In May of 2004 I was invited by Dalton Holland Baptista to visit Brazil to go orchid hunting. I am always ready to take off on an orchid trip if the oportunity arises. I made arrangements to meet Dalton 4 days after I arrived in Rio de Janiero to visit the woman that introduced me to my wife 28 years ago. She is still a great friend and now lives in Calgary, Canada and was going to Rio to visit her parents and then Sao Paulo for an economic conference.
We got up at 6 am and took a trip up and behind, Rio from above and then saw the two icons of Rio , Sugarloaf and Christ the Redeemer I stayed on Impanema beach and the lagoonand this is a photo of there from above. The rest of the beach.
Here is Downtown Rio from above. We drove to see Christ the redeemer up close Yes that is me, the gringo in the blue shorts.
We then spent a great day at the Rio de Janiero Orchid Show. They had a lot of great species displayed and those photos are within the encyclopedia.
After spending time with my friend and her daughter and parents we left for Sao Paulo. Arriving late in the evening, I had no idea what to expect from my Brazilian orchid sponsors. We had never met and only been in contact by e-mail, was Dalton, old or young, tall or short etc. Anyway after our meeting I never gave another thought to the idea that the trip could be hell because we didn't get along. Dalton was the perfect orchid friend. Knowledgable, friendly, and ready to see orchids. We spent the next day going to orchid nursuries and photographing species orchids.
Bright and early the next day we picked up Americo Docha Neto and headed to the beach outside Bertioga. Dalton, Americo, Marcos and myself spent a relaxing evening discussing orchids at Dalton's beach house. Marcos Campacci was my guide and encyclopedia as we walked through all of the Brazilian wilderness. Dalton and Americo were content with staying at the beach house and discussing orchids. I guess they don't like to get soaking wet and donating blood to the local insects. The scrub to the right in the picture is where all of the following orchids will be found.
As soon as we entered the brush we spotted out first orchid. It was a Cyrtopodium polyphyllum tucked up under a scrubby bush. As we pushed a few feet further into the hammock our first Cattleya intermedia appeared. Many references state that this species is extinct in the wild but I can attest that we saw a few thousand of this species in just a few acres and there is plenty of the same habitat all up and down the Brazilian coast. I can see why conservationists are concerned though, these hammocks that support C intermedia are right next to the beach and are hot to be developed as more people move to the coast for recreational homes.
Entering the hammock a bit further we spot a giant Octomeria oxychela . Trying not to stumble because of the dampness of the trail I came to a tree covered in Epidendrum plants with capsules At this point the trail below began to became more like a muddy stream than a path and the humidity was astounding, water was dripping off of everything and as far as I could tell it hadn't rained in a day or two. They had given me rubber boots to wear and they were mostly good until I stepped into the ooze and the water and mud filled the boot. Then I felt a little better as I viewed Epidendrum nocturnum on a tree limb. This hammock seems to get wetter as we get into the taller trees, everything is covered in moss now and it is dripping wet. There is standing water everywhere and we slog along to this tree with our first Pleurothallis
Notice the moss and heavy lichen that this tree has. Marcos and his nephew, Keller [a young man who helped us do the dirty work]. Octemeria oxycheila was a common plant here. Marcos points out our first flowering orchid Pleurothallis saundersiana. After a bit of slogging through the water that now was more like a lake than a stream I saw white out of the side of my eye and then turned and saw the cutest miniature, a Lankesterella . Here is another angle of the same flower.
Flowering orchids were beginning to appear on every tree in this area. Here is Sopronitis cernua one of the brighter colored miniatures of the beach hammock. Now I know why I can keep this Sophronitis alive while the others languish, it grows at sea level. This next orchid is Epidendrum octans and is a large sized reed stem epiphyte. After a couple of hours of slogging less than 1/4 mile through the beach hammock we came back out to the beach. Here is Marcos Campacci and his nephew Keller Stelari. as soon as we got out to open air. Notice that it is all dwarf Sea Grape here. As we prepared to leave the beach area we were blessed with one last blooming orchid. It was Cleistes fragrans and it was magnificent in its size and brilliancy of color. The plants were nestled beneath the Sea Grapes and the flowers were held just above their top leaves. An astonishing sight and excellent way to finish up our beach exploration.
