Zapatitlan Salinas - The eleventh step ... Mexico City to Cancun via Guatemala & Belize - CycleBlaze

September 12, 2021

Zapatitlan Salinas

Our first challenge this morning was that there was no water, which made using el baño a bit difficult.  So we wandered down to have breakfast and the water eventually came back on.  It seems this hotel, like many, sources its water from better suppliers than the municipality and they were busy pumping water from a truck to refill their own reservoirs.

We hit the road soon after ten knowing that it was a short but very hilly day.  Today's ride gave us about 415 meters of climbing over only 25 kilometers with a few kilometers over ten percent.  Tomorrow that changes to over 570 meters over the same distance so we were careful to take it easy today.  On the outskirts of town was a building with a number of flags painted on its facade.

Flags of nations. Not sure why the South African flag has a pirate looming over it.
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Once we left town the climbing started.  We took it easy and stopped often to admire the countryside and what we had come here for, namely the masses of cacti and other succulents that cover the hillsides in the Tehuacan-Cuicatlan Biosphere Reserve which we were now entering.  My apologies for all the pictures of plants but I was as wound up as a little boy in toy shop.

Tall Yucca with Tehuacan down in the background.
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Agave species
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Agave species
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Two Agave species
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Big Agave species
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In my teens I discovered a small genus of cacti called Mammilaria, of which there are about two hundred species.  Their name is derived from the nipple shaped "leaf buds" from which the thorns emerge (the thorns simply being modified leaves).  My interest in succulent plants stems from that time.

The hills today had various species all over the hillsides.  These were the first wild Mammilaria I have ever seen and forty years ago I would have given an arm and a leg for this experience.

Mammilaria species
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Mammilaria species
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Mammilaria species
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Mammilaria species
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Mammilaria species
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Cacti are native to the Americas with a single epiphytic species (Rhipsalis baccifera) occurring in Africa and Sri Lanka.  One hypothesis is that it was introduced to the Old World by migratory birds, long enough ago for the Old World populations to be regarded as distinct subspecies.   South Africa also has a plague of Opuntia (prickly pear) species that were introduced as stock feed in the nineteenth century but they are invasive and not indigenous so seeing cacti their true habitat is a privilege for me.

Evolution is a wonderful thing and the convergence of external appearance between plants that are genetically far removed from each other is quite intriguing.  Many of the Euphorbias in Africa look very similar to cacti and the Agaves of Central America are similar to the Aloes of Africa.

Convergent evolution is intriguing. This plant is so similar to Euphorbia mauritanica from Africa.
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Opuntia species.
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Large globe shaped cactus.
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These wonderful, tall cacti covered the hillsides.
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Bill ShaneyfeltLooks like probably el gigante.

http://www.llifle.com/Encyclopedia/CACTI/Family/Cactaceae/6390/Neobuxbaumia_mezcalaensis
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1 month ago
Jean-Marc StrydomTo Bill ShaneyfeltThanks Bill !
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1 month ago
Bill ShaneyfeltLooks like the paste failed to apply the full site... It still gets you there, just failed to paste all the scientific name from the url.

/Neobuxbaumia_mezcalaensis
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1 month ago
Size comparison.
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It wasn't just the succulents that got my attention. There were also a number of delicately flowering plants, usually thorny shrubs.
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Bill ShaneyfeltFrom what I can find, this might be velvetpod mimosa.

https://swbiodiversity.org/seinet/taxa/index.php?taxon=1452
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1 month ago
Jean-Marc StrydomMatches what I saw 100%. Thank you.
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Much of the environment here has been destroyed by mining for marble and onyx and the little village of San Antonio Texcala, at the halfway mark of today's ride, is full of shops selling carvings from these stones.  There is also a salt works in the village as well as an ancient one a few kilometers down the road.  The salt is apparently ancient having been laid down about fifty million years ago.

Marble and onyx carvings for sale in San Antonio Texcala.
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Love the guitars.
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Ancient salinas - in use for about 2000 years.
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We had hoped to camp at the Botanical Gardens outside Zapatitlan Salinas but we knew in advance that it was closed due to the pandemic.  Just after the gardens we spied a barbacoa where meat is grilled on an open fire (the origin of the western term BBQ - what we would call a braaivleis or braai in South Africa).  Not knowing what food might be available in Zapatitlan Salinas we stopped and enjoyed an enormous lunch of BBQ'd chicken with all the standard accompaniments.

The gates to the botanical gardens.
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Our lunch awaits us.
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Once in the town we headed for the Hotel Carvalio of which we had read good reports.  The road up the hill took us past a simple baseball field with a very serious game on the go.  I love these country sports events because they are such a strong part of rural culture.

El partido de beisbol.
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When we got to the hotel it was closed.  I wandered around trying to find someone to help us but not worrying too much because we have all our camping gear with us.  Eventually I spoke with a family who told me about the Hotel San Martin lower down in the village which is open.

It turned out to be good luck that the Hotel Carvalio was closed (it looked like a real dive) because the Hotel San Martin is wonderful and far exceeds what we expected to find in a small village like this.

The road from Tehuacan to here was quite busy with lots of cyclists initially and even more motor cyclists enjoying the winding road and hills for the Sunday run.  There were also a lot of day trippers in cars and buses.  Tomorrow we head back over the hills to Tehuacan.  Hopefully the road will be quieter then.

Today's ride: 25 km (16 miles)
Total: 383 km (238 miles)

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Rich FrasierWhat a great mini-lecture on succulents! Thanks for sharing your passion with us!
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1 month ago