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Saturday, 12 March, 2011 – Tula to Ciudad Victoria

We woke up early-ish and without breakfast and wifi to distract us, were back at the 24 hour restaurant at the truck stop by 7:45 a.m. By the time we left 20 minutes later, the 24 hour restaurant was still closed. 24 hours per week, I suggested. We got a coffee and some oatmeal cookies to keep us going for the 100 km drive along an excellent asphalt road to CD Victoria.

While getting a new tyre was a clear priority, the road took us 40 m. from a location of Obregonia denegrii. This plant has always intrigued me, especially as I have never been able to grow it very well for very long. We took the turn ontoa track very near the spot and parked out of the way for the 325 m walk to the coordinates. Again, the walk was through dense scrub so we collected more scratches to arms and legs, then a barbed wire fence, fortunately in need of repair and again, spot on the coordinates, we started to find the plants. As usual, at this time of year, the plants were extremely dry and many were pulled into the soil with the best looking plants growing in the shade inside small bushes. If I did not find another plant today! It nearly made us forget that we were tyre hunting. We found what looked like a large car supermarket with the logo of just about any tyre manufacturer painted on its wall. We asked the shop assistant if they had the Goodyear tyre with spec to match our injured one, but he looked at us blankly – ‘We don’t sell tyres!’  Argghh!!!

Again many helpful Mexicans pointed at various directions as to where we might succeed. we headed off in one of the suggested directions but before we had completed the directions drove by a quick – fit type tyre vendor with workshop to fix the beast. 45 minutes we were on our way, only to get lost in the warren of streets and markets all without sign posts.

We had spotted a nice looking hotel as we drove into town, managed to find it again and decided to book in, dump the luggage and head back the way we had come, along MEX 101.

Eunice had been wanted to see the Agave and Dasylirion in the hills around Mehuihana and today got her wish. S2319 was for pictures taken along MEX79 to Miquihuana. The plants were huge and impressive and a nice change – both for us as photographers and for potential audiences at our talks.  There were small palms here as well. Names to be researched.   As we left town the way we had come, Eunice spotted the largest clump of Ferocactus echidne that I’ve seen to date – how did we miss that on the way in!?!?

Friday, 11 March, 2011 – Rio Verde to Tula

After yesterday’s remarkable find of a single T. lophophoroides and after another look for a post office, we headed east out of Rio Verde on MEX 70 and not far out of town stopped at another known location for the plant (S2311). This time we had more luck and my first find was a tiny seedling while Eunice found a little lime stone mound that was home for half a dozen plants, nicely exposed. After that things became easier and more plants were found.

Back on Mex 70 we soon turned north on a road signed for Santa Rita and San Francisco that would eventually take us to Las Tablas, the Type Locality for Turbinicarpus lophophorioides. Our next stop (S2312) took us onto a gentle sloping hill side where we looked for and found Ariocarpus retusus v scapharostroides. I’m not much of an Ariocarpus officionado and was not familiar with this particular variety. Back in the UK, I’ll have to set up a Gallery of the Ariocarpus locations visited and pictures from each population. Nice, large chunky plants. There was also a nice little Coryphantha sp. here. I see that C. glassii has been reported from near by, so will check that taxon out in literature once I’m back with my books.

With the number of stops we make and the huge cactus and other succulent plant diversity encountered, I’ll just mention the key taxa for each stop rather than a full run down that would end up to be rather repetitive.

S2313 was just a leg stretch stop with nothing cactus wise that we had not seen already.

S2314 was something else. Close, south to Las Tablas we may have expected to find T. lophophoroides here but the terrain (hilly) was completely different from where we had already seen them, so we did not specifically look for them and did not find any either. So what was noteworthy here? Last year we had seen Astrophytum capricorne in Coahuila but none of the other Astrophytums. A. myriostigma had been reported from here so that became my prime target for this walk in the heat. ‘Mad dogs and Englishmen’ again and as I am Dutch, I guess that I’m included in the Mad Dogs. These are very photogenic plants, especially when not damaged by passing animals, so just about every plant spotted was photographed. We were dumbfounded by one plant that had the number 74 written on it with a felt tip pen. Anyone lost their Astro #74? Applications to the third rock from the giant Echinocactus down the road.

