Pearl Jam Live in Concert, Belo Horizonte, 20 November 2015

Pearl Jam performed a fantastic concert in Sao Paulo but Belo Horizonte’s performance was amazing!

It rained consistently the concert afternoon and evening. Rain combined with peak-hour in Belo Horizonte leads to crawling traffic. My taxi to Isabela’s apartment (R$25.10 on meter; R$30 including tip) experienced some delays. However, this was nothing compared with the drive to Mineirao Stadium.

Bruna drove admirably for over two hours to cover the limited distance (as short as 13.5km according to Google Maps). To dodge the worst of the traffic we took many side roads. We even went up a road too steep for the vehicle and had to delicately turn around to go back down.

We eventually arrived to the stadium around 8:30pm, the time Pearl Jam has previously started. Pete, Pearl Jam’s head of security was viewing proceedings at my entry gate. After seeing how many people were still lining up, I expect he advised the band to start later. Although my ticket wouldn’t scan, entry staff let me through. After a quick toilet stop and water drink I was on the ground, ready for the band.

Pearl Jam Belo Horizonte

Entering the stadium Pista Premium section

Within minutes, Pearl Jam came out and gave an epic performance, starting with a song I didn’t recognise (The Beatles’ Rain). The rain had stopped by now and hardly a drop fell during the concert.

<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>

A partial video of Even Flow from the night. Even though I have seen this song played at every Pearl Jam concert, in Brazil the audience participation never makes Even Flow boring

Pearl Jam Belo Horizonte

Singer Eddie Vedder talked about the mining disaster in both English and Portuguese during the night. He expressed his sympathy with locals and slammed the operator. A crowd recorded video of Eddie saying this was shown on the news with the next day. Eddie also said concert proceeds would support the families hurt by the disaster.

Pearl Jam Belo Horizonte

The crowd lights up during Imagine (Lennon)

In tribute to the terrorism victims at the concert in Paris, the band covered Eagles of Death Metal’s Want You So Hard (Bad Boy News).

Pearl Jam Belo Horizonte

Tonight the band played 36 songs in just less than three hours. Even in my tenth concert, I still saw eleven(!) songs for the first time. Personal highlights included Sometimes, Rearviewmirror and  Mankind, the latter sung by guitarist Stone Gossard.

Pearl Jam Belo Horizonte

Singer Eddie Vedder at the side of the stage

Mineirao Stadium’s seating is largely covered and the covering helped keep the sound in, creating an amazing atmosphere. Even though the crowd wasn’t as into the concert as in Sao Paulo, the atmosphere was better. It appeared that many of the attendees in my section came to concert for the ‘event’ and not for the music. People lined up for beer throughout the concert and I’m sure Heineken and the promoter made massive profits. Pearl Jam Belo Horizonte

The lights are on near the concert end

Pearl Jam Belo Horizonte

Pearl Jam band members waving good night

Pearl Jam Belo Horizonte

The crowd exiting the ground

Once out of the stadium I caught up again with Bruna, Bruno and Isabela. We all agreed that Pearl Jam put an a fantastic show. Thankfully, the Uber ride home did not take two hours. Not that I would have noticed, as I slept most of the way back.


For the full set list and more fan views:

Pearl Jam nerds, here are the songs I’ve seen live:

I’m about to catch the metro to Maracana for tonight’s Rio de Janeiro gig, Pearl Jam’s fifth and final Brazilian concert of their 2015 Latin American tour. Stay tuned for my report on this as well as a write up of my time in Belo Horizonte.

Volunteering after the Bento Rodrigues dam disaster

Belo Horizonte is the capital of Brazil’s Minas Gerais (‘General Mines’) state, where the Bento Rodrigues dam disaster occured. On the fifth of November the wall of an iron ore mine tailings dam operated by Samarco (a Vale/BHP Billiton joint venture) collapsed, flooding towns, killing several people and causing an ongoing environmental and ecological catastrophe. The poisonous dam water is still flowing downstream and yesterday a friend said it had almost reached the sea.

The disaster region’s administrative centre, the town of Mariana, is only 20km from Bento Rodrigues. The flood victims were moved to Mariana and the disaster relief is coordinated from here. Patricia’s nieces Isabela and Bruna and their friends Bruna and Maria Clara went to volunteer in Mariana yesterday and I was lucky enough to join them. I could have explored the nearby world heritage listed historic town of Ouro Preto but chose the more meaningful option.

The entire 120km drive from Belo Horizonte to Mariana was hilly. I’m amazed at how hilly the region is. The relief centre is a large warehouse fronted by a smaller shop front where disaster survivors receive aid.

The mountain of toilet paper

The toilet paper mountain, Mariana, Minas Gerais

The warehouse contained masses of of donated supplies: non-perishable food, toilet paper, bottled water, cleaning products, linen and shoes.

Piles of shoes in the foreground and bags of unsorted shoes in the right background

Piles of sorted shoes in the foreground and bags of unsorted shoes in the right background, Mariana, Minas Gerais

There were many bags and piles of second hand shoes of all types from thongs to high heels and slippers to sneakers.

One of the final hat sightings

One of the final sightings of my Barmah hat, Mariana, Minas Gerais

Following registration, our job was to sort the shoes, ensure the pairs were together and place them on the appropriate pile: male, female, girl, boy, single and worn out shoes. Shopping trolleys of shoes were then taken as required around to the shop front to be selected. Shoe shorting wasn’t well coordinated and could have been streamlined with a better process, clearer labelling and crates to place shoes in.

