After breakfast at CIP Bruce, Roger and I met with our host Merideth Bonierbale to talk more about future collaborations including a possible proposal to the new BREAD program at NSF. I really like the idea of bending our research toward a practical application. We are thinking about overcoming barriers to crossing of crop plants (tomato and potato) with some of the incredibly drought-resistant wild species in Solanum; specifically S. pennellii and S. sitiens. We left Lima around 11 AM and arrived around 4 PM in Barranca (too late for a foray up the Pativilca River). We looked at the Lonely Planet recommended hotel downtown but decided to explore the waterfront instead and found a nice hotel (Casablanca) for 40 soles/night ($13) right across from the beach. Gloria, Roger, Paul and Reynaldo all went swimming and got totally thrashed in the waves. I had my first tacu tacu for dinner (a molded rice dish, in my case with seafood) and early to bed. Up at 7 to head north, we stopped brifly at the enormous Chimu (older culture than Inca) fort called Paramonga. After heading up the Rio Pativilca, we were disappointed to find out from a local farmer that agriculture (sugar cane specifically) had wiped out all of the wild tomatoes in the region. We have also noted that there do not seem to be any wild tomatoes at elevations below 1000m, which is very bad because that is the range of S. pimpinellifolium, a wild tomato relative with many beneficial traits that can be easily crossed with domesticated tomato. This is a terrible loss of genetic resources that could be critical for the future of tomato. Back in the van we settled in for the long drive to Trujillo, a lovely city with many beautiful colonial buildings. After checking in at our most expensive and classiest hotel of the trip (El Conquistador, $60/night) we met Roger’s former student Pedro for dinner, again fabulous traditional Peruvian food. In the morning we took off early for the road to Cajamarca along the Rio Jequetepeque (try saying that ten times fast). The road is called “Highway 8” but this is clearly some kind of bad joke. It is mostly gravel but is even worse when it pretends to be paved—drivers on both sides are constantly swerving frantically on both sides of the road to avoid huge potholes. We visited two sites on the drive to Cajamarca. The first was in the town of Tembladera, one of the prettiest and cleanest towns we saw on the entire trip. There were nice populations of S. pimpinellifolium right in town. After a picnic in the plaza we headed out of town to look for the sympatric species S. arcanum and found some populations a couple of kilometers down the “road” along with more pimpinellifolium. The next site was past the town of Chilente at the red Puente Muyano. We found plentiful pimpinellifolium and also its paired sympatric species S. arcanum, including a plant that looked exactly like the one found in 1980, growing out of a rock cliff. Again, a great day.
After this we started the steep climb up to the Abra Galivan pass at 3080m. On the way a thick fog settled in and my tranquilizer hat was much needed. Often we met convoys of large trucks on the narrow road, most of them associated with the gold mine near Cajamarca. After some driving around in Cajamarca (Carlos is a man who feels comfortable asking for directions – MANY times) we located the beautiful El Ingenio hotel with lovely gardens, a restaurant, laundry service (badly needed) and even its own chapel, built in the early ‘30s. We are especially grateful for internet service and were able to contact our families with Skype after a nice dinner. In Cajamarca we are cold for the first time, and it is very wet and green here in striking contrast to the desert- like environments we have been in so far. It rained all night, so the trip on a bad road to a possible site was cancelled. We all attempted to watch the Webcast of the PI meeting for the NSF BREAD program from Washington DC but reception was very spotty and we missed most of the transmission, while Paul, Gloria and Reynaldo did pollinations. Afterward we all walked into town, which is quite beautiful with several baroque churches, one decorated with a four-breasted woman which was a genetic characteristic of members of a local village at the time. As the rain increased in intensity we took refuge in a local restaurant and again had fabulous Peruvian food. We then visited a local open market and were impressed with the huge array of fruits and vegetables and seafood including very large squid mantles (would not want to meet one of those guys in a dark alley). There are many peasants making their livings in and nearby Cajamarca, and they wear very distinctive hats with a high crown and curled up brims. Must be good for rain. The next day was too rainy for the rough road we wanted to travel on so we were tourists again. We visited the Banyo del Inca, the hot springs where the reign of the Incas came to an end with the invasion of the Spanish Conquistador Pizarro. The market near the baths featured freshly squeezed pineapple juice (wonderful) and meats drying in the open air (yes that is guinea pig in the picture). We next went to museums in town including the Ransom Room where the last Incan Emperor Atahuallpa was kept hostage while a huge gold and silver ransom was collected. The Spanish then killed him despite the treasure they received. On our way between museums we encountered a folk market where traditional music was being played including on very long horns only used in this region of Peru – very cool. One of the musicians enticed Bruce to dance with him, much to the delight of all onlookers (take a look at everyone’s faces in the pic). We actually collected at a site in Cajamarca at the cemetery where S. habrochaites is still thriving after many years. As we visited with some of the townspeople of Cajamarca, we felt like we were finally getting know something about life in Peru, not driving in the van or cloistered (very comfortably I should say) at CIP in Lima. This was my stomach misery day (we each only had one, fortunately) so I rested in the afternoon. My recommendation for these events; first try Pepto Bismol, then Imodium, then if still sick, take antibiotics (we all brought Cipro with us just in case).
The next day as we drove back to the coast was our last big hunting day. Just over the Abra Galivan pass we found our most scenic collection site (again at a cemetery, seems like our trip theme) high in the mountains – with a beautiful population of S. habrochaites, with lots of active pollinators to catch. As Gloria, Reynaldo and I were collecting for proteomics on a path on the edge of a cliff, Reynaldo suddenly shouted and pointed “Go that way!” so we ran down the trail closely followed by an irate dog who was in charge of a herd of burros, sheep and cattle (including bulls). Meanwhile, Steve, Paul and Roger were up the trail chatting with the owner (Paul will post the video) about local cures for stomach ailments (it was Roger’s turn for the misery day). She was quite a character. In this beautiful setting we dissected styles for RNA and proteomics. Further down the road we saw a local market in progress with a “parking lot” full of burros.
Our last hunt was about 12 km up a rough road between Chilete and Contumaza to seek a habrochaites/arcanum sympatric pair, which we finally found up a lovely valley. This area will be very good for future sympatric studies – both species are found throughout the valley. We then had a miserable bumpy ride down “Highway” 8 to the coast to the beach town of Pacasmayo. Roger and Bruce were too tired for dinner, but after a lovely seaside repast the young folks stayed up until midnight doing pollinations. The next day we headed north to visit an archeological museum in Lambayeque. The Moche culture (again, more ancient than the Incan) produced epecially beautiful ceramics. I tried a new dish at a local “Restaurant Turistico” (that’s us! Tourists!) called an Enrollado – chicken breast rolled around a seafood stuffing. The food in Peru is amazing. In the 1930’s a famous gastronomic person proclaimed that the top three cuisines in the world were 1. French (he was French himself, surprise surprise) 2. Chinese, and 3. Peruvian. I believe it, now, after having an incredible variety of great food here. We headed down the Panamerican Highway again and stopped for the night in the village of Huanchaco, famous for its ocean-going reed fishing boats. These beautiful, ancient boats are still used for fishing, and are not just for tourists to take photos of, although we certainly did do that. Steve finally had an opportunity to use his new flowered swim shorts for a morning swim along with Paul, Reynaldo and Gloria. After a long drive to Lima (noting many political signs painted on buildings) and a final seaside picnic, we found sandwiches awaiting us in our dorm rooms late at night (thank you CIP!). Whew.