Adventures in Mexico pt III

Tuesday 16th January

Another early start, breakfast at 7am.  Tuesday was market day in Galeana and, despite being dark still, everyone was bustling.  Children from a local marching band were in the same restaurant having breakfast with us, disturbing our usual peaceful entry into the day.

The weather was not kind to us, however, and a thick grey mist all but cloaked visibility further than immediately around the jeep.  The aim for the day was to visit the type location for Yucca linearifolia which the books state is conveniently situated on the road between Galeana and Rayones.  What the books don't say is that the road between Galeana and Rayones is largely a bumpy dirt track and, in the thick mist, spotting anything smaller than an elephant would be rather tricky.  To confirm this awful road was in fact the main route, Toby asked a couple of nearby elderly Mexican pedestrians if we were on the road to Rayones.  Both, in unison as though rehearsed, did an extravagant 'ZZ Top'-esque sweep of their arms to point out the road ahead.  Maybe those Lone Star State rockers had been here before us?

We reached the exact location specified in the book and wandered around the area for a while but, frankly, it was a waste of time.  Visibility was really limited and there may well have been hundreds of yuccas lining the canyon sides for all we would have know.  Or even that elephant.  yet, by complete chance, I wound down my window as we bumped our way a km or so further long and suddenly caught a glimpse of blue at the mouth of a canyon just behind us - and there it was, Yucca linearifolia.  And what a majestic plant it is too.

The canyon led slightly uphill from the roadside with this one magnificent specimen guarding the entrance so, after a few piccies, carried on to explore.  The canyon was very narrow, with pretty steep sides, and we saw many more of these beautiful yuccas.  Perhaps unexpectedly, they were on the shady side of the slopes, and in the moister, lower part.  Mixed in were ferns and the 'resurrection plant' selaginella, looking verdant in the damp conditions.  Not classic yucca territory yet here they were, growing in perfection.

The drier, sunnier (well, when it wasn't misty...) and slightly higher slopes were populated by a rather magnificent dasylirion.  Big rosettes, maybe 1.8m across, of drooping leaves that were a gorgeous powdery blue colour that seemed to shine out of the mist.  I was uncertain of the species: Dasylirion berlandieri is noted to be the only one coming from here, but these were nicer than any berlandieri that I had seen before (it is usually a scruffy fairly unimpressive species).  Further reading on our return confirmed them to be so - the attractive end of the scale of what is a variable species. 

Below: more Yucca linearifolia - the last we looked at before turning back.

The mist turned to drizzle and, getting wet, we headed back to the jeep.  Each of us with huge smiles, harbouring memories of our encounter with a very special plant.  We carried on, passing more mist-engulfed Yucca filifera and with visibility decreasing with each mile.  

We drove along what must have been the most spectacularly scenic mountain road, had we only been able to see the view, through a mountain range linking Rayones with the road to Linares.  But all we saw was the immediate roadside vegetation that was, surreally, encased in ice - a true freezing fog.  Gradually we descended from the mountain road, the fog and drizzle clearing, and headed on for a three hour drive to our next overnight stop - El Hotel Hacienda Santa Engracia.

I had been here twice before and previously enjoyed the sense of history this 300 yr old hacienda oozes from every stone.  Yet this time it seemed a little jaded.  Welcoming fires were lit on our rooms, yet Neil and I had to evacuate ours, leaving doors and windows open to let out the smoke (and the heat with it)!  Most of the full time staff went home leaving a 17yr old in charge of our every need.  Not his fault, but service was less than satisfactory, the food was not fresh and barely adequately re-heated.  We asked for a tequila to finish off our meal.  'I am sorry but you can't have any'.  'Why not - you have it in the bar, I've seen it?'  'I don't know how much they are'... We managed ... in the end...


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