The shoe sorting team

The shoe-sorting volunteer team, Mariana, Minas Gerais

In our final few hours we separated the single okay shoes from the damaged and worn-out shoes, looking for pairs and shifting more than 30 garbage bags of poorly shoes to the loading dock for disposal.

My volunteer nametag

My volunteer name tag, Mariana, Minas Gerais

Different media visited throughout the day and Globo, Brazil’s largest television company recorded me sorting shoes. I could be on Brazilian TV! If you watch Globo and see a person wearing a Barmah hat sorting shoes, that’s me! Unfortunately, that will be the final footage of my hat as it later disappeared off a seat a few metres from where we were sorting shoes.

No, this is not the replacement hat

No, this hat is not a satisfactory placement

The warehouse shopfront where survivors receive their supplies and choose their shoes

The relief centre store front where survivors receive supplies and choose, shoes, Mariana, Minas Gerais

Storm clouds threatening

Ominous storm clouds, Mariana, Minas Gerais

Rain came several times during the day and as we left the relief centre storms threatened. Due to hail on the route back we postponed our return journey and stayed for a coffee at Isabella’s boyfriend’s aunt’s nearby boutique hotel located next to a stream on a (surprise, surprise) steep street. As soon as the aunt heard I was Australian she went on a tirade (in Portuguese) about BHP Billiton.

The stream below the boutique hotel

The stream below the boutique hotel, Mariana, Minas Gerais

Chicken parmigana at the restaurant

At Sinha Olimpia Restaurant, Mariana, Minas Gerais

Chicken Parmigana, Sinha Olimpia Restaurant, Mariana, MInas Gerais

Mashed potato, potato chips, rice and tomato sauce accompanied the chicken parmigana

The storm was still impacting the road back to Belo Horizonte so we had dinner at Sinha Olimpia Restaurant a few buildings down the street. A large, delicious share plate of chicken parmigana and (for me) a caipirinha later, we drove home.

Sao Paulo, Brazil

Besides Pearl Jam and jet lag, I did manage to see and do a few other things during my time in behemoth Sao Paulo.

With Pablo at Vila Madalena restaurant

With Pablo at restaurant

On my second night, via a mutual friend (thanks Lucy!), I met Pablo, an Argentinean who has lived in Sao Paulo for a decade. Over beef picanha and a strong caipirinha cocktail Pablo provided an insightful introduction to South America, Brazil and Sao Paulo.

Brazilian steak sizzling at table

The picanha (beef) with chopped onions cooking over a flame (top of photo). Diners finish cooking the meat to their liking

Hostel Alice interior wall

An interior wall of the very friendly Hostel Alice, Vila Madalena

With my jet lag and post-trip tiredness, I hardly left Hostel Alice in the first few days. The very helpful and friendly hostel staff (Renata, Denise, Gabriele) and fellow guests (Joana, Marcio, Cassio) made it a home away from home.

ATMs at Sao Paulo’s main Guarulhos International Airport did not accept foreign debit or credit cards so I didn’t have Brazilian Rials for a few days. Luckily, the restaurant and hostel accepted cards. A bank nearby the Vila Madalena metro station appeared to only allow withdrawals up to R$500 (less than AUD$200) – something to consider for fellow travellers to Brazil.

Vila Madalena graffiti

Vila Madalena graffiti

Vila Madalena is a neighbourhood famous for its nightlife, culture and art. Towards the end of Rua Harmonie (the same street as the hostel) is an area full of graffiti art. A trip highlight occured when, while walking on the street, twice in two minutes Brazilians asked me for directions!

Standing in front of Vila Madalena graffiti

On my walk back to the hostel, another local not only knew I was a foreigner but guessed I was Australian due to my hat’s similarity to Mick Dundee’s from Crocodile Dundee.

Woman taking photo of girl in front of graffiti

A woman photographing a girl (her daughter?) in front of graffiti art, Vila Madalena

Steep street, Vila Madalena

Some Vila Madalena streets are very steep

Gelato, Vila Madalena

Always a winner: delicious tiramisu, passionfruit and cherry-chocolate flavoured gelato for lunch

Bromeliads and orchids attached to tree, Vila Madalena

Plants including orchids and bromeliads were attached to many Vila Madalena tree trunks

Painted bin and pole, Vila Madalena

Even rubbish bins are disguised in Vila Madalena

Women holding sign for job, Vila Madalena

Woman employed to hold advertising sign all day

"Australian bread", Sao Paulo

“Australian bread”

On my final evening in Sao Paulo, I caught up with Cleide from the Pearl Jam pre-concert party. The cafe we visited sold selected sandwiches made with Australian bread, a soft, light-brown bun. I don’t know how this bread came to be associated with Australia. I guess Australian bread is widely known in Brazil as the flight I took from Sao Paulo to Belo Horizonte also sold sandwiches made with it. Can anyone solve this mystery?

Theatre sculpture, Ibirapuera Park, Sao Paulo

Next to a lake in Ibirapuera Park with central Sao Paulo in the background

Ibirapuera Park is a major Sao Paulo landmark and, in a city lacking public space, a venue thousands of locals visit every day, especially on weekends. The park contains lakes, pavilions, monuments, museums, a running and cycling track and many other facilities. Keeping up the Australian theme, black swans live in the lakes.

DSC01262 (Large)


A sculpture in one of the pavilions

Contemporary art inside theatre, Ibirapuera Park,

Either another artwork or contemporary seating at an Ibirapuera Park pavilion

Hundreds of young people congregated in one area of the park. Amongst them were many young teenage (e.g. 13 to 16 years old) same-sex pairs flirting with and kissing each other.