Mammillaria candida was a note worthy companion, as was M. albata, distinguishable from each other by their flowers. The Ariocarpus was reported from here, but as we had just seen that, we were not specifically looking for this plant and did not find any. And I would not specifically mention Echinocactus platyacanthus that we now know to be wide spread and able to grow into real giants, if it had not been for the largest ‘globular’ cactus I have ever seen, a specimen that measured more than 3 m (yes, 9 ft) in height – a giant amongst giants. Eunice was elsewhere on the hill, so I could not ask her to take a picture of me being dwarfed for once. She came back past the same plant (how could you miss it?) and also had failed to include herself with the plant in a picture. Tripods are just another item to lug around with limited use, so mine stays at home. Eunice’s stayed in the car and there were no convenient rocks with a clear line of vision to the plant. There was also a quite large green cactus here that I first thought was Coryphantha elephantes, but on reflection it might be Thelocactus hexaedroforus. If I can’t get the genus right, what chance do I stand with the specific name? And what I have been calling Echinocereus pentalophus may have been E. leonensis. Well, I gather that the current name in favour is Echinocereus pentalophus ssp leonensis, sothey are recognised to be similar. Again, something to do during the summer – check out how to distinguish one from the other. This was our ‘keynote’ stop of the day.

We dragged ourselves away as we still had a fair way to go and time was getting on.  S2315 was a brief stop to look at some large clumps of Echinocereus (enneacanthus?) growing in open land with a few low shrubs scattered around. All looking fairly well beaten up.

After the spell of driving through the flat countryside we could not help but stop when a rocky outcrop reached the road.S2316. Astrophytum and white Mams were again the main plants of interest. Opuntia microdasys was in bud and flower.

We had spent a long day out in the sun and bouncing on a poor quality track so were glad when dusty dirt turned to (badly worn) asphalt. It contained more pot holes than the average road in the UK after another hard winter. We hit a pothole full on and soon afterwards Eunice stopped explaining that the car felt ‘funny’. All wheels tyres still inflated but the rear off-side tyre had a blister the size of a fist right in the middle of the thread on the running surface. We limped on to village of Palomas where a local Vulkan (tyre repair man) confirmed our suspicion that the tyre was a write off, but kindly used his powered tools to change the wheel for us.

We had been heading for Tula, but our tyre expert advised us to go in the opposite direction to Cuidad del Maiz (Corn City) where there were more tyre shops. 28 km on tarmac without a spare were OK and we had soon reached the Corn town. The roadside in and out of the town must have had a dozen tyre shops, or at least, repair men. None had a tyre to match our needs. Time was pushing on, so we looked for a Hotel but the lady who ran the largest tyre shop smiled and said to Eunice ‘not here, go to Tula or Ciudad Victoria.’ Always keen to follow good advice, we headed off in the direction from where we had just come and past the spot where we had joined it and turned right onto MEX 101 as the sun set behind the hills to the west. The remaining 31 km (crossing into Tamaulipas) were driven in the dark, against our plans, but needs must. The town was pretty dead and we gave up our search for a place where we could buy a tyre, switching our search to accommodation. Eventually we found a Hotel San Jorge, a string of terraced chalets at a very cheap 250 pesos for the night. Breakfast was not included and there was no wifi, so having dumped our luggage we made the journey back to MEX101 where a large truck stop still had a restaurant open where my steak resembled the sole of my boots. Still, once again we did not go hungry.

Thursday, 10 March, 2011 – San Luis Potosi to Rioverde

Our hotel spells it Rioverde (one word) so that’s what I’ll stick with. We’ve seen Rio Verde as well.