After a great lunch with Marcos sister we ventured a mile or two away from the beach towards the first of the foothills above the littoral plain. This first line of hills above the plain has a distinct climate. Notice that the top of the hill is in the clouds. The elevation difference between the beach and above is only 150 meters but there is a cloud forest there at the top. Just getting to the skirt of the hill there is a definite change in climate and the next group of orchid photos comes from this area. As soon as we left the road and entered the forest we came across this tree with Bifrenaria inodora and Dichaea pendula on it. Here is Cirrhaea saccata and Promenaea rollinsii. Orchids definitely have their own specific requirements as this foothill is just 2 miles away from the beach and has very little altitude difference as we were along the bottom where hill met plain and not a single orchid that grew on the beach grew in this area.
There were also many different Bromeliads in this area. The jungle here was very thick and very little light entered from outside. As we walked we had to move very slowly so that we would see what orchids were around. Here is Aspidogyne argentea, a very pretty terrestrial orchid that I almost stepped on. Our first and only blooming orchid in this area was Encyclia patens. The afternoon was waning and even in the bright of day it was hard to see in this dense rainforest so we trudged back to Marcos' sister's House and had dinner with Dalton, Marcos, Americo, Keller and myself.
The next day Marcos and I arose early and headed up to the top of the foothills near the town of Salesopolis at an elevation of 1030 meters. Here is a waterfall on the way there. After getting sandwiches in the town we drove to the higest point in the area and parked at a microwave tower on a high ridge. The wind here was fierce and we were in the clouds. It was quite cold and I was glad when we ventured into the jungle along the crest of the ridge because it cut down the wind. Our first orchid here was Maxillaria cerifera. Our first flowering orchid was Bulbophyllum atropurpureum. Here is the flower photo closer up. Notice that we were in a mist forest, all day and it never got brighter than this and there were several moments when it was much thicker. There was a light drizzle to a pounding rain all day as well. I was soaked through and through and, as I live in Key West, frozen to the bone. It was 55 degrees out and it was a normal day for the Brazilian fall at 1000 meters. We have all heard the term cloudforest or mistforest [this photo was taken at one of the brightest moments during the day] but until you can actually see it or feel it is is difficult to understand. Here you are only 600 miles to the south of the equator and the elevation is only 3000 feet yet it is cold and there is an almost perpetual haze of humidity.
Here is a closeup photo of Sophronitis coccinea on a tree trunk with thick moss. Here is the same even closer still. Here is another. All of the Sopronitis are miniature, Cattleya alliance orchids with brilliant red or yellow flowers and even in a haze are quite visible midway up the trunk of forest trees. Onward through the fog we went seeing hundreds of orchids out of our direct site as they were high in the trees, but then a low branch near the trail and viola! a flowering specimen of Epidendrum proligerum appeared. A common epiphyte in this area was Gomesa glaziovii which has a very spread out growth habit. Orchids grow on the ground as well as in the trees here so you much walk slowly scanning up and down. It can make for slow yet exciting going. Here is a Cyclopogon species on the ground.
We came upon a large, fallen tree and found this Protheschea and Octomeria tricolor. Here is the Octomeria tricolor plant. Notice that Marcos, who is only 10 feet away, is obscured by the mist. The downed tree also had Dichaea cogniauxiana growing pendantly on it's side. All day Marcos has been saying that this was the place to see Scuticaria hadwenii but we had gone for a few miles and not seen a one. I got to calling "Scuttie, scuttie" as if they were a dog that would come because of the cold. If we saw one we could head back to that nice warm car. Then Marcos pointed up and said "Scuttie" and there they were 50 feet over our head, yes they are the little sticks hanging out over the side of the branch. We never got a better look at one so I guess I have to go back soon to find them closeup and in bloom. At this point soaked and cold as we were we decided to head back up the ridge towards the Microwave tower where the warm car was parked. Climbing back we noticed a plant of Maxillaria madida. On the way back up the sun made a rare appearance and this tree with a Sophronitis coccinea and a bromeliad made a bright sight over the ridges edge.
After making our way back up to the car and a dry shirt Marcos asked me. "Should we go down the other side now?" I like any orchid addict, said ,with chattering teeth, "sure why not". Here is an Encyclia euosma growing on a tree trunk on the windward side of the ridge, [we had been on the leeward side before where it is nice and warm]. After a bit of stumbling about we found this Maxillaria flower. This side was much steeper than the other side and I had to really think about not pitching over as I took this picture of Bifrenaria stefanae. Bulbophyllum are common in Brazil in deferance to the rest of South America. Here is a Bulbophyllum napellii. After this find I turned to Marcos and Said "I'm done" so we climbed back up to the car and headed down towards lower ground.