Street from taxiing plane, Congonhas Airport, Sao Paulo

My plane to Belo Horizonte taxiing metres from the street prior to take-off from Congonhas Airport, Sao Paulo

I will return to Sao Paulo on this trip as there are many more things I would like to see and do including Liberdade (the Japanese district), free architecture and walking tours, the Central Market (Mercado Municipal) and museums and galleries.

My flight to Belo Horizonte departed from a different airport to the one I arrived at. Congonhas Airport is a domestic-only airport located closer to central Sao Paulo than the larger Guarulhos International Airport and my taxi from the hostel to Congonhas cost R$43, far less than a taxi to Guarulhos.

Pearl Jam Live in Concert, Sao Paulo, 14 November 2015

What a fantastic evening!

One of my dreams was to see Pearl Jam play live in South America, the home of their craziest fans. After hearing the band play my favourite song (Rearviewmirror) for the first time at their 2014 Perth concert, my wish for this concert was to enjoy the moment and soak up the atmosphere.

Sao Paulo was the second of five Brazilian Pearl Jam concerts as part of their 2015 Latin American tour.

My Pearl Jam Sao Paulo experience began with an unofficial fan gathering the night before at O’Malley’s pub in central Sao Paulo. There I chatted with other fans, both Brazilian and foreign and shared our pre-concert excitement, including Cleide, a fellow runner and a passionate soccer fan. Coincidentally, that evening Brazil played Argentina in a world cup qualifier in Buenos Aires and loud cheers rang out when Brazil came back to draw the match 1:1.

The pub had an interesting payment system I had not experienced before. Upon entry each person was given a card. Food and drinks were put against that card like a tab. Prior to leaving, each person paid their bill in order to receive an exit ticket. No exit ticket, no exit. My bill totalled R$109 for two pints of stout (R$19 each), a grilled tuna salad (R$31) and the R$40 male cover charge. If I recall correctly, females paid R$30.

Thank you to Dimitrios, a fanatical Pearl Jam fan from Greece who found the venue and created the Facebook event. It was a great night except for the terrible news from Paris flashing up on the television screens.

With other Pearl Jam fans outside Sampa Hostel before taking the van to the concert

With other Pearl Jam fans outside Sampa Hostel before going to the concert

The next afternoon I walked 10 minutes to Sampa Hostel to catch a specially chartered van taking fans to and from Morumbi, the concert venue (40 real). Cheers to Hostel Alice for reserving my place!

Morumbi, officially known as Estádio Cícero Pompeu de Toledo, is one of Sao Paulo’s major soccer stadiums and the home of Sao Paulo FC. My Piste Premium concert ticket gave me access to the general admission section in front of the stage. Arriving after 5pm, I had hours to buy a t-shirt (R$100) at the merchandise stand, enjoy the stadium atmosphere, chat with other fans and watch the crowd build.

Morumbi Stadium filling up with Pearl Jam fans

The Piste Premium general admission section in front of the stage

Vendors carrying eskies wandered the crowd selling water, soft drink and beer

Vendor carrying esky of water, soft drink and beer

Fans wanting to eat or drink didn’t even need to leave their spot in the audience. Both before and during the show, vendors wandered amongst the crowd selling either drinks (water: R$6, soft drink: R$8, beer: R$10) or hot chips (R$12).

The receipt for hot chips

Voucher for hot chips (‘potatoes in cone’) bought at a kiosk

More food and drink was available from kiosks. There, instead of paying cash directly, one had to buy a voucher and exchange it for the items purchased. “Pearl Jam” featured prominently on each voucher and I bet a few fans bought extra vouchers for souvenirs.

As the concert got closer, Mexican waves started in the stands and the sense of anticipation grew

The crowd roars as Pearl Jam enter the stage; the video ends with the first notes of Long Road

After 8:30pm the band entered the stage to a huge roar. Long Road opened the concert followed by Of The Girl and, as I predicted beforehand, Love Boat Captain. Prior to Love Boat Captain, singer Eddie Vedder read out a few words in Portuguese regarding the recent attacks in Paris. Drummer Matt Cameron’s bass drum also featured an outline of the Eiffel Tower.

Lights in the audience during Pearl Jam's cover of Imagine

Fans shine their mobile phone lights during Pearl Jam’s cover of John Lennon’s Imagine

Pearl Jam performing in Sao Paulo

The stage glows

Strong winds and rain hit the stadiums, causing some interruptions. Eddie sang a solo acoustic version of Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town and the first encore break was extended in order to secure loose items, allow the spotlight operators to come down and to protect the stage.

After the rain at Pearl Jam Sao Paulo

After the rain

The audience rocking to the Neil Young cover Rockin’ In The Free World – the couple dancing typify the crowd’s enthusiasm and joy 

Near the end of the concert

Lights on at the end of the concert

The lights are on for the end of the show

Yellow Ledbetter usually signals the end and after this song the band thanked the crowd and said goodbye. However, as it was such a great night the band came back for a final song and third cover, All Along The Watchtower.

Pearl Jam put on a magical night for the ~ 60,000 strong crowd, performing 33 songs over three hours and eleven minutes. It’s very hard to pick favourites from the night but my highlights included Hail, Hail, State Of Love And Trust and Rearviewmirror. The main highlight, however, was the wonderful atmosphere brought about by the crowd and band feeding off each other.

For the full set-list and further fanviews:

The good news I have two more occasions to experience the Pearl Jam-Brazil magic: in Belo Horizonte and Rio de Janeiro. I can’t wait!

Perth to Sao Paulo via Abu Dhabi

I’m writing this from the friendly Hostel Alice in Sao Paulo, the Southern Hemisphere’s largest city and Brazil’s business and transportation centre. Although it’s obvious in hindsight, I didn’t realise Sao Paulo was named after St Paul from Tarsus in modern day Turkey, a town nearby my former hometown Mersin.