After reaching our turnaround point yesterday we discussed options for the way back to Bellflower, CA. I’d guess that we have enough location data to take at least a year to get back, if we were to visit locations in a 30 km wide corridor between here and the US border. So, without tying ourselves down to a rigid route we agreed to head to Tula for a few nights. We spent a little longer than planed on the road today, so one of those ‘Tula nights’ has been replaced by a ‘Rio Verde night’.

So what did we see today. We had a late start today (10 a.m.) and were further delayed by Eunice’s search for a post office – those who have been with us on trips during March will recognise the need to find a post office to get off a birthday card to the son of a friend in CA.

We took MEX 70 out of SLP, heading for Rio Verde. I had half expected this to be a dual carriage way, but it turned out to be a two lane hard top tat took us through some very scenic areas. Some of the scenery was lost on us as clouds had decended on the top of the hills that we were driving through, windscreen wipers and lights on, with the temperature outside, at 2,133 m altitude, dropping to 8 C (45 F).

We put on jumpers and stopped (S2307) on a piece of the old MEX 70 that was now a convenient lay by. We found two different Mams,: M. erythrosperma growing in cracks in the rocks, just like Michel Lacoste’s picture on the internet and along the same road as his ML322 which would make the other Mam. M. orcuttii, Opuntia sp, Cylindropuntia sp. and Agave attenuata. This Agave is one of California’s favourite landscape plants in gardens that are large enough to accommodate a display of several plants. Of course there were Opuntia and Cylindropuntia sp. as well.

A bit farther along the road (Still S2307) we found Selenicereus sp. growing on rocks – looking just like the plants that we saw in Cuba last year.

S2308 was a leg stretch to take some pictures of the large ceroids in flower along MEX 70. The flowers were much too high up for me to look into, but I could see insects (mainly bees) flying in and out. So could the small birds (finches?) and the larger bird with a long, turned down bill (bee eater?) that seemed to be feasting on something in the flower. what are these ceroids? we saw them yesterday at Xichu as well. Stenocereus seems to be a candidate.

A bit later than anticipated we headed for a John Miller stop for T. lophophoroides near Ciudad Fernandez. As mentioned before, JM stops are usually right on the money, unless some one had built a house on the spot, as happened at an earlier location. This time, a nice new tarmac road took us to the spot – right over it!!!! We stopped by the side of the road where the plant would have been, or were the coordinates no more than a ‘car park’ location with near by explorations carried out on foot? (S2309). We searched the area in quite some detail for more than half an hour, but apart from the Stenocereus (?), Opuntia sp and Cylindropuntia sp. there were no cacti to be seen. ‘The Turbinicarpus in San Luis Potosi’ book by Grupo San Luis, Published by Cactus & Co (2004) is proving very useful as the pictures show the overviews and close ups of the plants in habitat, which helps to get your eye in. Most of the close up pictures show the plant at their best, after rainfall and in flower. We were seeing a different picture. 

T. lophophoroides is said to always grow together with Coryphantha maiz-tablasensis, so we were very pleased when Eunice found a group of three of these, the size of Thelocephala, growing pulled down into the soil in grazed grassland. Near by there were some holes in the ground that suggested human visitors. Animals tend to burrow at an angle, plant diggers tend to leave nice round holes going straight down.

On the 17 to 19th March there is a Peyote festival in the area and as the name suggests, this plant looks like a Lophophora and all Turbs contain some of the alkaloids that are used by the members of the native indian Church – so, by having the location so well known, I suggest that it was likely to have been plundered.

The Turb book suggested that we were right in the middle of the plant’s distribution area, so by driving a little distance away from the new tarmac road, we might have more luck. We had an hour or so to spare before we should look for hotels.

We headed back along the main road to the track that we had used to get there, from Cd. Fernandez. On the track, there was a fork in the road. ‘Which way?’  Eunice, driving, asked. ‘Right’ I said, ‘and at the next fork, you decide.’ The track seemed to head back to the main road, so I suggested that we’d pull up and look around for 10 minutes.

I stepped out of the car (S2310) and there, one step away, was T. lophophoroides!!!!!