As we drove we saw this Habenaria sp in bloom so we had to stop. Looked around a bit more and saw this Habenaria species in bloom. There was also a plant of Sauroglossum nitidum. Off we drove lower and lower and we came upon a rocky outcropping with black rock and a Zygopetalum intermedium. Here is a flower closeup. Driving a few miles farther we came across a Cleistes limbonii gathering. There were some 20 plants right along the side of the road. Here is a photo of the normal version of Cleistes limbonii and right beside it a Coerula variety. It was getting to be late in the afternoon but we just couldn't stop finding more blooming orchids. Here is an Octomeria grandiflora photographed against the hood of Marcos' car. Around the next bend we found a pool with a giant Habanaria speciesgrowing in the center of the bog. and then a few feet into the brush on the other side of the road was this Trichosalpinx montana. Marcos Campacci, my guide and fast becoming good friend, pointed to a tree beside the bog and said "There is Epidendrum campaccii". Sorry about the lousey photo. A few seconds went by until I asked "Campacci?" and he said "yes that species was named for me by Hagsater & Sanchez back in 1993."
I got to asking more questions and found out that Marcos has also described some 23 new species, the most famous being Cattleya tenuis. I was with an orchid luminary and I didn't know it. I also found out that Marcos is the editor of 2 orchid magazines in Brazil, CAOB [A Brazilian Orchid Society Membership publication] and Brazil Orquedias a full color for profit, general magazine sale publication with a circulation close to 11,000.
Dusk brought on another rainshower and as a last surprise for this wonderous day a rainbow. We drove in pitch dark roads for an hour and a half before we got down to a paved road and then made our way back to the coast and to Bertioga where our other Brazilian friends, Dalton and Americo, awaited us. As I wearily went to bed after hours of spirited talk with the guys I found this moth awaiting me on the floor upstairs.
The next morning Marcos and I were up early and said goodbye to Americo and Dalton who had to get back to their regular lives as Marcos and I were off to meet up with Solange and Celso who were going with us into the Alto da Serra de Mogi das Cruzes an area with a middle elevation of some 500 to 800 meters. On the way there we discovered a plant of Eulophia alta on the side of the road in full bloom. It was at least 5' high. Solange drove us up to the middle of the highway and let us off and we jumped into the forest. Immediately we spotted one of thee rarer orchids that we would find on this orchid safari. Pabstia modestior which had two encapsulated flowers. On a tree near by was another, also with two encapsulated flowers.On the steep slippery banks of the forest florr we found a Prescottia species. A little farther down the slope we found a thin moss covered tree that had a fairy garden of several Pleurothallidinae and Oncidinae. Hundreds of yellow and red Pleurothallis hians?, an orange Pleurothallis colorata, and a pendant Pleurothallis hypnicola and Phymatidium delicatulum covered this beautiful tree.
We moved on to another flatter, brushier area and found this Cranichis candida in full flower. As I was taking the picture I noticed a pink smudge moving among the flowers. I used my camera to get this closeup shot of the culprit, a pink and yellow spider? If anyone has an idea what this really is write me [firstname.lastname@example.org] as I would love to know. We also found this catapillar not far from the Cranchis. Here is a Vanilla edwallii growing up against a tree. Maxillaria picta was a comon epiphyte in this area. Another very common epiphyte was Oncidium forbesii. A fairly uncommon terrestrial, Psilochilus modesta was found in the deep leaf mold of the forest floor and had a seed pod. There was also a Cyclopogon species with gray green leaves. One of the smallest flowered species in the Cattleya alliance is Reichenbachanthus reflexus a monmotypic genus only found in Brazil. Pleurothallis seem to like small moss covered trees. The orchid species pictured here may be a Jacquiniella, but if it is it is the largest one I have ever seen. It was at least 8" in length. One of the last orchids that we found was Dichaea australis and I am not sure what it is. Notice all the seed capsules. As we trudged back to the rosd we encountered a blooming Phymatidium delicatulum. We arrived back at Solange and Celso's house and they showed me their Victoria-reginae Lily that they had growing in a large pool. This is the largest water lily in the world and can have leaves that are 8' across. The flower in the picture is at least 12" across.
