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Greetings from Hotel Marlise in Itamarandiba.

Today, the town seemed a lot friendlier than when we came here looking for Uebelmannia gummifera a few weeks ago. I realised at the time that I was ill prepared and needed to have taken down all the relevant details of how to get to these location from the internet before leaving Diamantina. None of the hotels here advertised the fact that they have internet facilities and, from past experience, did not ‘look’ as though they had. Wrong! This hotel, above shops and apparently without parking space for the car has private parking and internet access! They just like to keep their marketable assets a secret.

Today was a long driving day as we knew it would be. 276 km but about 110 km of that was ‘not the best dirt’ (again, signs were up to say that asphalt was on its way, so maintenance seemed to have been put off. I guess we averaged 30 km p. hr. so the hard top bits were like heaven.

We had intended to see if there were likely locations to the west of Itinga, but the low hills that seem to be a feature south of the Itaobim – Itinga road disappeared just outside Itinga, and with that any sign of bare granite and suitable habitat locations. At least this stretch was fast and because we thought that we had plenty of time, we cruised at a leisurely 80 km.p.hr. Then the road turned to dirt, just as the map had suggested. not a major problem, except that our speed dropped and direction signs at forks and crossroads were missing. Although my GPS Unit has never been connected successfully to a computer to be updated with Brazilian maps (or did Juan do this in September?). In any event, it was suddenly displaying roads (with road number!) that we were on and giving us directions of turns we had to make. But how did it know where we were going? I had not found a way to tell it! Eerie!!

Eventually it started to get it wrong, I no longer wanted to go where it wanted me to go, so it went into a panic, each time that we passed a turning, recalculating the route to who knows where.

We made just two stops. S1578 was a reminder of what BR 367 (check) that had been nice smooth asphalt as it ran past our hotel in Diamantina, had turned into father north. A poor track that at one point had lost a bridge, by the looks of it quite some time ago, so that no traffic had to go through the river. Despite recent rains and other rivers that we had seen being in full flow and near to bursting their banks, here the water level was still manageable, even for our city slickers’ car.  

As we walked back to the car, I spotted a huge flower hanging from a vine. I’m sure that I saw something like it at Kew or was it RHS Wisley? The flower must have been 30 cm in diameter, with a ‘dead meat’ pattern, similar to that found in some Asclepiads. At it gently spun around on the vine it turned its back to us revealing a pitcher like organ. As there is a distinct lack of cacti today, I’ll include some of the pictures of the plant. Marlon tells me that it is Aristolochia gigantea.

S1579 was close to Itamarandiba and is for pictures taken as we drove through endless Eucalyptus plantations. They had been harvesting the wood. (Wikipedia suggests an unbelievable 5 year cycle from small seedling being planted to a (very thin) 30 ft tree being harvested!). Here, for some reason, they had left a single row of trees standing. They formed an amazing profile from a distance; with the stems hardly visible the crowns of the trees seemed to be suspended in the air. I took a few shots from the moving car, but was very pleased when Cliff was able to pull onto a side track where we were able to snap away without fear of being run down by a truck.

On entering Itamarandiba, we spotted the road that Marlon had suggested in his very detailed instructions to get to a U. gummifera site, but with the time pushing on and no accommodation booked, common sense suggests that we’ll do that one tomorrow.

Despite lack of cacti, another great day!

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