Sunday, 29 July 2012

snapshots: harbourside festival 2012

22nd July 2012

Harbourside, Bristol

Pero's Bridge welcoming the crowds to Bristol's 41st annual Harbourside Festival. 
Getting down mid-afternoon, I took a seat on the cascade steps which  plunge down into St. Augustine's Reach to enjoy Bashmema finish off her set by playing out Nina Simone's 'My Baby Just Cares For Me' to a sun-worshipping audience.
Down by the water; under the stars.
Millennium Square in full swing. The crowds reflected into the clear blue sky.
Four points of view.
The Millennium Square mime troupe.
After venturing down the slope to the Loyd's Amphitheatre, I came across a sign which directed me to the 'Happy City stage' where a motley crue by the name of One Shot got Bristol dancing to some Funky Dub Reggae. On the same tip as Gentleman's Dub Club minus the animated frontman.
The boats of Bristol harbour.
"Give I a cider!" - 6pm.
In his element.
The Rozzers patrolling Queen Square.
(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Harbour.
In flight.
Banging a djembe in Queen Square.
Walking home. A Cotham sun set.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

the end of it all....

1st July 2012

Bristol, England

           "Once a journey is designed, equipped, and put in process, a new factor enters and takes over. A trip, a safari, an exploration, is an entity, different from all journeys. It has personality, temperament, individuality, uniqueness. A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us. Tour masters, schedules, reservations, brass-bound and inevitable, dash themselves to wreckage on the personality of the trip. Only when this is recognized can the blow-in-the-glass bum relax and go along with it. Only then do all frustrations fall away." - John Steinbeck

            So after three continents, twelve countries, eighty six blog posts and two hundred and forty seven days of travelling through sun-scorched deserts, humid jungles, squalid slums and windswept valleys on a variety of buses, bikes, cars, trains and planes, the finishing line of this terrific world marathon has finally been reached and I find myself back home. Predictably I'm finding it quite hard to adjust and digest everything that's happened to me since last October, although thankfully this blog does allow me to break down the months into manageable memories that help me reflect upon the ambitious path I have trodden since India. The trip, as Steinbeck so eloquently puts it, did indeed ignore my tentative pre-planned steps back in Delhi and instead thrust me upon an uncertain trail filled with terrifying but exciting new experiences. Although it's true that things calmed down once I had got my bearings, there have been many other times since then where I have been forced back onto that wild pathway and although I often feel uncomfortable when there, I relish these moments as I learn the most from them. I remember being sat in my room during the final weeks leading up to this trip, frantically taking notes of things that I apparently must see and do in each country. Although I'm sure a lot of what I read subconsciously informed later decisions, ultimately it was not really necessary as the real excitement and freedom granted by travelling independently is only truly exercised by occasionally throwing both caution and guidebooks to the wind and allowing fate to decide your next step. Some of the best experiences I had during my travels did not come about by reading the lonely planet but by taking a gamble and stumbling upon them unexpectedly. The key thing to acknowledge is that there are so many opportunities that pop up on the road but they are often only accessible by accepting that you can't control when or how they will present themselves. All you can ultimately do is to make sure you prepare yourself properly before leaving and then once on the plane, open your mind and let whatever happens, happen. 

Thanks for reading.


final days in rio

8th - 13th June 2012

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

            Turning to the final chapter of my story, I awoke mid-afternoon on the 8th June 2012 to find myself pulling into the central bus terminal of the exhilarating, beach-bound metropolis that is Rio de Janeiro. Excited by the thoughts of ending the adventure with a bang in this world-famous carnaval city, I left the station with my new found Swedish friend Maya - who had been sitting next to me on the 24hr coach from Puerto Iguazu - and hopped on a local bus towards the golden sands of the iconic Ipanema beach. Maya had already booked a dorm room in the stylish barrio (neighbourhood) and she suggested I tag along to see if the small hostel had any more beds available. Having once again forgotten to pre-book anything myself, I decided to join her and after searching for the address she had written down for the hostel, we finally stumbled across the "Girl From Ipanema" guesthouse which had tucked itself down a small alleyway around two blocks back from the beach. Luckily, I managed to nab a bed although it did set me back an extortionate 50 Reals (£15!) - quite a shock to the system having enjoyed £5 beds for weeks in cheap-as-chips Bolivia... After checking in at the front desk, I went for a walk with la chica con el sombrero rojo down to the glowing beach where we sat and watched the last light fade from the sky. Lying back on the fine white sand, ferocious waves crashed into the beach while people sat behind us in the promenade bars enjoying the warm evening with their glasses of caipirinhas. This was it, I had arrived!  Rio de Janeiro is probably one of the most beautiful cities on the planet and as a final stop on my long journey, I feel that I definitely saved the best until last. Over the past eight months I have been lucky enough to visit many of the world's major metropolises: Delhi, Bangkok, Saigon, Sydney, Buenos Aires and La Paz have all captivated me in their own mad way and Rio, I'm glad to say, was no different. The lucid energy and dazzling atmosphere of the "Cidade Maravilhosa" struck me the moment I stepped off the bus and my excitement reached new levels when I caught my first glimpse of the outstretched arms of Christ the Redeemer who perched magnificently on his throne up among the clouds. I spent a few days in the barrio of Ipanema wandering along the cosmopolitan roads of the affluent area by day and kicking back in the numerous beach-side bars by night. On the Friday evening a few of us from the hostel jumped in a taxi and headed over to the notorious Lapa street party which takes place every week beneath the iconic white archways that span a vast central square. Getting out of the taxi, we ran for shelter from a monsoonal deluge which had started to tip down from the heavens and although everyone was soaked within minutes there was little that nature could do to dampen the spirits of the caipirinha-chugging weekend locals who danced into the downpour until finally seeking refuge in the Circo Voador mega club that lurked between the glistening archways. Here is Lapa by day:

