Today started well. Being already in the mountains we didn’t have to drive much to collect our first specimens. But things changed a little afterwards. Alberto Salas had recommended us to drive from Canta, where we were, to Simbilca and then down to Huaral. He promised us endless seas of S. habrochaites. After a few minutes driving we realised that we went up quite steeply and that we were quickly going to be well above the maximum altitude for any tomato species. We were optimisic and figured that we’d soon be heading down into the next valley, but that didn’t turn out to be the case. In the end we drove for 2 hours to reach an altitude of 3600 m above sea level. The views were absolutely stunning and on the way up we also passed 2 cultivated potato fields that had been treated against P. infestans, the blue color of the pesticide was still visible, but showed some infections and also bacterial wilt symptoms. Yet, we were definitely short on tomatoes.
The way down on the other side of the mountain was pretty similar. Over an hour of pot holes and S-curves, but then, suddenly, when we dropped below 2500m, there they were, some lonely S. pennellii plants. Shortly afterwards, we saw even more of them and within a few km, there were tomato plants popping up left and right of the road every few meters. Just like before, some showed really no sign of any pathogen, others had some brown spots that could be anything. Then in la Perla Alta, we saw what was promised, seas of S. habrochaites. Some plants up to four meters high and as many meters wide. A magnificent sea of green with yellow flowers. Quite a contrast with most of the dry pampa we’d seen before. We collected as many samples as we still had energy for and then drove to a nice shadowy spot amidst the S. habrochaites, just on the edge of the village. Here we prepared our samples and decided that from here on, it would be a direct drive to the hotel. This trying to ignore all the beautiful additional tomatoes along the road.
All in all, it took us another 45 minutes to reach the main road. From there on, it was 1 hour on brand new and smooth asphalt to Huaral, where we found ourselves a pretty decent hotel. I have just returned from little walk in town and it’s buzzing. Tonight Peru is playing New Zealand for a place in the soccer world cup and everybody is getting ready for the public viewing that is coming up.
I might buy a white and red short and join them, totally undercover. Vamos Peru!