We looked around for another 30 minutes, but it was the only one we found, no Coryphantha either. Eunice suggests I keep this turb spotting talent a secret, in case people want to rub my head for good luck 🙂

Their habitat is ‘different’ to the usual habitats that we see. Flat lands – grazed, on gypsum soil. It is said to get flooded when it rains in spring and autumn, but dries out quickly. Turb strategy seems to be ‘flower when ever there is water and grow from seedling to mature seed producing plant ASAP, so that the seedlings generated replace their parents who fall victim to grazing animals’ – horses and cows mainly, judging by droppings found, although goats seem to come through as well. A bit like Toumeya papyracantha and Pediocactus in the US.

Although we only found the one specimen today, it’s another tick in the ‘seen in habitat’ box; we seem to have broken the ‘look in alphabetical order’ rule that I thought had been haunting us.

Tomorrow we have an easy day’s drive over back roads via Las Tablas, the Type Locality for T. lophophoroides, so we have time to make a number of short stops to see if we can find more. And there are lots of other goodies reported as well, so we’ll see.

 

 

 

Wednesday, 9 March 2011 – San Luis de La Paz to San Luis Potosi

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED

Turbinicarpus alonsoi, Xichu

 

 

Turbinicarpus alonsoi, Xichu

We entered the State of Guanajuato and it felt as if we had stepped 30 years or more back in history, feeling much more ‘Mexican’ than the modern cities where we had chosen to stay on the way. Yet, we still had wifi!  We had stayed the night in San Luis de La Paz, not the best hotel I’ve ever stayed in, but not the worst either – rooms very small and although we had two twin beds, there was little space between them and the bathroom was titch.

We had been following the exploits of Wim Alsemgeest and Bertus Spee on their Mexico trips (search for http://www.Agaves.nl) who were here at the end of March 2009. We had noted their stops for that day and decided to take a look.

Their first stop had been a field near the hamlet of La Luz, where they had found Ferocactus macrodiscus – and where we failed (S2301). All the fields were now full of cattle being minded by humans. Our attempts at verbal contact did not go down well. These people seemed shy and frightened. We aborted our search and moved on to S2302, a hillside at km 18 on Hwy 110, where we found a similar selection to their reported sights: Ferocactus echidne and F. latispinus, Coryphantha erecta, a number of Mammillaria sp. that Wim has IDed as Mammillaria gigantea, M. compressa, M. uncinatus en M. muehlenpfordtii, Stenocactus sp.  and some huge Agave.

We made an extra, brief stop (S2303) for some scenery pics and found Mammillaria muelenpfordtii here.

Then through the village of Xichu (bless you!) – ET used the same joke on the traffic cop who stopped us on the highway back to SLP and fortunately he saw the funny side. S2304 is for tourist pics of the town and of the road north out of town. Eventually there was a fork in the road  – Wim writes that they took the fourth canyon after the new bridge out of town. That was 2009, several floods and bridge building projects later, things looked different. Which was the new bridge, what did they count as a canyon and which was just a crack in the rock?

We had GPS coordinates from three other sources that suggested that we should cross the river. We stopped at a canyon (S2305) very close to the first coordinates and I decided to walk in – very narrow. ET stayed near the road. I soon hit a ‘dry waterfall’ Go back and give up? Let’s just take a pic of that Mammillaria candida, then another and another – but no turbs. I had allowed myself 30 minutes in and 30 minutes back. But as usual, back (down) takes longer than in (up). Exactly 30 minutes after setting off I saw three T. alonsoi plants at the limit of my 200 mm zoom lens, took their picture and went back. The sun was now behind me rather than in my face and I started to see alonsoi right next to me (we have ‘zoom lens range’, ‘within hand reach’ and ‘within kissing range’ added to cactus photography technical terminology). The canyon was at times so narrow that both elbows scraped along opposite walls at the same time.

Among ET’s associates, the Echeveria from here, E. xichuensis is the rare plant and yes, I found only 2 while once I had reached the point where cactus tourists had stopped collecting, alonsoi was reasonably abundant.

