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Today was an earlier than usual start for Cliff and myself. We had been happy to get up at 7, breakfast at 8 and on the road my 9, after all, this had been a 7 days per week routine for us since November – the rather more hectic pace required for the larger group to see as much as possible in Rio Grande do Sul is just not sustainable on a longer term, if it has to remain fun.

We have a policy of ‘no driving in the dark’ so with sunset at just after 6 p.m. – always (?) I tend to be asleep between nine and ten, so getting up ‘early’ is not that much of an issue for me.

Today we were out on the road by 7:45 a.m. and Marlon had suggested a ‘no guarantee of success exploration’ to see if we could find the recently described Melocactus braunii, described by …….. guess who. To this end we drove to the village of Campo Formoso and (by car) climbed two mountains with radio masts and microwave towers to investigate what grew on top. Nothing, cactus wise, on the first (S1625) but on the second (S1626) we found a cluster of Melocactus zehntneri on one large rock outcrop near the radio mast.

The remaining stops (S1627, S1628, S1629) were stops between Jaguarari and Flamingo for plants in the northern population of Espostoopsis dybowskii, showing the different settings where this can be found. You should recognise all the accompanying cacti in the pictures by now, so I won’t bore you here with that detail.

We made it to the town of Petrolina, just across the Rio Sao Francisco, in the State of Pernambuco (better hotels) where we plan to stay 3 nights, (with internet) as a base to do a mixture of exploration and checking out Discocactus sites from Marlon’s Masters studies.

The night ended on a high for me as we managed to find a very drinkable Brazilian Cabernet Sauvignon (2006) at a reasonable price, with grapes grown in the Sao Francisco Valley. It was my first wine since October!

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