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As we approached Irecê, our home for the next few nights, the sign along BA-052 read ‘Salvador – 480 km’ It was the first time that I realised that these 12 weeks of travel are coming to an end. Today, next week, we’ll arrive back at Heathrow Airport. Angie tells me to expect to step out in 40 cm of snow. Sounds quite nice as a way to cool down from the 30 C we are enjoying here, but I bet that the novelty will wear off quickly!

A quick review of yesterday’s 400 or so pics of Melocacti and hummers was a little disappointing. Plenty were ‘shot’ but sadly none were as razor sharp as I had hoped for. Technique will be adjusted tomorrow when we have another opportunity at the Melocactus azureus type locality. Yesterday there were just too many Melos and too many hummers and the secret is to concentrate on just 3-4 plants close together and let rip with a burst of shots when the hummer comes in. Tomorrow will tell.

Back to today: S1661 was a brief, random stop at a spot that looked to have potential for finding Discocactus. None were found, although I photographed a nice Encholirium spectabilis, Arrojadoa rhodantha and Pilosocereus gounellei.

S1662 was another likely looking Discocactus spot, but again – no joy. Just Cereus jamacaru this time, one plant growing epiphytically in a tree. The lovely picture of four pigs wallowing in mud represents the way we feel: happy as pigs in shit.

S1663 was the main event of the day, Melocactus azureus growing on very dark and weathered limestone rocks. Very photogenic scenery with blue skies and white fluffy clouds making it very easy to take some great images.  Also here, wonderful golden spined P. gounellei, a decumbent form of Arrojadoa rhodantha, that does not have a botanical name of its own yet and probably should not, Tacinga inamoena and T. palmadora, C. jamacaru, and Encholirium spectabilis.

S1664 was a bit sooner than planned – when Marlon saw another limestone outcrop, less than one km. from a planned stop for another Melocactus. Hope that you’re not tired of seeing Melocactus yet – we’re not! This one was M. pachyacanthus ssp viridis – the green form, as the name implies. I finally remembered to write down the name of the narrow leaved Bromeliad with horizontal banding on the leaves. It is Neoglaziovia variegata. Google tells me that it is also known as the caroa bromeliad that once fuelled a sizeable textile industry in Brazil’s Northeast. It produces an excellent fibre and is still used today by local sertao dwellers to make objects for household use, such as ropes, bags and rugs. These days, Agave sisalana is grown to produce sisal for a wider range of products.

Again, the photogenic settings of the Melocactus locations made it easy for the plants to look good, but don’t take my word for it ….

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