After the women of a remote Brazilian village appealed for eligible men, Harry Wallop tries his luck (and a proposal) in Noiva do Cordeiro.
The village of Noiva do Cordeiro is nestled in Belo Vale, which translates as "beautiful valley". And it is not hard to see why.
About 500km north of Rio de Janeiro, in south-east Brazil, the valley is dotted with groves of thick-skinned, sweet tangerines, banana plants, and ipe trees covered with bright yellow flowers.
But it is not just landscape that catches the eye in Noiva do Cordeiro. It is the inhabitants. Or, specifically, its women.
That is because the majority of the village's residents are female and as gorgeous as the bougainvillea plants that blossom in the valley. This area of Brazil is famous for producing great beauties. More than that, many are single and in search of love.
I visited after news reports that the women were "appealing" for eligible men.
Nelma Fernandes, 23, had pleaded: "Here, the only men we single girls meet are either married or related to us; everyone is a cousin. I haven't kissed a man for a long time. We all dream of falling in love and getting married."
It was, perhaps, ambitious to offer myself as the answer to Noiva do Cordeiro's dreams, even putting aside my failure to mention my wife, four children and large mortgage back in London. But the prospect of a real-life Valley of the Dolls, home to lonely Amazonian beauties, was too good an opportunity to miss.
A feast of beef, chicken, beans, rice, courgettes and aubergine - all grown and harvested by the women - was laid on in my honour when I finally arrived after two flights and a two-hour drive up a dirt track deep into rural Brazil. And there was quite a scurry of excitement when I turned up. But this is normal Belo Vale hospitality, not because the single women are desperate for me to fling myself at their feet.
Indeed, many of them insist they are quite happy the way they are: with the women managing the village's finances, working the fields and running the show in the absence of men. But there are others who are looking for love.
Noelie Fernandes Pereira, 42, is tilling the vegetables, fruit and rice that the village grows both to feed itself and make money. She is one of 80 agricultural workers, nearly all of whom are women, wearing wide-brimmed straw hats to keep off the fierce midday sun. "This place is special because of the love of everyone," she says.
So why has she not married? "I just have not found the right man."
Could I be that man? "The heart, she has to choose. And you have to get to know the person." It's not the most encouraging answer to my proposal.
Marcia Fernandes, 33, a part-time folk singer and one of the village's most glamorous women, says: "It's marvellous having all the women working together here. We share every moment and even when we are working at our hardest, life is good because we are always with friends and we are always looking after each other."
The lopsided gender balance of the village stretches back to its roots in the late 19th century. Translating as "bride of the lamb", the village was founded by Maria Senhorinha de Lima, who settled here when she was accused of adultery and exiled from her church and home in 1891.
The stigma has never fully disappeared. "We were totally isolated because of the prejudice we faced as a result," says Rosalee Fernandes, 49, who is a fourth-generation member of the village and has been fighting a campaign to ensure that the authorities do not continue to sideline the community.
She says that the skewed female/male ratio in the village is not as bad as it seems - there are men who live here, but they spend the week away, working either as miners or in the nearest big city, Belo Horizonte.
She adds: "We miss the men a lot. We always look forward to the weekend when they return."
The women of Noiva do Cordeiro acknowledge that they are an unusual group in rural Brazil. But things are changing fast in this country.
Brazil has a female president, Dilma Rousseff, and the boss of Petrobras, Maria das Graas Foster, is the only female head of a big oil company worldwide. Grant Thornton, a consultancy, reports that women make up 27 per cent of the senior managers of Brazil's leading companies, compared with Britain's 20 per cent.
After it made headlines this week, Noiva do Cordeiro's reputation has spread and - despite its remoteness - it has ended up on the tourist trail for some French travellers.
Elida Dayse, 29, who has Audrey Hepburn cheekbones and large hazel eyes, says: "We are always happy to receive visitors. Though none of us speak French."
And in the past, male visitors have fallen for the inhabitants of the village: 10 years ago a Chilean man visited and married a local woman.
The single women, however, insist that they are not desperate for outsiders (myself included) to throw themselves at their feet. Kaila Fernandes, 28, is the sister of Marcia, and when she is not tilling the fields, she dresses up as Lady Gaga and produces rather risque videos.
"I never worry about this side of life. I don't think about marriage. I am sure love will happen independent of the place. My love will arrive at the right time," she says.
Determined not to let my earlier setback put me off, I try my luck again, with Marcia.
"Would I make good marriage material?" I venture. "Certainly. But first you would need to teach us English so that you could work with us in the fields." I'll take that as a resounding "yes".
The Telegraph, London