Celso, Marcos and Solange at their house in Bertioga, Sao Paulo State. After an amazing breakfast Marcos and I piled into his car for the all day journey to Minas Gerais where we hope to see many rupicolus Laelia. On the way we drove along the Mantiquera Range that runs between Sao Paulo state and Minas Gerais. The highest point in this range is the Pedra da Mina whose elevation is 2796 meters. We arrived at our hotel in Congonhas late in the evening and were up at dawn and saw this view from the hotel window. All of the orchid pictures in this next section will come from the peak seen in this photo. We drove up a long dirt road up to where the rock outcroppings began at an elevation of 750 meters. The first blooming orchid of the day was a terrestrial Skeptrostachys sp. which was in the grasslands with dwarf vellozia bushes surrounding the rock outcropping. Here is a photo of the plant and the inflorescence. As we entered the rocky area I spotted an Epidendrum saxatile in bloom. This epidendrum is one of a very few epiphytes that we found in this area above Ouro Branco and was quite common. Notice the vellozia bushes growing out of the rock. Another terrestrial that we found here was a Habenaria species. Our first rupicolus species was an Epidendrum campestre and was not very common here. One of the most common rock growing orchids that we found in Minas Gerais was Pleurothallis johanensis. Clamboring over the rocks I came across a stand of Bifrenaria harrisonae. Look at how these plants just fill every bit of the crevasses and cracks of this rock. Marcos and I scoured these rock outcroppings for several hours. One of our mostr exciting finds here was Sophronitis brevipedunculata which grew both on the rocks and on Vellozia bushes
Below the rocks are small wooded copses with some dirt and from it arose terrestrial Oncidium and an unknown species. We left this spot and moved a little higher [elevation 900 meters] and discovered this epiphytic, super-miniature Pleurothallis species on a dwarf Vellozia bush. We moved higher still to about 1000 meters in elevation and this is the view from there. Our major qurry in this area was Laelia liliputana, the smallest of the Laelia and found only on this mountain top. After much searching around we came across the correct location and there they were, Laelia liliputana. This species grows to an astounding height of 1/2" and grows in the cracks of the rocks on the side of large outcroppings or along the bottom fringe in almost full sun. Often they can be found near dwarf vellozia but never on the wood. The rock outcroppings of this area are very dry, but get heavy dew in the mornings and a wet spring. Notice that only Vellozia bushes are visible.
Our next destination was El Morro do Chapéu which is just outside of Belo Horizonte. This area has red soil and small rock outcropping with lots of small stones strewn throughout. There is a scubby forest, where there is more dirt, of small bushes that then open to the rockier areas where only rupicolus orchid and some cacti. In the areas with more dirt we found Laelia crispata and Oncidium gracile. The bushes protecting these orchids were less than 5 feet tall and there was a lot of leaf litter. We pushed our way out to an open rocky area and low and behold there was a blooming Laelia caulescens. It has very large flowers for a smaller plant. This photo shows the broken rock terrain that suits this species. Notice that there is a lot more other type of vegetation around than with the other Laelia we have seen so far. We came adross this wonderful four flowered specimen. This photo shows more of the typical terrrain that Laelia caulescens enjoys. The red things are Pleurothallis johanensis. As you can see it has many other plants growing in close to them, which is different than most of the pther rupicolus Laelia. On one of the few free standing rocks in the area we found this colony of Bulbophyllum weddellii. A closer view. Notice all the Pleurothallis johanensis arising out of the declivities of the cap rock. Here is a shot of the hillside that all of these orchids were growing on. There was only this one spot that had a depression in the cap rock and it had a different orchid growing in it, a Protheschea species. The motherlode of blooming Laelia caulescens. After an hour or two at this spot we hightailed it to our location to spend the night. We were headed towards La Caraça, a Lazaran monastery. It was built in the 1500's and has been a school for the elite youth of Brazil up until the school burned down after the turn of the 20th century. Now with only 4 monks and all of them over70 years old they have turned to tourism to keep the site alive. They are situated in the center of 4 mountains and have 70,000 hectares of virgin wilderness surrounding them. It is an amazing and serene paradise. We pulled in as they were locking the gates for the evening and arrived at the church as the evening service was being held. Marcos warned me that something incedible would happen here tonight but he would not let on what it might be. After the service everyone went out to the front patio of the chapel and we sat down in the dark. There was a set of stairs leading out to the wilderness that encompassed the monastery. The head monk came out and started chanting "Guara, Guara!". I looked at Maarcos and thought UhOh here comes some weird religious ceremony. The monk had a large metal platter that he covered with scraps from the dinner table and was pushing around on the floor so it would make a loud grating noise. What the heck! Soon everyone got quite and up the stairs came something. It was pitch dark and all I could tell was that something was there. Are we looking for hungry ghosts? After a moment the preist said "take pictures now and with the flash of the light we saw a large, tall red and black dog-like creature right at my feet. I didn't know what to do, other than continue to flash the camera. I kept asking "what the hell is that? Marcos told me that it was a wolf. I was not aware that South America even had wolves, especially red and black ones. I had to get all the way back to the US to discover what they actually were. The red-maned wolf a solitary, 60 pound, very rare wolf found in Peru, Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina and is extremely threatened by cattle ranching and developement. We saw four different wolves here, each came in a half hour apart as they are solitary animals. An incredible evening sitting in the pitch dark.