My journey from Perth to Sao Paulo took only two flights but an indirect route and long duration (36 hours). Cara kindly dropped my off at Perth Airport and there I boarded the 11.5 hour Etihad flight to Abu Dhabi. Etihad plane at Perth Airport

The Etihad plane taxiing to the gate, Perth Airport

Etihad’s service and modern plane impressed me although their food was average. I loved the provision of noise-cancelling headphones, particularly since I left mine home in the interests of reducing baggage weight and space.

Abu Dhabi International Airport

After touching down at Abu Dhabi International Airport

With 10 hours overnight in between flights, sleep was key. I knew Abu Dhabi Airport had sleeping pods and I went to find them. I guess I already gave off a backpacker vibe because, when asked about the pods, the information desk man showed me a price list to check if I could afford one before pointing me in the right direction.

Interior of Abu Dhabi Airport Sleeping Pod

My sleeping pod interior with the cover closed, Terminal 3, Abu Dhabi International Airport

After eventually finding GoSleep Sleeping Pods, the woman kindly offered eight hours for the price of seven. At AUD 95 (they accepted multiple currencies) for seven hours, I bet many backpackers do indeed choose a bench instead.

Abu Dhabi Airport Sleeping Pod

The open sleeping pod

The sleeping pod room was dark and somewhat noisy but the combination of earplugs and my excellent Hibermate Sleep Mask with Ear Muffs blocked out all noise and light. The six hours of sleep was golden and made this long journey manageable. Although expensive for what it is, I recommend the sleeping pods for anyone who needs a sleep and isn’t claustrophobic.

The view shortly after departing Abu Dhabi

The view shortly after departure from Abu Dhabi

Rivers near the West African coast

Rivers near the West African coastline

The 14.5 hour Jet Airways operated flight for Etihad from Abu Dhabi to Sao Paulo flew over a significant chunk of Africa and the Atlantic Ocean, both firsts for me. The African mountains, rivers and plains looked attractive from the sky and the continent is definitely on my future places to visit list.

When not looking out the window, I spent most of my time playing an addictive arcade game on Etihad’s E-Box entertainment system causing the system to crash twice from overuse.

Waters offshore Brazil contain some of the world’s deepest, most technically-difficult to extract and largest reserves of oil and gas. From the plane I was surprised at number and density of the drill ships, production platforms and support vessels.

First sight of the South American continent

My first ever view of the South American continent (and continental Brazil)

The South American continent came into view indicating my journey end and South American adventures start.

Sao Paulo from the air

This photo provides an indication of how massive Sao Paulo is

Jet Airways plane at Sao Paulo Airport

The Jet Airways plane after landing at Sao Paulo’s Guarulhos International Airport

After landing and going through Brazilian immigration, I was thankful to have prearranged a transfer through the hostel. Luckily Sao Paulo’s infamous traffic behaved itself and the journey into this mega city went smoothly.

Farewell to a multi-generational Mitsubishi Magna

Farewell Mitsubishi Magna

Blooming jacaranda trees provided a fitting backdrop for the Magna’s farewell

Today I farewelled a car that served three generations of family across two states. This morning a tow truck driver came and towed my white Mitsubishi Magna sedan. The car will be auctioned off with proceeds going towards preventing youth homelessness via Kids Under Cover.

The Magna entered life at Mitsubishi’s Tonsley Park assembly line in 1994. In 1995 my dearly departed maternal grandparents purchased the car new from Ceduna Mitsubishi in western South Australia. Later, my parents became owner number two and, in 2009, they were generous enough to give the car to me to use in Western Australia.

Magna in South Australian countryside

The Magna in all its glory in the South Australian countryside, 2006

As part of my move to Perth to join a consultancy in late 2008, I negotiated to have the company pay for car relocation. Packed to the ceiling with my possessions, the Magna crossed the Nullarbor on the Indian Pacific train. Unknown to my then boss at the time, the company paid several hundred dollars to transport a car worth not much more than the transportation fee!

Gaziantep slippers on Magna mirror

A shoe ornament from Gaziantep, Turkey hung from the Magna’s rear view mirror

Changing the state of registration to Western Australia required an inspection. A new windscreen and a few other tweaks later, the Magna was ready to extend its reign for several more years. If the car had no provenance I would not have persisted with the transportation and registration bureaucracy and expense. However, this was not a normal car, but a family heirloom! Indeed, the Magna performed very well and, until the last few years, operated very reliably for a 1994 model. It wasn’t a spectacular car but it performed its job.

Mitsubishi Magna sedan

Before towing, I removed the license plates for return to the Department of Transport

21.5 years and 256,000 kilometres after coming off the production line, the Magna has left the family. Farewell to a fine servant!

The 2015 Mandurah Half Ironman Swim

Today I completed the 1.9 kilometre Mandurah half ironman swim and, hence, reached my goal to become an efficient swimmer.

I originally intended to finish all three race legs. In early October I re-evaluated the situation. Considering interrupted preparation including trips to Malaysia, Melbourne and Adelaide, preparing for South America, packing up the house and my life, and the flight to Brazil two days later, I decided to only attempt the swim. This aligned with my swimming goal and was far more manageable.

Yesterday afternoon I drove an hour south of Perth to Mandurah foreshore for the surprisingly efficient registration process. After checking in my bike (I didn’t want to risk disqualification) I travelled to nearby Wannanup where Bernice, Gerry and Nick kindly hosted me.

This morning the 4:45 alarm rang. As the transition area closed at 5:45, early access was critical. The 700+ bikes on racks made an impressive sight. The pros placed their expensive machines on a special red-carpeted line.

