Today was a day of goodbyes. First we had to say goodbye to Sandy who is flew to Lima to catch her flight back to London. She has to teach in Spain in a week’s time, so it’s time to get things ready for the next trip. We have had great weeks together collecting Solanum and talking Solanaceae research with our colleagues in Peru and Argentina. Now the challenge is to continue our field work successfully with just three of us left!
We drove to Cusco to drop Sandy off at the airport. Cusco is a large city in a small valley, and by now the city has spread to the surrounding hills. As we navigated through the old and curvy streets of Cusco to get to the airport, I took a photo of the beautiful scenery over Cusco taken from the northern hills.
We continued our day after sad goodbyes to collect in the surrounding hills of Cusco. It was wonderful collecting in such a historic place – we were basically collecting around old ruins! The whole area of Cusco surroundings is full of ruins, where ever you look. Each stone seems to have a carving or human made shape to it. One large rock that I went around turned out to have stairs carved into it! Here is a great sight of the caves in the ruins of Qenqo with Andrew and Paul.
Amongst these wonderful areas we found a new Salpichroa species we haven’t seen on this trip yet, Salpichroa gayi. Unlike other species of Salpichroa, it has very unusual yellow-purple flowers. The corolla lobes curve very unusually at their tips, which we only spotted once we looked at our close-up photos in the evening!
Another species we collected near Cusco was Solanum probolospermum, the usual suspect. This species is very common all through the department of Cusco west of the Eastern Cordillera. It’s a climbing species that scrambles on top of shrubs and roadside vegetation. It has attractive large purple flowers, and usually softly pubescent leaves. During our collections we have observed that the species varies enormously in habit and leaf shape, as well as corolla colour, shape and size. You might ask if there is nothing it doesn’t vary in… We are asking the same question by now. Despite all this trouble the species is giving us, here is a nice shot of the individuals we found growing in sunny hillside in Cusco. Sandy will be happy to see Paul is learning how to use our wonderful camera increasingly well!
After a nice stroll around Cusco, it was time for second goodbyes. This time we are saying goodbye to the western side of the Andes. We are moving on to our next grand tour – a triangle route to the city of Puno through Puerto Inambari. This trip will take us through the Eastern Cordillera via the highway Interoceanica that goes through Peru all the way to Brazil. The road crosses the Andes at a pass at 4750 m elevation – can’t wait to see the views! After the high pass the road descents to the Amazon basin to 500 m elevation or so. This route will allow us to collect in the humid eastern slopes of the Andes where many interesting species of solanums live. We will take the Interoceanica highway all the way to Puerto Inambari which is way into the Amazon. You can see the pencil pointing to the city on the map above. Here we will turn south-east, where we turn south east towards Puno. The road from Puerto Inambari to Puno will take us over the Andes once again back to the western side.
So goodbyes it was to the western side! We started off on the Interoceanica at four in the afternoon, with km0 saying 4700 km to São Paulo. It’s very tempting to think we could drive to São Paulo for a lovely dinner, sushi perhaps as they have famously good sushi bars there, but perhaps we have to leave that for another day L. No need to be sad for too long though, there will be great plants to see J!
We were aiming to stay the first night of our tour in a city called Ocongate, which is roughly three hours into the highway. The area we passed is full of small Andean villages, where most people speak Quechua, language very different from Spanish or English. Some of the local villages we passed had wonderful names – but we just didn’t know how to pronounce them! To give an example, here is a picture of a road sign to one of the villages:
In case you are still trying to cough the name out, here is how it goes: cc is pronounced with a dry throat sound of “kha”. As there happen to be two double cc in the village name, it becomes a little problematic. Definitely not a word to pronounce whilst eating your dinner! So once you know how to pronounce double c, then it all goes smoothly, or does it?! We are still awake and trying!