The next morning we groggily got up and Marcos said we were off on a 20 mile round trip hike down the canyon. As soon as we got on the path we found Zygopetalum mackaii in bloom. Here is a flower closeup. As I have said before, Bulbophyllum is a commonly found genus in Brazil and here was no exception. Our first find was Bulbophyllum warmingianumgrowing up the side opf a large boulder. Pleurothallis also grow on boulders here a case in point is Pleurothallis prolifera and here is one with a seed capsule. As we walked down the trail we came to a wall of stone on one side and it had a water seep. I scrambled up and found that 10' up it leveled of to a steady slope and there where many dwarf Vellozia buzhes with their roots in the water. Upon closer inspection I saw large psuedobulbs laying over and on top of the plants and with roots onto the caprock below. After a short search we came up with a flowering specimen of Psuedolaelia irwiniana, a Schomburgkia to Psychilis like psueudoepiphyte lithophyte. The plant has a long inflorescence to 4' and has the successive flowers at the apical end with only one to 3 open at a time. A little farther on we encountered this miniature Laelia fournieri and the plant below. This is what they call Lanium berkleyi there but is said to be the same as L. avicula. I did not see it in bloom soI can not say, but if Marcos says there is a difference then there most likely is. Marcos and I found a spot where the river we were walking along disappeared and took off down this canyon underground to where it appears just before a waterfall a half mile below. Marcos worked one side of the canyon and I worked the other. Notice all the orchids at his feet and on the side of this large rock. Each side had it's own distinct species which grew only there and not on the other. On my side I found Pleurothallis hamosa which has the odd, stiff, curled leaf with the flowers protected inside.
We both did a lot of climbing for old guys. Here is a Bulbophyllum warmingianum hotel. Marcos is standing at the edge of the chasm that has the waterfall below. On our way back towards the monastery we found a plant of Sauroglossum nitidum and Prescottia stachyoides which had two inflorescence arising. After a couple of hours climbing back up the canyon we could see the monastery ahead. The chapel was built in 1775. Each night the same monk calls the Guara' and they come in to eat a scrap of meat. We both hit the beds and feel fast asleep knowing that tomorrow would bring a 20 mile climb up to the top of the Pico do Carapusa elevation 1995 meters and we were sleeping at 1100 meters.
The dawn came and we both jumped up eager to assail the mopuntain or or muscles. On our way up we picked up our guide. To go to the top you needed to pay a local guide who hopefully could get us up to the top, but more importantly get us back to the bottom. He had a lot of knowledge about the local plants that were not orchids. Vellozia bushes are the norm in Minas Gerais and there are close to 20 different species. It is a soft wood tree and has a very rough bark and can be dwarfed such as this one or can attain a height of 12' and have a trunk 2' around and all of them flower each with a different shape and color. Our guide told us to rub the leaves of this particular Vellozia and then rub our exposed faces and hands. It had a wonderful smell and he said that now no bug would get within 10' of us. He was right. On a side note, very few mosquitos or other biting insects bothered me duriong my entire stay in Brazil. I don't know if it was just that it was fall and the bugs are light or there just aren't any. Either way it was nice not to have to scratch much after a day in the woods. I only found one tick on me during the whole stay as well.
