt and to visit Angie’s mother in Cologne.
Today marks the day when in one month’s time I fly out, without Angie this time, but with friends Alain Buffel, Chris Hayes and John Child to Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil to meet up with Jared Marguiles from Mayland, USA and Marlon Machado for a month of cactus inspired travel in the states of Minas Gerais and Bahia.
As usual, I’ll try to find an internet connection to keep family and friends up to date with our progress and to tell cactophiles of the plants that we saw and photographed.
I hope that you can join us on the Blog and enjoy with us what we’ll see.
Yes, just one month and Angie and I will briefly visit London Heathrow Airport to fly to Madrid, where we change for our flight to Santiago de Chile. During a three week period we plan to re-visit our favourite spots from the last sixteen years and meet up with old friends:- cacti, people and hotels and restaurants, between Pichidangui, some 240 km from Santiago Airport and up to Tocopilla.
The internet has been awash with stories and images of one of the best flowering deserts for years – they seem to become more frequent in recent years! Coincidence or a by-product of global warming? Let’s hope that the flowering continues on for another month or two!
Fingers crossed that unlike the rain that caused the desert to be in flower in 2015, there is not as much damage as there was on that occasion. The Chilean coastal hills have little, often no vegetation or soil to support it. So any water that falls here immediately finds the fastest way down, carrying any dust and gravel down with it as a thick sludge. In 2015 there were reports of Copiapoa megarhiza floating down the Rio Copiapoa. In Chanaral we saw the damage done to houses where the mud filled the ground floor up to their ceilings.
I have ordered the new Nikon D850 DSLR camera, so, at least equipment wise, I should come back with the best images ever. Its release was oversubscribed, so although I am next on the local camera’s shop waiting list, the next box that they receive is mine. Hopefully with some time to spare to get used to its new features.
As usual, I’ll aim to send daily blogs to keep the folks back home informed, up to date and entertained.
Please take a look at
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!
Mammillaria dioica I presume!