24th March – Night in the mountains
The night was cold in the car. Time passed slowly. At five thirty, suns first rays become visible, and by six the rays warmed us enough through the glass to tempt us out of Freddy.
By 7 am we had set up our field office. We started with our fruits first, as there were lots of them to do:
Then we prepared all the specimens we had collected before yesterday’s accident, ready to be dried under our gas fire. Once that was done, we continued with the seeds. Sandy has a clever technique for drying seeds: you squeez fruits onto newspaper, then fold the newspaper and let the seeds dry onto the newspaper naturally in air over a few nights before bagging them into proper envelopes for long term storage.
By 9 am we were back at the fruits, there were still few to be done.
Then we started to clean the car, and to re-organise our things. Whilst clearing our things, we realised we could ring Paul to ask how things were. We were so excited about this! We took our british mobile, charged it with my laptop which had nearly full charge, and rang Paul. He gave us great news: he had two tires with him, one new and one fixed, and he was on his way to us!
By 12 am we had eaten our lunch, and had nothing left to do except play with stones.
By 2.40 pm we saw a bus – this was it! Paul was on it!!! Happy re-union, and before too long, Freddy had new shoes!
That night we were happy to be in a hotel, sleeping in nice beds, and eating lovely food in Arequipa. Ahhhh.
25th March – One man down
Paul has been conquered by bacteria – he has tonsillitis!! Lucky that we are in a big city with great doctors. Paul is now resting and all is well. We are feeling bad that all this drama with the tyres might have caused him to fall ill …
26th March – Herbarium visit
Arequipa is big – it’s one of the biggest cities in Peru. There is a great university, with a great local herbarium. Paul and I had planned a visit, and despite Paul’s poor health, he demanded to come along to the herbarium today with me.
Going to a new herbarium feels like opening a treasure chest: what will the folders contain? Will there be something weird but wondeful, perhaps some potential new species hiding away? Here we are looking:
Indeed we found something curious – a specimen similar of the tiniest of all solanums, Solanum chamaesarachidium, which we had seen earlier in our trip in Puno as well as in Argentina. But it wasn’t quite the same, there was something different – different leaf shape, larger calyces where lobes are more fused, and larger inflorescences with longer pedicels and peduncles. The specimen was without flowers though, leaving more to the imagination!
We decided that the next day we would go and see if we could hunt it down – locality: on the way to Canyon de Colca from Chivay!
27th March – Hunting for the rare one
We were so hopeful yesterday! The trip to Canyon de Colca was a long one, and by the time we got to our destination, we had only little time to explore the area by foot. Temptation took over, and we spent until 5pm walking around the hills, trying to find a minute species of Solanum hiding behind rocks and shrubs.
We found other stuff, like my favorite Solanum excisirhombeum, the usual suspect in high elevations:
In the lower elevations, in dry sand dunes, we collected Exodeconus, genus of Solanaceae that is adapted to extremely dry conditions:
See how the anthers are light blue, just poking out from the flower in the above picture, and more clearly visible in the lower one:
But we did not find the rare specimen we had seen in the herbarium yesterday. What was most fustrating was that the specimen came with exact latitude and longitude position, and with the help of our GPS, we should have been able to find it! But it turned out that the position given on the label was 5 km from the road, and we did not have time to walk that far. It was difficult turning back…
28th March – Sea, finally!!
This morning it was time to head home – it has been 27 days traveling through the south of Peru now, and we are all missing our families and friends. It feels good to look back. We have found great things, many which require more work in the herbarium to figure out if they are perhaps something new.
We have also done some silly mistakes from which we have learnt a lot. The big tour we did after leaving Sandy in Cusco was not, afterall, all that exciting. The road did not pass great Solanum habitats, and hence, we did not collect as much as we expected. With hindsight, we should have taken another road. But then again, if we would have done that, we would not have found the isolated population of the white flowered Solanum chamaesarachidium near Marcapata!
When we saw the sea this afternoon around 3pm, it was a great moment. The Panamerican highway descents from Arequipa slowly to the coast at Camana – what a view. We have made it to over so many mountain passes, it felt that seeing the sea symbolised safe homecoming.