The famous white Lapa archways.
Lapa Town.
Besides the archways the other thing Lapa is famous for is the Escardaria Selaron. The mosaic steps of Chilean born artist Jorge Selaron attracts thousands of tourists to the edgy neighbourhood. 
Location of Rio within Brazil.

                  Wanting to see a bit more of the city, I decided to leave Ipanema and headed over to the adjacent neighbourhood of Copacabana on the Sunday as I found a charming hostel by the name of Pura Vida  for just 20 Reals (£6)  a night. A former home to an extravagant Polish ambassador, the new owners had preserved the ornate architecture, chandeliers and wooden interiors which adorned the grand-looking building making it a very pleasant final place to rest my head before heading home. Walking the 100 metres down to the beach on the Sunday morning, I strolled along the geometric mosaic waves of the Copacabana promenade while legions of joggers and rollerbladers filled the main road which had been closed for the day. Stepping down onto the beach, I headed towards the jutting rock of the Arpoador which connects Copacabana with Ipanema while the sun sank behind a congregation of clouds in the sky. The beach itself was no less busy than the road as volleyball players dived across their sandy courts while surfers jogged towards inviting waves and teams of footballers whipped balls across their yellow pitches. Stopping for a beer at one of the small promenade bars, I looked down the length of the beach and saw the Pao de Acucar (Sugarloaf) rising imperiously in the distance; the small cable cars could just be seen ferrying people back and forth between the two famous oval peaks that jut out into the Atlantic. Here is Copacabana:

To have such an incredible beach so close to a major city is one of Rio's Ace cards. 
Extravagant sand castles line the promenade.
Pao de Acucar . The Sugarloaf
Final night on Copacabana.
              Losing myself in the hustle and bustle of this exciting city, I suddenly realised on the Sunday evening that only four days remained before I was due to catch my flight back home and I had still not fulfilled my primary objective in Rio. On the Monday therefore, I set off from the hostel mid-morning with my sights set firmly on the top step of Cristo Redentor. The world-famous Christ the Redeemer statue which stands elegantly atop the 700 metre high Corcovado mountain, took nine years to build and at 130ft high it is actually the fifth largest statue of Jesus in the world weighing in at a phenomenal 635 tonnes. I had been thinking about this statue for awhile and in my head had built it up as the symbolic finish line for the whole trip. It wasn't just another tourist attraction for me, it was a fitting conclusion to my journey. Now the weather, it has to be said, was not fantastic during my stay in Rio and although I often awoke to find a clear blue expanse occupying the sky it frequently descended into clouds and humid rain by mid-afternoon. As I trundled along towards the base of the famous statue on the Monday morning in a local bus from Copacabana, I noticed a gang of ominous clouds which had started to impose themselves upon the clear day. Arriving at the base of the Corcovado mountain, the sky was still valiantly holding on to a few of it's remaining blue ribbons but as I boarded the small train which shuttles people up to the statue, I groaned as the gentle patter of rain started to drum upon the roof of the carriage. After a brief ten minute chug to the highest station, I exited the train and saw that the blue sky had gone and been replaced by a blanket of grey clouds that were grower darker by the second. Looking up towards the sharp peak of the mountain, Christ the Redeemer loomed above me with his outstretched arms as I paced two at a time up the final set of stairs to the end of my journey. Nearing the top, I brought my foot down upon the final step and in doing so, closed this particular chapter of my life. Walking along the pathway to the far balcony, the city of Rio de Janeiro spread out before me and although the rain had since started to lash down in a manic fervour, I stood and looked out over the last eight months of my life; letting memories of light seep across the final page of my story.

Thank you Rio. Thank you world.

It's time to go home.


First glimpses of Criso Redentor.
Catching the train to the top of the Corcovado.
The final symbolic top step of the Corcovado. 
Christ the Redeemer.
Bye bye Rio.