Adventures in Mexico part VIII
6th November 2016
On the road by 7:30 as nowhere to breakfast in town was immediately apparent. The plan was to head down the highway for around 10km then take a small road into the mountains to see what we could see. Conveniently, at our turnoff was a small comdedor offering chicken filled fried corn dough fritter-type things. They were tasty enough but the lumps were not recognisable as anything I’d seen in a chicken before. The owner’s son arrived whilst these were cooking at relished the chance to practice his English, having lived in the USA for some months a short while ago.
Anyway, we resumed but after a short distance our ‘mountain road’ pretty much went steadily downwards and the vegetation increasingly subtropical. We stopped to walk along a track but found it to be fenced off fairly comprehensively. I wandered into a non-fenced bit to have a look at an unfamiliar spiky plant – was it a Furcraea or, more likely, a giant bromeliad? It certainly resembled a Greigia I have at home. Some bookwork when I returned home suggests it is a Bromelia sp. although without seeing flowers it isn’t easy to say which. There was also a nice large shrub with long leathery leaves. No idea what it could be.
We pressed on for another hour or more without seeing anything particularly interesting but with the promise of gaining altitude ahead. Then on a straight bit of road we could see a group of men who appeared to have strung a rope across the road. We slowed down and got a bit nearer and – yes – they had strung a rope across the road. And they had rifles. And machetes. We stopped, they waved us forward. Decision – forward or backwards quickly? Forwards seemed our only option so we slowly drove to them. And that moment as we approached the men with guns in the middle of nowhere is undoubtedly the most tense situation I have ever found myself in. I used to be a policeman once upon a time and had a few tense moments before, but nothing like this.
Having got much nearer they could see us and we could see them and I would say at that point everything went from red alert to amber. We were evidently not who they feared we might be and they were not menacing, as such – if anything they seemed every bit as nervous as we were. Well, maybe not quite as nervous.
‘No passar’ said the spokesman. I tried to explain in my limited Spanish that we were just English tourists, he nodded and said again ‘no passar’. Fine with us, we turned around and left. Whatever was going on further along the road they didn’t want us to find out, nor did we want to.
I’d say we were surprisingly calm at the time. It is only afterwards when a lot of other possible scenarios start playing out in my mind that I think how scary it really was.
So 2 or so hours driving straight back to the main road. It was still only early afternoon and there was certainly nothing to do in Putla. Keeping to the main roads seemed like a good idea so we decided to drive up the main road to where we had stopped the day before. I poked the camera out of the window to take a picture of this yucca – it is one I have seen before and it seems quite commonly cultivated in southern Mexico. I am fairly sure it is undescribed. It resembles a slim Yucca elephantipes (I should call that Yucca gigantea but can’t get used to it!) but – importantly -with a pendulous inflorescence.
We stopped at a bend in the road and, when admiring a waterfall cascading down the cliff off in the distance I noticed it was studded with plants. Looked like agaves but it was a long way off. Phil has some good binoculars and, yes, through those there were clearly agaves all over the cliff face. Two different types. Plus the Furcraea guerrerensis. My money was on Agave ellemeetiana ssp subdenudata and Agave kavandivii. The very grainy and out of focus picture below kind of backs that up.
We stopped at anther bend in the road a few km further on to look at this lovely Oreopanax in full flower at the mouth of the canyon, then followed a trail for a short distance. I have to say my heart wasn’t in it.
Saw this very interesting plant. Something Araliaceae, perhaps, but what exactly I have no idea. Lovely leaf.
Also this lovely dahlia at the mouth of the track but we decided to give it up and return to Putla.
Back to restaurant Titos for dinner. I had ‘carne Chihuahua’ which was similar to what I had the night before except it came with rice, not a potato, and had more meat but no prawn. If anything it was nicer – the rice kind of caramelised into the sizzler and was just full of the most amazing flavours.
An interesting day!