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Archive for the ‘2016 Baja California’ Category

Monday 7 March 2016 – CD Constitucion to La Ventana

Just another brief stop gap entry:

We have arrived safely south of Las Paz, where tomorrow we pick up Eunice as she flies in from California Alto. We have booked the boat trip to Isla Cerralvoa – our skipper took a group of German Cactophiles there last week and they were very happy!

Yet another planning meeting

Yet another planning meeting (Image JYC)

Saturday 5 March 2016 – Loreto to Ciudad Constitucion

We opened the curtains of our room at the Desert Inn at Loreto early in the morning and watched another beautiful sunrise, framed by palm trees as a little dot on the horizon became a huge cruise liner. It dropped anchor as close to the shore as it dared. What was that scraping noise? Must have been the noise of the chain as the anchors went down. (S3407).

Around 11 a.m. we could all do with a leg stretch (S3408) and although we failed to spot Feros from the car at 100 kph, they soon appeared in their ones and twos once we walked into the desert. According to the distribution map in Nigel Taylor’s 1984 Bradleya article, we were now in Ferocactus peninsulae subspecies townsendianus country. While the books claim that this taxon is in the group that has hollow fruits from which the seeds escape through a pore created when the ripe fruit drops off the plant, the plant that we examined had a fruit that came off the plant easily but did not (yet?) have the pore and contained its seed in a very juicy mucilage. You just can’t trust cacti to read the books and live up to their descriptions!

We headed north at Ciudad Insurgentes and stopped at a small roadside chapel that are so common in Latin America. This one was a bit more sinister, judging by the art work:

Have a nice Day

Have a nice day!

We carried on to Puerto Adolpho Lopez Mateos, which people had recommended to us for a whale watching trip. We had planned to do this from San Ignacio but with all the upheaval with the fire there we had resigned ourselves to do this on the way home. As the opportunity was there and the price was right – a whole boat for the three of us without all the waiting, we jumped at the chance. The boat ride made a nice change after the hours spent in the car but the number of whales spotted was rather low. I guess that we’ve been spoilt by previous trips. Jonathan however was very pleased.



Friday 4 March 2016 – Santa Rosalia to Loreto

Apologies to regular readers for the break in communications. Yes, we are way ahead of schedule! Last night we were to have stayed in Guerrero Negro, but crossed into Baja California Sur so early that we decided to move on to San Ignacio, our next planned stop, especially as I had counted on gaining an hour by crossing into BC Sur. WRONG. You LOOSE an hour! As a result it became clear that we’d best make our planned side trip into the Sierra San Francisco in a few days time, on the way back north. You never can tell if there is space at the Hotel / Mission San Ignacio / Desert Inn, what ever they are called this year. I one or more tour busses are booked, then it is usually a tight squeeze, or a case of ‘no room at the inn’.

As we approached the usual security check point before the turning into town, there was a strong smell of smoke in the air. As we cleared the check point – all very relaxed and ‘have a nice day’ stuff, and turned around the bend in MEX 1, the cause of the fire became clear. As long as I have been to San Ignacio (since 2008) there is a large, dense, stand of palm trees. One year, Eunice and I even stayed in pre-erected tents between the palm trees! This time, they were on fire! It seems that by the time we arrived, it had been burning for a while, with the fire having jumped three different ways, each burning intensively. If we could get through, we get to the Mision San Ignacio hotel, but there was a huge bus blocking the way.  And there sirens all around us as fire brigade, ambulances and police drove past us. The smoke got very thick and there were glowing embers raining down on the car. A policeman pointed us to turn round and go back. There was quite an audience as we left town, all rubber necking. We had about an hour of daylight left and the nearest town was Santa Rosalia, 72 km up the road in the right direction  – there should be spare hotel beds there if we could get there before these rubber-neckers realised that they could not get through. We made it as the last day light went and stopped at the first hotel sign we saw. Full. Second hotel – no problem. Hotel del Real was perhaps not a natural first choice hotel and despite claims that they had wifi throughout, there was no evidence of it in the room. Hence no Diaries.

The previous night in Hotel Costa del Sol in Bahia de Los Angeles, things looked promising until a group of some 14 Swiss guests switched their computers and phones on. I guess the band was not broad enough, just like the night before that at Catavina where we were lucky to squeeze into the Mision Catavina Hotel before a tour busses arrived with their passengers bringing the wifi down.

In general terms, the three of us are having a great time, it’s hot (around 30 C) and sunny, the cacti abound and some are even in flower, while others will be on the way back. In 1983, Jonathan collaborated with Nigel Taylor for his final year’s degree project on a study of Ferocactus, with his contribution being the study of their seed. He has Feros in his collection and in the field so far was only familiar with F. viridescens at Torrey Pines, north of San Diego and F. cylindraceus at the Joshua Tree NM, so we made many stops this time to resolve many of the Ferocactus sp. stops from previous trips. Most Feros are roughly the same size as Copiapoa in Chile so Angie is enjoying the challenge of being the first to find them as they hide between the other cactus vegetation.

I’ll try to catch up with the backlog of diaries in days to come.

Wednesday 2 March – Catavina to Bahia de Los Angeles

We waited until we heard the tour party departing so that the coast was clear for us to enjoy breakfast. We were served by the guy who last night made us the excellent margaritas – breakfast was good too.

I took some more pictures of the scenery around the Mision Catavina hotel (S3392) and then stopped (S3393) as more Feros were spotted along MEX1 – time for a leg stretch. These were yellow flowered and although flower colour is said to be an unreliable means of IDing cacti, together with the weirdly twisting spines, we concluded that this was F. cylindraceus subsp. tortiluspinus. Echinocereus engelmannii was in bud, so should be in full flower by the time we pass by again on the way back. The small globular Mammillaria were without flower or fruits so for now were given the name M. dioica.