Mandurah half ironman bikes

Mandurah half ironman bikes in the transition area

The professional men began their open water swim at 6 am followed by the pro women and then various age groups of amateur men and women. Each wave wore colour-coded swim caps and my navy-capped wave was one of the last, starting at 7:01.

The water was murky and I took time to get into rhythm. I felt best in the middle 60%. I didn’t experience much carnage, only the odd bump. One woman who bumped into me said she thought I was a buoy and I immediately replied I am 😀

The picturesque swim course goes around canals and, about half way in, under a bridge. The finishing stairs appearing in the distance were a welcome sight and minutes later I was out of the water and running to the transition area. I’m uncertain what time the swim took (~50 minutes I guess) but I made it!

Final Air Yoga Stretch

While visiting the Gili Islands I undertook some intensive yoga classes and when I returned to Perth I wanted to continue with the stretching.

Unsure which classes to take, I then remembered former Toastmaster (and occasional Cirque du Soleil physiotherapist) Trevor had started Air Yoga. Choice made, I purchased the 20 lesson pass and for the past six months I have been hanging around at Air Yoga’s Leederville studio.

Hanging Around Air Yoga

I took Beginner Air Yoga classes first to adapt to the hammock and learn the basic moves including how to go upside down. Besides inversions, the hammocks are used for stretching in many different positions both from in the hammock and from on the floor.

The exercises were tough and I always looked forward to the final relaxation position, lying in the hammock.

Air Yoga is great for flexibility and core body strength. The yoga classes complemented my triathlon training and served my tight running legs well.

In the six months I improved my Air Yoga movements substantially. Although Friday was my last Air Yoga session in Perth, I intend to continue similar exercises in South America.

Farewell Banyandah Toastmasters – for now

After four years, last week was my final Banyandah Toastmasters meeting – at least for now.

Toastmasters is an international organisation aiming to improve people’s public speaking and leadership skills. Located opposite Maylands train station near Dome Cafe, Banyandah Toastmasters is Western Australia’s oldest Toastmasters club having started in 1974.

I joined Banyandah in November 2011 to improve my communication skills and participating in the club has had a significant positive impact. In addition to completing the ten speech Competent Communicator Award, I have entered speech contests, created the club’s website and was twice Club President.

I have learnt from and shared many fun evenings with my fellow members, including Matt, Kym, Ross, Anita, Keith and Adam. The positive and jovial atmosphere is one of Banyandah’s key attributes.

Public speaking can always be improved and practised and, as Banyandah is such a welcoming club, I may well be back there then upon returning to Perth.

Following Dreams

In one month’s time, I’ll be seeing Pearl Jam play live in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Joining my favourite band’s most fanatical fans in concert in South America was one of my dreams.

Several months earlier I decided to follow my dreams. Since then I’ve quit my job, simplified my life and, two days after the half ironman triathlon, will be flying to South America on a one-way ticket.

After seeing Pearl Jam in Sao Paulo, Belo Horizonte and Rio de Janeiro, I will travel around Brazil including Salvador, Pantanal, the Amazon and wherever else I fancy. After Brazil I will Spanish somewhere, perhaps Bolivia, before visiting the rest of the continent. After South America, I have pencilled in Spain, Portugal, Morocco, Croatia, Greece and a reunion in Turkey.

In early June, weeks after leaving my job, I rediscovered the following diary entry from my time in Turkey, written eleven and a half years earlier:

2015 Goal

The image above reads:

END RESULT: Total financial independence by 2015. Defined by: the ability to retire, travel or choose any other direction I may fancy without reliance on employer/job or other tenuous forms of income.

I reckon I’m 90% of the way there. To fulfil 100% I need to create a sustainable income. Stay tuned for more on that later.

I can’t wait to discover South America and beyond!

Seven Years of Running

Running race medals

Some of my race finisher medals

This morning I ran the 2015 Fremantle Half Marathon, my final stand-alone running race for the foreseeable future.

Excluding Little Athletics in childhood, I only started running in June 2008. After struggling at first, running became easier with practise. Looking back, I’m surprised at how fast I improved. In September 2008 I finished my first big event, the 12 km City to Bay in 1:01:13, just over 5 minutes per kilometre.

Almost from the beginning, my main aim was to complete the 2010 Istanbul Marathon. The race was a great excuse to return to Turkey, a country I had lived in for six years. I completed two marathons: Istanbul and the preceding 2010 Perth Marathon.

Aya Sophia after the Istanbul MarathonAya Sophia after the Istanbul Marathon

Standing in front of Hagia Sophia after finishing the 2010 Istanbul Marathon

Training for a marathon (42.2 km) requires major dedication and lifestyle changes, something, after the Istanbul Marathon, I was not prepared to repeat. Half marathons are far more manageable and the City to Surf, Perth and Fremantle half marathons were my primary running goals most years.

2014 City to Surf Half Marathon Start

At the start of the 2014 City to Surf Half Marathon

I had intended to finish running following the 2010 Istanbul Marathon but I found the activity too enjoyable and a great way to stay fit.

As much as I would love to bring my running gear to South America in November, I will be travelling very light so extra shoes, clothes and equipment won’t pass the grade.

No doubt I will run races again but when that will be I cannot tell.

2014 Swan River Run

The look of determination near the end of the 2014 Swan River Run 14 km – no onesie-wearer was going to beat me!

PS: I had fun this morning at my final stand-alone race but it was not a personal best. I ‘hit the wall’ and walked most of the last 5 km, finishing in 2:01:00. Running 17 km two days earlier and a warm, sunny second half no doubt contributed to this performance.

