Moray Circles and Maras Salt in Cusco’s Sacred Valley

The Sacred Valley’s unique Moray archaeological site and Maras salt mines (Salinas de Maras) make a popular day trip from Cusco. I visited in August 2016.

At the tour’s first stop ladies demonstrated how llama and alpaca wool was traditionally dyed using naturally sourced ingredients and spun for weaving.

Incan Textiles, Maras, Cusco, Peru

Ladies in traditional clothing demonstrate how alpaca and llama wool was dyed and spun Continue reading

Salvador, Bahia, Brazil, part 1

Salvador is the capital and largest city of Bahia state, Brazil. Salvador was Brazil’s first capital and a major historic destination for slaves, particularly from the region now encompassing present day Nigeria. These influences are reflected in the city’s historic Pelourinho district, named after colonial pillories used for slaves. I have previously blogged about a Salvadorian festival and the city’s golden Sao Francisco Church and Convent.

Seated next to me on the two hour flight from Rio de Janeiro to Salvador was an interesting French-Colombian woman. She had lived in three South American countries and recommended a diving school in Colombia, Peruvian cuisine and to take the bus from the Salvador airport.

Salvador, Bahia, Brazil

Salvador’s towers and favelas from the aeroplane Continue reading

Festival in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil

After a short stop in Rio, I flew north to Salvador, to catch up with Arnina and experience the city’s amazing culture. I will write more about this later.

In Salvador on the last Friday each month there’s a festival in a town square 15 to 20 minutes walk north of Pelourinho district. Hostel Oh Meu Rei manager Lidia kindly advised she and fellow manager Andrea were going and invited guests to come.

Salvador Festival

First stop was at this drink stall for a R$5 (~AUD$1.80) caipirinha. The round container on left contains a local fruit Spondias purpurea (seriguela) that makes a delicious caipirinha variant

Salvador Festival

A seven-piece band played under a marquee in the centre of the square. Locals grooved to the African-inspired music, particularly the guy in the white t-shirt in the left background

Salvador Festival

For food and watching the locals go by, we stopped at an outdoor restaurant on the town square edge

Salvador Festival

Drink and other vendors brought their goods in wheelbarrows, eskys and carts. The sign is advertising Skol Beats alcopops (R$5) and Skol beer, water and Schin soft drinks (R$2; ~AUD$0.70)

Salvador Festival

The town square is faced by a church (is there a Brazilian town square without a church?)

Salvador Festival

I doubt this vendor sold any Pepsis

Salvador Festival

Towards the end of the night

I loved the evening and thank Lidia and Andrea for the opportunity.

Pearl Jam Live in Concert, Rio de Janeiro, 22 November 2015

Rio de Janeiro was Pearl Jam’s fifth and final Brazilian concert destination of their 2015 Latin America tour. Fittingly, the band partied tonight like it was their last night. After Sao Paulo and Belo Horizonte, this was also my final tour concert.

Pearl Jam Live in Concert, Rio de Janeiro, 22 November 2015

Pearl Jam performed at Rio de Janeiro’s famous Maracana Stadium

Pearl Jam Live in Concert, Rio de Janeiro, 22 November 2015

Maracana metro and train station

I caught the metro from Ipanema to Maracana, changing trains at Estacio. The number of people wearing rock t shirts increased with each stop until hundreds of us exited at Maracana Station. A short walk from the station was tonight’s host and one of the most famous venues in the world: Maracana Stadium.

Pearl Jam Live in Concert, Rio de Janeiro, 22 November 2015

Big Rock burger voucher

Before the concert I wanted to eat something. At the food booth I chose Big Rock, not having a clue what it was. Big Rock turned out to be a burger with two meat patties. The burger was edible but not much more. The Big Rock’s name and format is similar to the Big Mac’s so I guess this was its inspiration (if a dull burger could be inspired).

Pearl Jam Live in Concert, Rio de Janeiro, 22 November 2015

The crowd filling up the Piste Premium section in front of the stage, Maracana Stadium

Pearl Jam Live in Concert, Rio de Janeiro, 22 November 2015

Maracana crowd

After what seemed like forever, eventually the band came on stage. Following a brief stop-start, the band launched into Oceans, the only song I had not heard off Ten, their first album.Pearl Jam Live in Concert, Rio de Janeiro, 22 November 2015

The moon shines brightly above stage

Pearl Jam Live in Concert, Rio de Janeiro, 22 November 2015

The crowd shining their mobile phones lights

Pearl Jam Live in Concert, Rio de Janeiro, 22 November 2015

Singer Eddie Vedder entering the crowd

After putting on a fantastic concert, towards the end Pearl Jam began partying. Eddie invited Edu, a Brazilian fan onto the stage to sing the start of Porch. Eddie then Jeff wrapped themselves in a Brazilian flag. Mike ended up topless and Eddie smashed a guitar.