Finding this plant had become a bit of an obsession as we failed to find any Turbs anywhere else on other days. I joked that we were doing it all wrong – we should look for them in alphabetical order – alonsoi first. We had tried to find v – valdezianus first about a week ago and that was obviously the wrong thing to do.

I got back to the road where ET informed me that I might have gone up the ‘wrong’ canyon. As she had walked up the road with the GPS she had found 10 m. farther along another, much wider canyon than the one I had galloped into.

So we explored that as well (S2306) and sure enough we soon found more plants as well as lots of other goodies, but only in ones and twos. like one Mammillaria schiedeana!

And Astrophytum ornatum – they have all looked f*cked and out of range so far. This one would not stay in a UK collection for long, but it was alive. Another A. ornatum turned out to be a Fero covered in mealy bug.

Back at the hotel we downloaded our pics and I found that in the picture of that first Mam. candida, my first T. alonsoi

in habitat was sitting right next to it in the moss! I could have saved myself 30 minutes of collecting scratches and thorns. Still, that’s life

!

Echeveria xichuensis
Echeveria xichuensis

Today’s bonus – Echeveria xichuensis

 

Tuesday, 8 March, 2011 – Ciudad San Luis Potosi to San Luis La Paz

We had expected to reach our ‘farthest away from Bellflower’ goal today, but Eunice had a locations for various Echeveria on another road, to the south east rather than south of the city of San Luis Potosi. After a few wrong turns, we drove past the village of Villa Zaragoza where soon the asphalt changed to ‘graded chalk’. The track was heavily used by trucks – one every couple of minutes – driving to and fro from a quarry belonging to MexChem. Most of the plants were covered by a thick layer of cement like dust, as were we after a while. S2300 was for a number of short stops taken along the track, with many of the plants growing in or on top of the dry stone wall alongside the road and others a few meters from the road. It seemed that one pick up’s driver was quite intimidated by me walking along the road with a Nikon D300 with 200 mm zoom lens at my hip. He seemed a lot more comfortable when I brought the camera up to my eye to take some pictures. It seems that brown trousers are quite fashionable. A Mexican who had watched the whole event came over and asked if we were interested in plants. Yes we are. He gave us lots of tips of where to look in the area – if only we coud have understood more of what he had said. His name was Oscar and if our Spanish is correct, he told us that he has posted pictures on Google Earth.

We probably saw: Agave sp., Cylindropuntia sp., Echeveria agavoides, E. lilacina, E. potosoni, Ferocactus echidne, Mammillaria formosa ssp chionocephala, M. lloydii and two more Mam. sp., Myrtillocactus geomatrizans, Opuntia sp., Pachycereus marginatus, Senecio (Pittocaulon) praecox, a paculiar plant with seemingly woody stems and a yellow inflorescence on top – no sign of leaves, Thelocactus macdowellii (?), Tillandsia recurvata and a tree like Yucca sp..

It was interesting to see how we seemed to be meeting the onset of Spring as it travels north. Yesterday’s Echinocereus in flower was probably the first sign, with the Opuntias seen flowering today and many more shrubs and trees in flower being the other signs. Of course, they may just have had more rain more recently.

San Luis La Paz is one of the larger towns that we have visited that has maintained typically Mexican. That means that the choice of Hotels is somewhat limited. We are staying in Hotel San Luis which at Mex$ 375 for a double room with separate beds was a few pesos cheaper than at Hotel Parras next door (M$ 425). Both have wifi. As you enter the town from Hwy 57, drive past the bus station and enter Calle Rayon in front of you. The hotels are side by side on your right, eventually.

For food, restaurant West was recommended but closed, but Restaurant Las Islas was fine with excellent rib-eye steak.