Malaysia Trip Part 2: Penang and Langkawi

I’m back in Perth now after a whirlwind trip to Malaysia. I had hoped to post this article in Malaysia but internet quality and reliability in my last few days was poor.

From Kuala Lumpur I flew north west to Penang Island, just across from Butterworth on the Malaysian Peninsula. The island is connected to the peninsula by a bridge with a second bridge almost complete.

My flight arrived arrived late at night and instead of paying MYR 38 (~AUD 13) for a taxi to George Town, I waited and paid MYR 2 to be the only passenger on the final bus at 11:30pm. I left the bus at Komtar and walked the remaining kilometre or so to my accommodation at Ryokan Muntri. On my walk I was surprised at how many people were sleeping on benches. The pro edition of offline map application was a great help on my trip, enabling me to find my way around using GPS, without requiring internet access.

The Ryokan Muntri hostel is perfectly located. Not only is the hostel right in the heart of George Town’s world heritage listed old town, it is also directly across the street from Muntri Mews Cafe, a stone’s throw from Passion Heart Cafe and a short walk from Red Garden Food Paradise hawker centre. I came to Penang for its food and I wasn’t disappointed!

George Town, Penang street art

George Town, Penang, is famous for both its old architecture and modern street art

Lee Jetty, Weld Quay, George Town, Penang

Lee Jetty is one of George Town’s Weld Quay clan jetties

Cat stalking rabbit in grounds of Kapitan Keling Mosque, George Town, Penang

Rabbit stalked by a cat in the grounds of the Kapitan Keling Mosque

Pinang Peranakan Mansion, George Town, Penang

Pinang Peranakan Mansion, George Town

Pinang Peranakan Mansion, the former home of a rich Baba is ornately decorated and furnished and well worth visiting. Many of the materials and furnishings came from Europe.

Straits Chinese Jewellery Museum, Pinang Peranakan Mansion, George Town, Penang

A beaded mattress runner containing approximately 250,000 to 500,000(!) beads, Straits Chinese Jewellery Museum

The Straits Chinese Jewellery Museum adjoins Pinang Peranakan Mansion and contains traditional jewellery and accessories much of it highly elaborate and made from gold, beads and other materials.

Pinang Peranakan Mansion, George Town, Penang

The second floor entrance hall, Pinang Peranakan Mansion, George Town

Hindu ceremony, Little India, George Town, Penang

A Hindu ceremony, Little India, George Town, Penang

George Town has significant Chinese, Malay, Indian and European influences. While walking through the old town’s Little India district, I came across a Hindu ceremony being performed.

Metal Street Art, George Town, Penang

Metal sculpture, Love Lane, George Town, Penang

Besides paintings on buildings, George Town’s public artwork includes metal rod sculptures depicting images and descriptions.

Looking down while going up Penang Hill on the funicular railway

Going up Penang Hill on the funicular railway (hand model identities unknown)

On Thursday fellow hostel guest Stanley and I caught a bus (MYR 2) to the base of Penang Hill. Well, we were meant to get off at Penang Hill but instead got off near Kek Lok Si, a major Buddhist temple. Our goal was Penang Hill so we walked the remaining distance to the start of Penang Hill Railway where we caught the funicular train to the top (MYR 30).

Very large pitcher plant at Monkey Cup garden and cafe, Penang Hill

A very large monkey cup (pitcher plant of the Nepenthes genus), Monkey Cup Garden, Penang Hill (hand model identity known)

Penang Hill Railway is a major tourist attraction and the top terminal station contained the usual cafes, lookouts and LOVE sign photo opportunities as well as an owl museum! From the top we hiked the kilometre or so to Monkey Cup Garden and Cafe. Along the way were monkeys and, on haze-free days, great views.

Monkey Cup Garden contains over 100 varieties of Monkey Cup or pitcher plants of the Nepenthes genus. Wikipedia informs me that they are named Monkey Cup because monkeys have been seen to drink out of them. It is an impressive location and collection and the manager is passionate about the plants. As a bonus, Monkey Cup customers received free rides back to the railway terminal.

Monkey Cup Garden, Penang Hill

Monkey Cup Garden, Penang Hill

Red Garden hawker centre is indeed food paradise, George Town, Penang

Red Garden Food Paradise hawker centre, George Town, Penang

The bus back to George Town dropped us off at the Red Garden Food Paradise hawker centre where I had the have the highly regarded Kimpo Famous Roasted’s crispy skin duck. The duck did not let me down!

Kimpo Famous Roasted's crispy skin duck, Red Garden, George Town, Penang

Kimpo Famous Roasted’s crispy skin duck accompanied by dumpling soup, noodles with pork and vegetables and Royal Stout

Cakes at Passion Heart, George Town, Penang

One of Passion Heart Cafe’s two cake cabinets

As it was my last night in Penang, I decided to go out with a bang and finish with not one but two serves of cake from Passion Heart Cafe: Cempedak (jackfruit) Cake (not the cheesecake in the photo) and Black Forest Cake with Red Wine. Both were delicious and the red wine added a nice touch to the latter, although my Mum’s black forest cake still beats it. Speaking with the cafe manager, it was clear she is passionate about her cakes and the creative process behind them and was proud she makes them on the premises.Kerabu Beehoon, Muntri Mews, George Town, PenangKerabu Beehoon (spicy rice noodle salad) and Fresh Mix Tropical Fruit Frappe, Muntri Mews Cafe, George Town, Penang

After checking out of the hostel Friday, my final Penang meal was a second visit to Muntri Mews Cafe. As I had eaten enough rich food, I opted for a lighter and healthier meal. The Kerabu Beehoon (spicy rice noodle salad) and mango, pineapple and papaya Fresh Mix Tropical Frappe provided a delicious finale to three days of wonderful food. A taxi back to the airport (MYR 40) and my time in Penang was over; at least for this visit!