Pearl Jam Live in Concert, Rio de Janeiro, 22 November 2015

Maracana Stadium filled with Pearl Jam fans

Maracana Stadium in its usual configuration holds over 78,000 people. I expect about that many attended this night.

Pearl Jam Live in Concert, Rio de Janeiro, 22 November 2015

The band towards the end. Topless guitarist Mike is on the left and next to him is bassist Jeff wearing the Brazilian flag

Pearl Jam Live in Concert, Rio de Janeiro, 22 November 2015

The band farewelling both the audience and Brazil

The concert finished at midnight due to a curfew but in three hours Pearl Jam still managed 34 songs. This was an awesome concert and a fitting way to end the Brazilian stint. One of the only ways it could have been better was if people refrained from smoking. It felt there was always someone in my immediate vicinity smoking, exacerbating my headache and putting a small downer on the night.

Even though this was my eleventh Pearl Jam concert, they still played five songs new to me. The band also played four songs from No Code, my favourite album. And, for my fourth consecutive concert, Pearl Jam played Rearviewmirror, the best song in the world.

In my three Brazil concerts Pearl Jam played 103 songs, including 63 unique songs (54 originals, 9 covers). This tour I saw the band play 22 songs for the first time.

In eleven concerts I have seen them play 116 unique songs (98 originals, 18 covers). Only two songs, Even Flow and Do The Evolution were played at all eleven gigs.

Rio’s Sunday night metro and rail services usually end at 11pm. Tonight, trains from Maracana were extended to get the concert audience home. I did not linger in the stadium afterwards as I wanted to ensure I got back to Ipanema. Maracana metro station heaved with people and I eventually boarded a train. At Ipanema’s General Osorio station, only exit A was open. Instead of walking a few metres from exit C to my accommodation, I enjoyed a more scenic route, arriving home after 1:30am.

Farewell Pearl Jam, you were awesome!


All the Pearl Jam concerts and songs I’ve seen:

The full Rio de Janeiro set-list and other fan-views:

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.

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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.

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!

Pakistan Music

Pakistani music is diverse and I managed to sample a few styles during my trip.

Although there was music at both of Hani’s wedding receptions, it did not take a prominent role.

The music at the second reception consisted of a tabla and a sitar, the basis for Pakistani classical music.

Every Thursday in Lahore there are two special performances: Qawwali music at the Shrine of Data Sahib in the afternoon and Sufi drumming and dancing at the Tomb of Shah Jamal in the evening. Thanks to Malik and the personnel at Regale Internet Inn, I and the other Internet Inn customers had some of the best seats at both events.

Following are three photos and three videos from the Qawwali performances of 28 December. Vocals dominate the Qawwali style of music and the singing can get quite animated at times. Worldwide, the most famous Qawwali singer was Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, someone Eddie Vedder was privileged enough to work with.

Every so often a man would come around to collect tips for the group then performing. At least two or three different formations performed. Some people went and threw notes over the band or other audience members just like at a Turkish wedding.

Following the Qawwali performance, outside of the Shrine of Data Sahib some Gypsies performed in the street. They are societal outcasts with their long hair, body piercings and different dress but are seen as holy/providing good fortune, hence the crowd. Note the bells hung around their belts. These guys also attended the Sufi dancing that night.


Sufi Drumming and Dancing
That evening, several of us from the Regale Internet Inn caught rickshaws to the Tomb of Shah Jamal just outside Lahore for an evening of dhol drumming and sufi dancing.

Prior to the dancing the brothers Goonga and Mithu Sain drummed, at one stage joined by a saxophonist. The below video is pitch black and the sound is muffled because I recorded it with my camera in my bag as taking of images was not allowed. Despite these defects, the sound is still cool, particularly for anyone into jungle p0rn music or under the influence of mind-altering substances.

Later in the evening the dancers came on and starting dancing their freestyle Sufi styles. The almost purely male crowd were enjoying their hash in various forms and everyone had mellowed out so I slyly recorded the next video. Two of the dancers whirling themselves into ectasy in the below video were not originally meant to be dancing. The guy with the hat gave Drummer Goonga Sain a 1,000 rupee note (the largest Pakistani denomination, about USD 16.50) and for that his mate was allowed to sit front and centre and he could dance with impunity. The guy in the mustard-coloured dress insisted on dancing despite the best efforts to get rid of him by one or two of the ‘real’ dancers.

Despite the extremely loud drum noise, asleep in the tree above where I was sitting were pigeons. Unfortunately, the two people sitting next to me were shat on 2 or 3 times by these winged rats.

As the night was cold, the concrete seat uncomfortable and, most importantly, I wasn’t smoking the weed, I did not totally get into the sound and left with other Regale Internet Inn backpackers before the performance finished early the next morning. Outside the courtyard, other drummers were doing their stuff in front of another audience.

A Bhangra band provided entertainment New Year’s Eve at Regale Internet Inn. The group consisted of Chimta (large tongs), harmonium (squeezebox), ektara (single-stringed guitar) and dholak (drum) and voice.

The harmonium

The ektara