Just 1 day to go and I will be returning to Brazil, my favourite of the many wonderful countries in South America. This time to explore the historic gold trail through Minas Gerais, the vast sand dunes of Lencois Maranhenses and, fingers crossed, to try and spot a Jaguar in the Southern Pantanal.

There is always such a warm welcome, and with a good dose of sunshine and a few caipirinhas, who wouldn’t feel relaxed? Whilst Brazil is well known for its laid-back charm, it is also full of colour, music and vitality which, for me, make it quintessential Latin America.

As a country which has been in the media spotlight several times since my visit a year ago, I’m eager to return and see whether Rio’s vibrant atmosphere is notably different. The protests this Summer were reported to be the largest for over two decades, with close to two million people protesting in various cities and towns across the country. The vast crowds were voicing their concerns and frustration at both the increasing cost and poor conditions of public services and the exorbitant sums of money being spent on the World Cup.

Earlier this week there were further demonstrations in downtown Rio, the catalyst being a strike by many teachers for better conditions and pay. Of course, being Brazil, a certain number of protesters were wearing Carnival wigs and dancing as they demonstrated.

It certainly seems that Brazilians feel the country is on the verge of change and want to make sure that development focuses on the essential such as education, health and transport, rather than just the football stadiums.