Adventures in Mexico pt III

Sunday 21st January

An interesting day lay ahead.  Our aim was to visit the type location for Yucca queretaroensis, that most special of yuccas, and see what we could see.  We left Jalpan after a decent breakfast and headed a few km south to Pinal de Amoles and from there to a small town named Bucareli.  On the way we saw a cliff face packed with Agave mitis  (syn Agave celsii)

 

Turning off at Pinal de Amoles we headed down an extremely bumpy dirt road with ruts and rocks everywhere.  Extremely uncomfortable in the back of the jeep.  We passed a sign that said Bucareli was 23km ahead - I had no idea it was that far!  So we ploughed on, passing by some extremely interesting dasylirions but not wishing to invest the time to explore them.  Bookwork back home suggests they would have been Dasylirion glaucophyllum,  but these were superb examples some with trunks up to 1.5m or so.  Anyway, on we went, passing into steep sided valleys studded with yuccas.

Finally we reached Bucareli, with the old mission church (pictured below) making something of a statement in the arid environment.

But which was the correct road out of town, and to the yuccas?  Toby asked some nearby locals who, amazingly, knew the plant under it's local name 'estoquillo' and pointed us in the right way.  'Take the road to Queretaro, along the river' is what Toby thought they said.  'Road' and 'River' are not words usually used together when driving back home in Benfleet, so I didn't really understand what was going to happen.  However, it soon became apparent.

Below - standing in the river.  Nice T-shirts, eh?

 

Well, we wound our way in, through and around the Rio Estorax (but don't tell the jeep hire people) surrounded on all sides by towering rock faces.  What a totally awesome experience.  Each time we passed by a canyon, we scoured the sides for a glimpse of the yucca.  Then, one time, we saw it.  A few hundred metres away on an almost sheer sided canyon - too far to photograph and too dangerous to investigate.  But we saw them!  Buoyed by this we carried on, but were to have no further sightings.  We needed to come to a decision: turn back or carry on.  I think most of us wanted to go back, though my kidneys weren't looking forward to another pummelling on that dirt road.  Neil was firmly in favour of carrying on and finally persuaded us to keep going.  After all, this was the road to Queretaro.  So we did, stoppi9ng here and there to photograph some cacti and generally soak in the scenery.

Below: probably Ferocactus glaucescens 

Below: a different bromeliad to the ubiquitous hechtia we had seen everywhere else.  No definite ideas, but resembles dyckia more than hechtia, maybe.

Below: another cute cactus, no idea which.

Below: Agave xylonacantha.

Below: a huge towering organ pipe cactus - not sure which species this is but it is mightily impressive

Eventually, after maybe 30km of splashing our way along the Rio Estorax basin, we found dry land and a paved road and turned towards Zimapan, our next stop.  Just beyond the Zimapan turnoff there is a small town called Cadereyta where, according to the guide book, there was a botanical garden and cactus collection.  So we went and, sure enough, there were both.  Below is a pic of the cactus garden - a cute and quirky little place.  The botanical garden was a gem.  Unfortunately I left my camera in the jeep, so didn't get to take pictures.

Reached Zimapan as it was getting dark.  The hotel I had in mind, where I had stayed the year before, was full.  The other hotel right in town wasn't and, once we had a look at the rooms, you could understand why.  So we headed for a place just on the approach to town.  Cheap enough - but no restaurant at the hotel or, according to the hotel owner, in town.  We headed in on foot regardless, and found a bustling taco stall in the market.  It looked clean enough and we were all pretty hungry so decided to risk it.  Probably one of the nicest, freshest meals of the trip and only about 2.50 for all of us.

 

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