As we climbed up and over all the rocks we came across a Maxillaria villosa in flower. We made this climb to find Laelia longipes and one other orchid that will be discussed later. The Laelia were plentiful but we were there at the very end of their bloom season and after scouring the top mountain for 3 hours we only came up with 2 blooming specimens, even though there were thousands of plants. This is a closeup of one and you can see how damaged by age the flower is. This species grew on the rocks but did like to have a lot of moss around the base. After a bit of wandering on the mountain top we also found this Habenaria species. We also came across our first blooming Prescottia species. Here is a flower closeup and an even closer one. The second Laelia longipes that we found was a little fresher. Here I am at the peak of the Pico do Carapuça with much of the valley that the Monastery of Caraça occupies. Here is our Guide Jaio and Marcos at the top. Marcos had intrigued me earlier by telling me about the odd orchid that grew at the top of the Pico do Carapusa named after Mr Irwin of the New York Botanical Garden back in the 30 & 40's. We were hunting for the higher altitude Scuticaria which differently than with all others in this genus grows erect and is called Scuticaria irwiniana. We scoured the top of the mountain to no avail fro several hours and only after deciding that we didn't have to find it and we were already descending we came around the same boulder as when we went up but there it was, looking more like Rhyncholaelia glauca, Scuticaria irwiniana Check out IOSPE for the flower picture, unfortunately it was not in bloom when we were there. As we climbed down and under large rocks we came to a vantage point to see the mountaintop that we had just climbed. And here is a view from a bit farther down. We finally arrived at the monastery as the sun was setting and at a good meal and went to sleep so we could get up early the next morning and see our last 4 locations in Minas Gerais. We headed north west to get to the Parque Serra do' Cipo'. It is rolling high plains with large skeleton like rock outcroppings scattered here and there. We stepped off the road and not 20' in was this beautiful 4' tall, Oncidium spilopterum, in it's full splendor, arising from the edge of the rock and the grasslands that then stretch on for several miles to the next outcropping. This areas rocks had cracks running horizontal to the ground and the Laelia ghillanyi loved to be in and fill the cracks on the vertical surface. Notice how dry it appears. Other than morning dews this area only gets water in the late winter and spring. We got back in the car and stopped soon before Presidente Kubichek a small Minas Gerais town, here the rocks were strewn more at random and there were many flat rock formations with stoney sand spots inbetween that held Laelia breigeri, this one with a seed capsule and Laelia rupestris which grew more up on the rock surface but still in a declivity with sand, rock and dwarf vellozia and was also was carrying a seed capsule. WE got back in the car and traveled 20 mile to inbetween Pres. Kubichek and Datas where we stopped again, this time for a great dragon back ridge of rocks that snaked next to the road. Here i got out and found this Laelia in flower, although it is on it's last legs, at the base of the outcropping in the wash off from above.. After Marcos came to look at it he stated that it may be a new natural hybrid and it was most likely between L briegeri and L rupestris but he had to get back to SP and his databank to be sure. He joked about it being Laelia x pfahlii if it had not been described and thought the sound of pfahlii [pronounced fallii] was pretty funny in Portuguese. Did I fail to mention that most of the time, Marcos and I spoke in Spanish as I am fairly fluent as my wife speaks spanish and I love to travel in latin countries. I have had 28 years of practice with my in-laws and my wife as well as my 2 boys [12/17] who speak english first but soon found out that spanish helps with the latin girls even here in Key West. Anyway it actually is Laelia x christinae and here is how it looked as a plant. This was our last orchid stop of the trip and it proved to have a couple of other oddirties. The first is a terrestrial orchid called Pelexia laminata which was also found in the scree and erosion area of the larger rock outcropping and here the plant grows in a grass clump. We also found a lithophytic Cyrtopodium species, which one I have no idea. MArcos took this picture of me at the last stop. I am looking at a Laelia rupustre. We got back in the car and started to drive like mad to get as far south today as possible so we could get into Sao Paulo early the next day, saturday as I had a flight out at the crack of dawn on Sunday. We drove and drove and I must say most all the roads we were on that were paved were excellent but after we got to Corvelo things went nightmarish. It was 1 am and we had done 100 miles in a red haze of almost opaque dust, avoiding wideflung holes that were filled with the red dirt of the area and semi-trucks weaving across all four lanes of traffic trying to avoid them. None of us were having much success and the jolt of ending up in one was teeth jarring. Trying to see through the dust was unbearable and as aproaching semis with their lights on high made for a blinding experience. All of a sudden there was an orange light and I said Marcos there are traffic cones , so he veered off to the right and went 30 yards or so and I said Go left!!! There is a cop. We just barely missed him and I said to Marcos "I think we have a flat, man" and he Says "naw, bgut I need a cup of coffee. WE turned in 200 hundred yards ahead got out of the car and sure enough we had a flat, we take the car to the flat fixeer and start to wait when up walks 2 giant policemen. One Asks me" Why did you try to run me over!" and I said "talk to him he is the Brazilian" After a bit Marcos cools the cop out, we fix the flat and we decide to go to the next hotel to sleep. He got me to Dalton and Dalton got me to the airport the next day. WE had several goodbyes and I was off to Florida. What a wonderful adventure that AI will cherish forever. I am already figuring out how to do it again!