Monday, 7 March, 2011 – Matehuala to Ciudad San Luis Potosi

We were late leaving Matehualla, due to Eunice not feeling well. A glass of Apple cider vinegar (yuch!!!) put her right again. We decided to make our first stop a localish one to see how things settled down. We were at a location for Turbinicarpus macrochele, but again the Turbs keep eluding us. We did find a dozen or more Lophophora, to prove that our eyes and noses were working. Also found Coryphantha sp, Sclerocactus uncinatus, Echinocereus pentalophus and Agave lechuguilla and probably A. americana. So not a bad spot.

This (S2298) was a JM (John Miller) stop, but again from some 10 years ago; proof that a lot can happen in the mean time. The locality looked identical to that in the Turbinicarpus of SLP book. Normally with a JM stop you can walk to the coordinates in blind faith that the plants are there, fall to your knees to give thanks while taking its picture at the same time. Not here. We had set a time limit – as you can easily spend a week here and not find the plants even if they were there.

As we drove off, we considered what to do next. I was mindful that we were half way through this trip and had not yet gotten to our turn around point. So we agreed to head south along Hwy 57, to San Luis Potosi.

The two Google Earth images show part of our problems that we have had since getting into Mexico. Image 1 shows the 200 km stretch between Matehualla and SLP.

Matehualla to SLP

At an average of 60 mph this was a two-hour journey. Should we make some more stops? Was there anything interesting along the way? Where? The next image, covering the same area, shows the locations that we passed. We could have taken a week to cover the distance and still not have seen the majority of cactus taxa in the database. In addition, Eunice has location data on Agave and Crassulaceae inthe same area – but there was no room on the map to show them! 

Matehualla to SLP

We made one more stop, at Nuñez, using Eunice’s information for an Echeveria.

On the hills on the other side of the highway were a handful of coordinates for Ariocarpus bravoanus. If they were across the road, they would probably be on our side as well. We drove around the small village’s dirt track to find a way up into the hill and in the end met up with some ladies pushing a cart up the track. ‘How do we get to the Camino Blanco?’ we asked, feeling quite chuffed with ourselves, to ask the way in Spanish. We were less prepared for the avalanche of Spanish that came back but understood that we had to drive along the highway (opposite direction, on a dirt track), then turn through a white gate (they caught up with us at the gate and let us through) and into the mountains. The track seemed to go round the hill rather than up it, so some 400m from the coordinates. We parked the car (S2299) and Eunice walked up, while I had a look around nearer the car.

My search produced Echinocereus pectinatus? rigidissimus? some in flower, most in bud; Ferocactus pilosus, some over 2 m. tall and also in bud and flower, lots of Echinocactus platyacanthus – one almost as tall as my 1.92 m (6 ft 4″) frame and at least 4 times my girth – huge. The question of age again went through my mind. There was also a Mammilaria that I’ll need to find a name for.

Then the horrible drive through Ciudad San Luis Potosi (almost 1 million inhabitants) in rush hour! Well done, Eunice! Found accommodation – again very comfortable – at the Holiday Inn Express, on the main road out south. Tomorrow we should reach our final destination – accommodation wise, then try to find Turbinicarpus alonsoi, either tomorrow as well or the day after. Fingers crossed after our (bad) luck so far with Turbs. Can’t grumble on the other cacti front though, as you can see below.

 

 

Sunday, 6 March, 2011 – South of Matehuala

I forgot to mention that yesterday we spotted clouds building up over the mountains and that during the drive home we actually had rain. Just a few drops but with incredibly threatening skies creating some very photogenic scenery. Back in the hotel it poured down, so that this morning, Ruby (our name for our current rent a car) was almost clean. Close inspection indicated that the cement like dust that we had picked up in recent weeks and that was still present in nooks and crannies had set as cement, creating wonderful screechy effects when we opened and closed windows. 

We thought that this was going to be a really easy day. The cactus data imported to Google Earth suggested that south of Matehuala we only needed to step out of the car to trip over Ariocarpus retusus / bravoanus / hintonii etc, together with a range of Turbinicarpi.

