Don't believe everything you hear about Rio de Janeiro. Dogs may have proved ineffectual against the city's more determined burglars, but not every middle-class residence is guarded by a tame (-ish) lion. Still, retaining a good dose of credulity helps to enhance your chances of survival. Take bus drivers: paid on a piece-rate basis, they drive as if their livelihood hinged upon every journey (which it probably does). So your view of the Copacabana is reduced to a terrifying blur of beachlife. While you cling on for dear life in the face of near death, you will probably not notice the proficient pickpockets rifling though your possessions.

Emerging dizzily into the blazing February sun, having endured stronger g-forces in the previous five minutes than the average astronaut encounters in a lifetime, I audited my pockets. The cash had gone, but the sweaty, crumpled carnival ticket was still there. The local police offered as little sympathy as I deserved, so I slunk unhappily off to join the world's biggest party.

No one had mentioned that, after the event, you are obliged to squeeze through a gauntlet comprised entirely of inept petty criminals. These artless dodgers show none of the finesse of their counterparts riding on the bus. They just frisk every tourist with the heavy-handedness of airport security officials and remove everything that is not actually bolted to the owner. Cameras are the first target, but as you proceed through the scrum watches and even spectacles are torn from you.

The only thing more surprising than this ordeal is the speed with which you forgive Brazil's most wayward city; it is both seductive and endearing. So I share real sorrow that this year's carnival, due to begin today, is threatened by the worst flooding on record. Cherry Austin, in Rio trying to research the forthcoming Brazil Handbook, says the prospects of parades along the waterlogged route are slim.

Rio has been robbed.

A "domestic" flight turned into a dismal journey for Margaret Lewis of Newcastle: "Considerable care is needed in booking long-haul flights with Air France if you do not wish to be seated beside a dog. I flew from Mauritius to Paris with this airline, and boarded a flight that had originated in the nearby island of Reunion. Because Reunion is considered to be a French department, the flight was deemed to be domestic. There were at least four small dogs in the cabin, all being coddled by their owners.

"Now, I am very fond of dogs, but that does not extend to sitting beside one for a 14-hour flight that included a long and very hot runway stop in Djibouti". But it could have been worse. Consulting the flight schedules at the office here on the Isle of Dogs, it seems that an alternative route would have been on Sudan Airways via the city of Dongola. The airport code is DOG, and the journey involves a bit of a dog-leg.

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