Dave Looks for Plants

Journal of a plant explorer

Archive for February 16th, 2015

The longest day

Monday, February 16th, 2015

The next morning we began the long and difficult drive to Zumba.  As mentioned before, there is a good concrete road now between Vilcabamba and a bit south of Palanda, with only short stretches of muddy areas where the new road has not yet been completed.  For some reason, in Ecuador they seem to jump around and complete little sections here and there instead of starting at one end and working forward from there.  South of Palanda and most of the way to Zumba, the road is but a muddy trail made worse by the construction which closes the road completely for hours at a time.  We got about 5 km south of Palanda before we came to a 1 1/2 hour closing just before a narrow temporary bridge across a quebrada.  Marco and son took advantage of the delay, finding an interesting orchid on a dead tree trunk hanging over the quebrada.  I was sure one of them would be wet before they finally retrieved it.



Soon we were on our way again.  In some places the road was not too bad but in other places the mud was so deep and slippery, that Marco’s 4-wheel-drive Chevy Luv diesel truck would start sliding sideways and fishtailing close to the precipitous edge of the road.  Fortunately Marco is an excellent driver and we made it through.


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We also got delayed by a mudslide along part of the road that had enveloped a large bus which needed to be towed out.


Eventually we made it to Zumba and it was time for lunch, so Marco Jr. went to scout out a good restaurant, then came back soaking wet. This was the next to the last day of “Carnivál” and the custom in this part of Ecuador is to throw water on passers by. So Marco had been “carnivaled”. We saw a lot more of that the next day, during the entire drive back to Loja. There were people along the road just waiting with a bucket or more of water to throw into any open car window that passed by.  I got soaked when I was not quick enough to roll up the window.  More about this custom can be found HERE and other places.   Just do a Google search on carnival, ecuador.

After lunch we drove the long narrow road up into the mountains to the west to San Andrés on the Rio Isimanche.  The only Costus we saw was the same Costus aff. claviger forms we had seen the day  before.    We did see a few interesting Heliconias and Marco and son spotted an orchid high in a tree along the river.  It was something special they needed to photograph so I watched this great father and son team at work.  They use a blue background for their closeups.


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By the time we got back to Zumba (photo below) it was getting dark but Marco was willing to drive it so we decided after dinner to make the long, difficult drive back to Palanda the same night. The car was getting low on diesel but when we went to the only gas station in town, it was not open, or at least not selling. Marco explained to me that the prices in Ecuador (about $2 per gallon or less) are so much lower than Peru that they enforce controls to ensure that it is not bootlegged across the nearby border. So we continued on with Marco not seeming at all concerned about the low tank.



It was about 9:30 PM when we finally pulled in to Palanda and stayed the night at the same hotel as the night before. Although we did not find any additional Costus that long day, I was well satisfied because we had explored a large part of the Mayo Chinchipe and had learned that there are only the two species there – both of them rather uncommon – and none of the more common ones like Costus scaber that I am accustomed to seeing nearly everywhere.