View from my room, Butterfly Guest House, LangkawiThe view from my Butterfly Guest House room, Langkawi

My second visit to Langkawi included my first night on the island. As Monday’s taxi driver Yusoff was waiting for his van’s air conditioning to be fixed, I took another taxi (MYR 30) to Butterfly Guest House.

Butterfly Guest House is located up a hill, outside a village and 10 minutes walk from the coast. It is run by a family of two adults and four children, including their playful five year old son Aslan. The peaceful location is a great get away from city traffic, noise, concrete and bitumen. The loudest sound while there was the squawking of the family’s geese.

The accommodation is located on the building’s upper level and consists of several mattresses on the ground with mosquito nets (the ‘dorm’) and 3 cordoned off rooms. I splurged and booked one of the private rooms for MYR 80 (AUD 26).

My room, Butterfly Guest House, Langkawi

My room with the mosquito net over the bed, Butterfly Guest House, Langkawi

Staying at the Butterfly, one almost feels a part of the family. When I realised I didn’t have enough ringgit left, the father was generous enough to give me a ride on his motorbike to the airport to change money. On the way back we stopped at two large supermarkets to buy supplies for the hostel along with drinks and peanuts. Langkawi is a duty free island and alcohol is very cheap. Cans of Royal Stout were only MYR 2.20 (AUD 0.70). Back at the guest house I watched a karaoke DVD with the family.

Also staying at the guest house were Germans, Dutch and a New Zealander who has spent over a year travelling abroad.

Butterfly on flower, Butterfly Guest House, Langkawi

A butterfly at the Butterfly Guest House, Langkawi

Saturday included a walk to the coast, an iced coffee at a cafe and delicious chicken rice with a fresh carrot/orange juice at Cafe Nelayan Kak Zah. The coast in this area of Langkawi has mudflats with lots of small crabs running around, reminding me of Broome, Western Australia. On my return, I visited a spa for a soothing upper body massage (MYR 59) away from the heat of the early afternoon.

That evening Yousoff’s taxi was fixed, I said goodbye to my hosts and travelled to the airport for the late night flight to Kuala Lumpur. I spent my last night in Malaysia at the Plaza Premium Lounge, where I ate, slept and waited before going to the gate for my seventh and final AirAsia flight to Perth.

My seven flights and seven nights of accommodation cost approximately AUD 240, making the trip not only great fun but also great value.

A major purpose of this trip was to test out clothes and gear in preparation for my trip to South America and beyond this November. For Malaysia I only used a carry-on bag, making travel far easier. For South America I also intend to only take carry-on, hence the criticality of carefully choosing every single item I pack.

Malaysia Trip Part 1: Kuala Lumpur and Langkawi

Greetings from a hazy Kuala Lumpur. It’s my third visit to this airport in less than 48 hours! I’m writing this from the Plaza Premium Lounge, landside at KLIA2, my first ever visit to an airport lounge!

I first arrived to KL Sunday night after a 5+ hour AirAsia flight from Perth. As my flight to Langkawi was early the next morning, I stayed the night in Kuala Lumpur International Airport’s modern Terminal 2 (KLIA2). With its shopping centre, facilities and KL Express rail link, KLIA2 is dramatically better than its predecessor, the Low Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT).

My accommodation for ~7 hours at KLIA2 was part of a shipping container at the Capsule By Container Hotel. The place was noisy and crowded but the sleep and shower were much appreciated.

My 'room' at KLIA2

My ‘room’ at KLIA2

Langkawi, a Malaysian island is not far from Thailand and less than 1 hour by air from KL. At the airport I paid MYR 120 (~AUD 40) for 4 hours of taxi and was directed to Yousoff and his taxi van, my companions for the next 6&1/2 hours (I paid Yousoff for the extra time at the end). First stop was a restaurant for breakfast. Yousoff’s choice was excellent with Soto (soup with rice cubes, chicken and peanuts with spicy sambal) accompanied by ginger tea with condensed milk being both delicious and excellent value at less than 3 AUD.

Soto in Langkawi

Soto with a side plate of sambal

Next we headed north to a really nice beach which I wandered along, observing the shells and flotsam including two cowries, my favourite shell from childhood. Langkawi is surrounded by smaller islands which reminded me of the islands in Vietnam’s Halong Bay. Thailand is visible on the horizon and Langkawi has some Thai influence. At the beach I bought a coconut from a cafe run by Thais.

Beach at Langkawi

The beach, north Langkawi. The darker blue on the horizon is Thailand

Cockle shell, Langkawi

This cockle was one of many shells lying on the beach

After the beach Yousoff drove me to Seven Wells where I climbed hundreds of stairs to get to the waterfalls. The waterfalls at the top were placid and small compared to the impressive waterfall off a side track further down.Monkey sign, Seven Wells, Langkawi

Monkey sign, Seven Wells. Monkeys are common on Langkawi and I saw several during the day.

Waterfall, Seven Wells, Langkawi

The larger waterfall part way down the Seven Wells track

Seven Wells is close to my next destination and Langkawi’s biggest tourist attraction, the Langkawi cable car, otherwise known as SkyCab. Along with Izmirli Ozgur and Russian Anna I paid 85 MYR (about AUD29) for a glass-bottomed gondola and skipped ahead of the queue lining up for normal gondolas. The ride and views are impressive and I recommend paying the extra for the glass bottom and to skip the line up. I also skipped the first stop part way up the mountain.

