Author Archives: alistc

If you visit only one colonial town in Brazil…

Some towns have picturesque historic centres, others have a scenic river front. Some have a stunning mountain backdrop, others beautiful beaches. Others have a great nightlife or a charming literary festival. Paraty has it all.

It’s probably no bad thing that Paraty is so perfect, after a boat, two taxis and 3 busses, it’s not been the easiest to get to (albeit most places aren’t when your starting point is a remote island).

To arrive at the town after 24 hours if traveling and find us so picture perfect with South America’s biggest literary festival on is both a blessing and a curse. The town is packed with artists, street performers and the bars full of revellers. On the downside… The town (and corresponding hostels) are packed! After sometime searching online, we stumble in to a hostel that can take us for only one night – about 4 less than we were hoping for – bit it’s clean, that landlady is friendly and doesn’t seem interested in fleecing us. Tomorrow night we can take care of later.

Exploring the “cobbled” – read boulders strewn – streets simply reveal more and more delightful scenes – every picture looking like a shot from Conde Nast Traveller. E take a seat in a bar and take our first sip of a genuine Brazilian Caipirinha and listen to an acoustic rendition of The Girl From Ipanema, a privilege we later realise we must pay for, we plan our stay. Moving on to the beach we are once again confronted with natures simple perfection – the beer helps too.

The next day we explore the festival, a must for those scholars of Portuguese or Brazilian literature, some if which is even translated into English. More climbing over the cobbled streets and then to the bus station.

Back to the lives of commuters as our next hostel is 25k out of town – damn these tourists clogging up these picture postcard towns!




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Water, water everywhere…

So, since my last posting, we’ve visited Iguassu Falls, one of the most spectacular water falls in South America – when visited by Eleanor Roosevelt, she is supposed to have remarked “poor Niagara”. Having now seen both, I have to agree. You were of course to be treated to the obligatory Hipsamatic photo of these natural wonders, however on the night bus leaving Iguassu, my iPod Touch was stolen from my buttoned up pocket without me noticing (impressive if not irritating) so you’ll have to make do with this:


After leaving Iguassu, we travelled by bus to Curitiba and then by train to Paranagua, one if the most spectacular train journeys in South America. Photos were taken a plenty and when a proper computer is to be found, I shall upload one.

As I write, I’m sat on the beach of a tropical island – Ilha do Mel (Honey Island). An idyllic island with no roads or cars, just a few paths through the interior if Atlantic Rainforest and boats that take you from the two main villages. If you’re looking to travel any faster than walking pace, there are bikes to be rented.

Now, if I can just manage to string up my mosquito net properly it will be true paradise!


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My potentially racist dilemma

There’s no escaping it… I’m a geek! I’ve added new RAM to my PC, I once got excited by the number of nested IF Statements I managed in one Excel formula (12 for those interested) and, to finish it all off, I LOVE Lego!

To that end, I came up with the inspired (though doubtlessly done several times before) to take a Lego Minifig traveling with me and take pictures of it on front if the amazing sites I come across.

So before I left, down I went to a local shop to acquire one (yes, I have hundreds, but they’re sadly now in storage). For the uninitiated, Lego make a range of Minifigs that are lucky dip, the idea being that you have to collect them all – to hedge my bets, I bought two. I open then up and I’m thrust into my dilemma… which to choose?

I’ve given the options below, hopefully I’ll have enough people even remotely interested in this blog to give their opinions:


The very appropriate for me, stereotypical “bagpiper”


The “could this be construed as racist, I think it’s supposed to be Tarzan”

Answers on a postcard people!

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It started in West Norwood

Seeing the familiar sights of Barons Court, Boston Manor and Hatton Cross could mean only one thing – this is it, next stop Rio via Heathrow!

Like all good adventures, it had to start somewhere, not Southampton or Lisbon, for us the real start was last night. Our first night not staying with family and with no fixed abode. Simple the clothes on our backs (albeit several outfits stuffed into backpacks). When students study these writings in the decades and centuries to come, as they did with Captain Scott or David Livingston, they will doubtlessly all agree that this expedition started in West Norwood!

So, with only three shirts, two t-shirts a pair of shorts and a pair of trousers (and somehow 18kg of other stuff) to keep me going for the next 6 months, we say au revoir to everything we know and are comfortable with, and hello to the unknown!

Wish us luck!!!


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Farewell to the Highlands

It was the last leg of our grand tour of the British Isles and it has finally come to an end. Next is a brief stopover in London to check mail and have a final pint of ale for the next six months. This time tomorrow we will be somewhere off the coast of South America at 35,000 ft!

I have to say, although it has only been a couple if hours so far, London has done nothing to change my mind as to why I left!

Good lunch with the Olympics London! See you in December


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Going cold turkey from R&R

Rest, I have discovered lately, is a lot like pain killers. Not enough and any temporary effect that it has had is soon undone. Too much, and it very easy to become addicted.

After nearly 3 weeks of lazing around Ireland, I’m coming to the end of my rest rehabilitation.  I must stress that this self-proscribed course of rest entails much more than simple long lie ins, naps after breakfast, lunch and dinner and early nights (all of which are of course integral), but can include anything, such as reading a book, walking dogs and watching cows being milked (evidently it isn’t milked directly into the plastic bottles we buy from the supermarket – there is a middle man from Kerry involved somewhere). My latest resting technique has involved pouring over a map, meticulously planning a route for a walk up one of Ireland’s highest mountain. This may not sound like your idea of rest, but fear not, for this is a walk that will invariably not happen due to Ireland’s “summer”*.

Soon my travels will begin proper, with backpacks, long-haul flights, hostels and anti-malarials. But first, there is family to be visited – a real test of one’s R&R. I envisage myself in the foetal position, shaking back and forth on the road to Scotland, via Dublin, Belfast and The Giant’s Causeway. Giving up rest can be hard, but perhaps I’ll be able to pick up some crack on the way.


*Unlike Britain’s, whose summer’s are akin to those of the southern Mediterranean and typically involve droughts and hosepipe bans.

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“…when a man is tired of London…”

It’s not the first time I’ve noticed it, not by a long shot, but perhaps, as I get nearer the end, I’m becoming more sensitive to it. It’s the ironically titled “Aldgate (Fast)” service, stuck outside Baker Street, and I look around at the people and faces that surround me. Perhaps I’m projecting my disdain for the rat race on to them, or perhaps I am not alone after all. Everyone certainly seems to be of the same temperament, the glum faces, rain spattered free newspapers and ubiquitous white earphones working overtime to drown out the general air of melancholy.

Perhaps if Samuel Johnson had experienced London Underground, Excel sheets and Outlook contacts, not to mention the conveniences of modern air travel, he would have felt differently about leaving London. Me? I think I’ll follow Boswell’s example, to whom Johnson was talking to when he made his famous quote. I’m off back to Scotland.

But first, however, I’m dusting off my conquistadors’ hat and am off to the land of the Incas. Dig out your Lemsips South America…

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