South American Diary

(page 2)

Saturday 20th December...

Up at 8am for a light breakfast. Brad had met some locals who said they would collect and clean as many Parajubaea seeds for us as we wanted. The seeds are extremely difficult to clean. The fruits are large; almost the size of a golf ball, and the flesh is very hard and fibrous. It has to be cut off with a knife. We thought their offer price of 10c US per seed was good. We asked for a couple of thousand seeds. All this negotiation took a long time but eventually we set off, driving east, direction of Baeza. Once of out town there is much to see botanically speaking; Brad and Jacques wanted to stop every minute again. We didn't see much in the way of palms, but at least they were happy, and collected dozens of specimens of leaves, flowers and seeds. Began to see lots of tree ferns, species unknown, as we climbed higher and higher. Got up to 3500m altitude, then began to descend. Passed through lots of small towns none of which had much to offer, though at midday we stopped for a local meal, a sort of mixed platter of fried eggs, chips, grilled beef, rice, fried banana, avocado, chopped carrots and peas with mayonnaise. A bit of everything really, but everyone in the place was eating the same, so I guess it was a specialité de la maison. We sped on again, stopping every so often to look at plants. Eventually we came to Papallacta where there are hot springs. The stream by the side of the road was steaming and actually quite hot! Stayed here for a while, there were swimming pools and showers, all heated free. Then off again, and the scenery started to get quite spectacular, with deep, deep gorges, sheer rock faces and rushing waterfalls. Every so often on these mountain roads there is a cross or several crosses with names indicating where someone had driven over the edge, sometimes perhaps an entire family. Saw a few more palms but many more tree ferns. Arrived at Baeza at around 6pm. It's a tiny town, more a collection of houses really, but we managed to find a 'hotel' if it could be called such. Rather primitive, with no hot water, but comfortable enough. Feels very 'South American' - even has a tame parrot on the veranda. Found a small 'restaurant' but no beer so washed down fish & chips with rum 'n' coke. Home from home! Retired quite early and slept well in spite of the torrential rain on the corrugated tin roof. No mosquitoes.

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