Archive for February, 2012


Not a fan of mainstream, I really loathe hearing commercial pop abroad, especially in some far off places. I guess it cannot be avoided – we all wear something Nike, have Facebook accounts and iPods.

But it is the uniqueness of distant places which makes us want to explore, not ‘globalization’. Trekking 5 days down the length of the Amazon river, then a few hours by bus into the jungle and hear Rihanna, or whoever else is dominating the US charts and downloads, is really dispiriting.

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midnight sun! full moon en route East to the mouth of the Amazon

But discovering new sounds can really give a great twist to a journey. I gather and sample suggestions, hunt down the tunes that I heard somewhere, some that have given a soundtrack to a passing but important moment, or an experience, some that have inspired me. I don’t let it pass usually, and sometimes I do it a bit fanatically, especially if I think that it’s a thread that could lead me to discovering a new genre, a new sub-culture, or something different or unique. Continue reading

My trip down the Amazon, from Tri-Frontiera between Colombia, Peru and Brazil had a thrilling start, as these adventures go.

A Colombian border town Leticia is conjoined with a Brazilian border town Tabatinga, on one side, and a Peruvian town of Santa Rosa de Yavari across the river. It’s a free zone and can be traversed easily without formalities.

Both border towns are humid, muddy, dilapidated, and lacking appeal, apart from the exotic location itself, in the midst of a lush rainforest that otherwise does not distinguish between geo-political boundaries.

My persuasion and negotiating skills were put to a test again (Brazilian embassy in Bogota was the first, successful, stunt) as I tried to pry a boat ticket to Manaus. They couldn’t be booked in advance, so I assumed that it wouldn’t be a problem getting a ticket in situ.

And, normally, perhaps it wouldn’t.

But I, along with a handful of other travellers, dropped in the midst of a mass migration. Haitian emigres were on a tight deadline to get permits in Brazil, after having been detained for weeks in Tabatinga. After having their work visas processed, they rushed to clear the entry and get further into the country via the Amazon.

They were told that there are jobs in Brazil, such as for the upcoming Fifa World Cup in 2014, with Manaus one of the official host cities.

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Their smiles were genuine, their eyes illuminated with hope. Knowing well that they are heading into an exhaustive struggle, they still managed to be high-spirited.  Continue reading

BogotA, a city of graffiti

Bogotians take really well to foreigners. Most are proud that Colombia elicited some distant traveller’s interest and seems worthy of a visit.

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My first impression of the city was, however, pollution and traffic, followed closely by the prevalence of graffiti. Some elaborate and skillful art spanning walls and blocks not infrequently yielded to slogans: existimos porque necesitamos.

Continue reading

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