View down mountain from cable car, Langkawi

View down the mountain from the cable car

Getting to the suspension bridge (SkyBridge; 5 MYR) at the top of SkyCab involved taking many more stairs. When I first arrived it was shrouded in rainy mist, reducing visibility.

SkyBridge, Langkawi The suspension bridge at the end of the cable car ride

A blooming tree at the viewing platform on the opposite side of the bridge was a big hit with butterflies.

Butterflies, Langkawi

Butterflies at the top of SkyCab

Butterflies, Langkawi

The flowering tree covered in butterflies

View up mountain from cable car, Langkawi The view back up the mountain with the mist visible at the top

I had enough time remaining before my flight for a meal and Yousoff took me to another excellent choice, Jom Ikan Bakar, where I ate delicious fish and cockles.

Meal at Jom Ikam Bakar, Langkawi

Clockwise from the left: rice, cockles, whole fish, pineapple, fried chicken, fried fish pieces

The AirAsia flight back to KL was delayed slightly. At KLIA2 I took the KLIA Ekspres train (MYR 35) to Sentral before the LRT train two stops to Masjid Jamek (MYR 1.30) from where I walked to my accommodation, the funky BackHome Hostel. It’s great to be hostelling again!

In KL I’ve had a fantastic time catching up with friends Kim (last night, Pappa Rich), Christine (lunch today, Indian restaurant) and Yin Li (tea at Starbucks, Sunway Pyramid).

South Indian meal, Kuala Lumpur

Today’s lunch on a banana leaf (no prizes this was at an Indian restaurant – great choice Christine)

Flight number four to Penang is due to leave in two hours’ time at 10pm. I’m looking forward to seeing George Town’s architecture and, more importantly, eating its food!

Two months to go in my Half Ironman Quest

On the 8th of November I will participate in the Mandurah Half Ironman. A half ironman is a triathlon which consists of the following legs in order:

  1. Swim: 1.9 kilometres
  2. Bike: 90 kilometres
  3. Run: 21.1 kilometres (half marathon distance)


My primary motivation for entering the half ironman was to learn to swim efficiently, something I’ve desired for a long time.

In May, to understand how to improve my technique, I took a coaching lesson from Sally Scaffidi of Swim Smooth. Sally videoed my stroke and her post-swim advice, recommending stroke-specific training drills.

For the last 3 months I have swum laps in my local aquatic centre’s outdoor 50 metre pool up to 6 times a week. On most occasions I rewarded myself with a sauna and spa for slogging it out and drinking chlorinated water in the winter weather.

My stroke has improved massively although I still have a fair way to go. Last week Sally gave me a follow-up coaching lesson. My primary element to correct is bending my elbow in the ‘pull’ instead of using a straight arm. Other improvements required are looking further forward instead of directly below and lifting my head out slightly when breathing instead of a long way. To assist with my drills, I have a pull-buoy, fins and hand paddles.

Going forward, after more training sessions in the pool, I will focus on swimming in the sea using a triathlon wetsuit to mimic race conditions. The wetsuit and the sea water will improve buoyancy and the wetsuit will also reduce drag. The sea also provides variable conditions with waves, currents and creatures.


Last week I revisited Andrew Budge of Trysport to fit the aero bars and other parts ordered at his request and adjust the bike to suit my dimensions. This week I set up my CycleOps Fluid 2 bike trainer in the lounge room and undertook my first cycle session assisted by the awesomeness of the Pearl Jam Twenty 3-Disc Deluxe Edition DVD. I’m less concerned about the bike part of the triathlon as long as I put in the training hours.


Having completed 3 half marathons this year, one may think I’m ready for this leg of the triathlon. However, this is not the case. Running immediately after a bike ride is very different to running independently and is requires specific practise.

A bike ride followed by a run is called a ‘brick’ session and these are extremely important when training for a triathlon. My peak training aim is a 3 hour bike ride followed by a 1.5 to 2 hour run.

Fantastic fitness will be a positive side-effect of the triathlon training and I’m looking forward to that. Two months to go!

Book review: First They Killed My Father by Loung Ung

Having a cold has postponed my triathlon preparation (more on that later) but enabled me to read some of the books hanging around my house.

I read the first ~90 pages of Loung Ung’s First They Killed My Father on my 2014 trip to Cambodia and Vietnam. I was not gripped enough by the book’s beginning to finish it there and then even though I was in the region the book was set in.

The day I picked up the book a second time was the day I finished its remaining ~150 pages. This time I found the story extremely gripping.

First They Killed My Father (A Daughter Of Cambodia Remembers) is Loung Ung’s memoir from growing up in Phnom Penh in the early 1970s, to surviving the Khmer Rouge, to her escape to a new life as a refugee.

Written in the present tense, most of the book is set during the Khmer Rouge years when a very young Loung and her family, along with millions of other Cambodians, suffered horrifically. I found the number of horrendous experiences suffered by Loung’s family incredible.

I was very impressed by the detail recalled in the book. When key moments were unknown (for example, what happened to Loung’s father after leaving the camp) Loung hypothesises what may have occurred. I found this helped with the book’s flow and structure. Even though many of the true and hypothesised stories were unimaginably brutal, they aligned with the stories and evidence observed in my two visits to Cambodia.

I was amazed at how Loung, her siblings and other family members were able to reunite multiple times without modern communication methods. I expect the ‘informal telegraph’ was far stronger in those days.

I am also amazed at the courage displayed by Loung to open up and write this fantastic book. I highly recommend First They Killed My Father.

If every Australian read this book I am sure the country would have a more humane attitude towards refugees.