Just before the crossroads to Punta Prieta was the turn to San Felipe. There was a lot of road building activity around here so that it looks like in years to come, there will be a good paved road to San Felipe on the east coast of northern Baja. We followed the road for a mile or two until the Feros appeared alongside. Jonathan keyed these out to be ‘Ferocactus gracilis subspecies gracilis, with a hint of F. peninsularis’ – you need long labels for these plants! No flowers, no fruits but attractive broad spines (S3394).

S3395 was along the road to Bahia de Los Angeles and although I recall seeing F. gracilis here before, the Feros were in hiding today.

S3396 was the Ooh Ahh view overlooking the Bay of Bahia the Los Angeles, always spectacular. We stayed in Hotel Costa del Sol as usual. Great sunrise the next morning!


Monday 29 February 2016 – Ensenada to San Quintin

As last night we had crashed into bed exhausted at only 21:10, it was not surprising that we were awake early around 6 a.m. and so managed to get Saturday and Sunday’s missives out.  We had breakfast in a glass box in front of the hotel, right on the sidewalk, with people rushing to work passing by. Makes a change from breakfast television!

In the past we would have raced from San Diego to San Quintin for our first Baja day – quite a stretch. But starting from Ensenada it was a nice leisurely drive along MEX1. Things seemed very lush and green with lots of yellow and orange wild flowers along the side of the road and up the hills. I had expected to spot some Ferocactus viridescens from the car as an excuse for a stop. They are not the most exciting taxon in the genus, but, as a completist, they are a must for a stop. But they tend to be closer to the ground then the lush vegetation, so not spotted from the car. Never mind, there is always the way back in some three weeks time.

And so we arrived in the San Quintin area, where SatNav warned us that we should turn west towards the group of long extinguished volcanoes where Dudley anthonyi grows in a very photographic setting of an old lava flow overlooking a marshy coast line. The lava rock is covered in lichen that are worth the visit in their own right and the Dudleya sit proudly on top: dark trunks about the diameter of my arm, covered in the remains of the old leaves, with a large rosette of white farina covered leaves on top. Friends in the UK who are qualified BCSS judges have told me that in cultivation you should tidy the plant by removing the old leaves. If I catch anyone doing that here I’ll report them to the Dudleya anthonyi Protection Society!

Dudleya anthonyi

Dudleya cultrata (?) was here as well, but this is a green leaved plant which blends in with the other vegetation and only calls your attention by its yellow buds.  Also found: numerous clumps of Echinocereus maritimus just coming into growth and flower, a Mammillaria that I assume to be M. dioica as there were no flowers or fruits to aid ID. And we did get our picture of Ferocactus viridescens, although Jonathan wonders if it might be F. fordii.

I also took many images of the field flowers. I should have remembered their names from previous post trip investigations, searching the internet and the various flora of Baja guides and books. As to the lichen, they are way outside my scope. There must have been at least a dozen taxa here I guess.

We stayed at Hotel Mision Santa Maria just south of San Quintin. This was the hotel that Alain and I failed to find in 2008, when in the dark, we drove into wet sand that had been dumped on the track to deal with a minor flood. Our Nissan Altima became firmly stuck in the sand but we were rescued by a group of Mexicans returning from a day’s fishing on the nearby beaches.  It is not the easiest of hotels to find, but well worth the effort as it is comfortable and reasonably priced with excellent food.

Tomorrow we head into the Catavina Boulder Fields!

Sunday 28 February 2016 – LA to Ensenada

Eunice had arranged accommodation for us at the Motel 6 in Westminster, CA, clean, safe and convenient. We had agreed to meet up at the Westminster Café, a nice change from the usual Denny’s, although I did have to get used to the large menu which was in a different order. The house number above the door was 6260, which I assumed was the minimum entry age to this diner, so that Angie and Eunice were under age! Dodging zimmer frames and walking sticks we enjoyed a nice breakfast and sticking to our usual up at 7, breakfast at 8, on the road by 9 routine, left right on time.

Off to San Diego to pick Jonathan up from his Hotel and start the treasure hunt to find the new location of Dollar Rent A Car. Another nightmare. I explained last night’s adventures at LAX to Maria who promised to sort us out. Yes, there were 5 full size SUVs in stock, just take your pick. We selected a white Dodge Journey with California plates. Then the shock! Some 2-3 weeks ago there had been a merger between Dollar, Thrifty and Hertz. Mexico Insurance, if granted by the insurer was now US$ 48 per day. I checked: did you say Hertz or HURTS? Still, too late to change plans now, so bite the bullet and again after more than an hour of hustling, we were off.

At the border crossing we were amazed that we were the only customers at the Mexican Tourist Visa offices. How could that be, with six lanes of cars streaming in? The officials shrugged their shoulders – as did we – no queues!

We found our way onto MEX1D straight away and made the usual detour onto MEX1 Libre as soon as we spotted Dudleya brittonia in green and white growing on the road cutting. The white plants must have had some rain, as the white farina had not yet fully formed. Also seen and photographed: Ferocactus viridescens, Mammillaria dioica (in flower) and Bergerocactus emoryi. Agave shawii was here as well but I failed to find a plant nice enough to photograph. Many more opportunities in days to come!

In Ensenada I managed to find Hotel Cortez where we had stayed last time, in 2014. A stroll along the shops, where I nearly bought a pair of python skin cowboy style boots, until common sense struck. May be on the way home!

Tomorrow we head for San Quintin.