We asked our waiter over breakfast if the weather was going to clear up – it was still quite overcast. ‘I hope not, that was the first rain we had for six months! We need a lot more!’ It cleared up, great for our cameras, but it helped to explain why we struggled to find just a dozen or so Ariocarpus at only one of the five stops made today. And it was at the very moment that I suggested that we call it a day and go and get drunk at the hotel, that I found the first of these plants – tiny, only slightly larger than my thumbnail.

Sign posts indicate that the Mexicans regard this area as their altiplano – a high plain between the Sierra Madre Oriental and the Sierra Madre Occidental in the west. So far, I had always associated Ariocarpus with rocky lime stone hills, with the exception of A. kotschoubeyanus that we found last year on flats that during the rainy season turn briefly into marsh land.

Here, the SatNav took us to villages with flat scrubby terrain, divided into agricultural parcels, some freshly ploughed, others waiting to be prepared while still others were left to nature to do its thing. Ruby with its US (New Mexico!) plates and Eunice and I blended in with the natives like Eskimos in the desert!  At one stop, the same car passed by several times, curious to see what was going on. At another, Eunice actually found one tiny A. bravoanus ssp. hintoni, but then felt threatened by three kids in their late teens who had followed her up the hill. Looking at John Miller’s Living Rocks of Mexico website, they visited this area in the autumn of 2000,  now 11 years ago. All plants they saw were in flower and the scenery shots show a lush green landscape. Great, but the way we saw it today is probably the way that the plants look most of the time.

The successful stop was S2297. The SatNav took us to within 750 m of the reported coordinates of the Ariocarpus. Then the track ran out and we continued on foot. The terrain really did not seem conducive to Ariocarpus growing here. The sun was back out in force and the temperature was certainly not conducive to long hikes. Mad dogs and Englishmen …..

One cactus that we encountered more often than we wanted was the stick cholla (is it still Cylindropuntia leptocaulis here?) that insisted on stapling my trousers to my legs when ever I saw it. Even if I thought that I’d be kind and take some ‘for the record’ pictures, I’d back into one of its cousins behind me.

When we reached the coordinates there was not a cactus within 20 yards, certainly not an Ariocarpus. So we switched to instinct and experience. Another 200 m. on the flat terrain gently dropped away giving us a good view of Hwy 57 in the distance. A slight breeze picked up, as is often the case around hillsides. I could hear Juan say: ‘Here is where Thelocephala might grow.’ and I could imagine the Camanchaca crawling up the hill. Of course there was no Ocean near by. There was a narrow band of a slate like stone that had been pushed up vertically – a bit like the Yava cryptacarpa habitat, also a good few hundred km away from an Ocean. I took a picture of a shrivelled up Thelocactus sp. and suggested that we had given it our best shot, when I noticed the Ario – much smaller than I expected and of course with measuring implements safely in the car, so my finger had to do. We looked at this ledge in quite some detail for the next 30 minutes or so and found some 12 tiny plants in total. This ledge extended for quite a distance, we could see a huge white cross on a hill that was the suggested location for an earlier stop, some 20 km away, and I would not be surprised if the plants would occur continuous for all that distance. At the cross Eunice had found one plant before feeling uncomfortable with the attentions from Mexican lads.

Another set of coordinates would now seem to be underneath the foundations of a nice bungalow. That’s progress.

Throughout the day and at all stops (S2293 to S2297) we also saw many large Ferocactus pilosus, in bud or early flower, Echinocactus platyacanthus, Cylindropuntia tunicata, Opuntia sp. Agave lechuguilla, Opuntia and Cylindropuntia sp (several of each) and very dry clumps of what could either be a Thelocactus or Echinocereus – too dry to give a positive ID plus some plants of what I’ve been calling Ferocactus hamatacanthus, but when I saw some in flower, I’m inclined to call them Sclerocactus (Glandulicactus) uncinatus. We saw a total of four large clumps of Mammillaria in excellent shape – could be M. compressa or one of its look-a-likes. In the villages, Pachycereus marginatus was the standard fencing and it was in flower as a bonus!

Tomorrow it’s time to move on, with so many locations on Google Earth still tempting us to stay. As Arnie said: ‘I’ll be back!’