Archive | April, 2011

A selection of recommended and not-so-recommended books about South America

27 Apr

My obsession with South America continues to power on, leaving me with little choose to spend the majority of every day either reading about the Peruvian elections, listening to Brazilian music, trying unconvincingly to make milanesas, watching films about indigenous tribes and reading book after book about any subject that has some vague link to South America. Therefore, I thought I would share a few of those books here, the majority of which I would recommend.

Tropical Truth by Caetano Veloso

Start with the best! This is Veloso’s autobiography from childhood upto the modern day, though most of the content is the story of how tropicalia was borne, and then Veloso’s incarceration by the Brazilian government. There’s something incredibly easy about reading this book, Veloso will vary the subject from personal traumas to discussing the avant-garde or even talking about masturbation, yet always he comes across as informal yet incredibly knowledgeable, and with a serious passion for music. The sections about tropicalia and his role within the movement are truly revelatory. Far too little has been written about that particular period in Brazil’s history, but this does help to fill that gap somewhat.

Viva South America! by Oliver Balch

This is a selection of articles by Oliver Balch as he travels throughout South America. Written in a journalistic style, it follows Balch as he goes from country-to-country and subject-to-subject, all the time relating the experience to Simon Bolivar’s idea of how South America would evolve. This is a very interesting book that underwhelmed me for the first three chapters in Bolivia, Chile and Argentina. For some reason the overly-political tone disengaged me and I found it hard to relate to Balch and his stories. This changed though once he visited Paraguay and it’s disastrous human rights record and then Brazil, where he looked into attitudes towards race. Even better though are the last two chapters on Colombia and Venezuela where he somehow managed to show both in a bad light, yet through the warmth of the natives involved, made me want to visit these countries as soon as possible.

This is highly recommended for anyone visiting South America who wants to get under it’s skin and begin to understand how the continent functions.

Travels in a Thin Country by Sara Wheeler

A travel diary devoted to Chile, this is a really well-written, well-researched book, though left me cold in places. Yes, Wheeler travelled to many of the most interesting spots Chile has to offer, including Easter Island. But somehow I always feel like I want someone to truly engage with a country and the author never does here. She is great at studying it, and its people, and telling some nice stories along the way, but for some reason it never gets beyond that. All said though, this is very readable and is worth reading if you’re heading to the Chile for the detail alone.

Amazon Watershed by George Monbiot

This is almost the opposite of Wheeler’s book on Chile. Here, Monbiot goes completely over-the-top in his examination of Brazil’s Amazon. At times he is chased by landowners, caught by hired gunmen, beaten up at one stage, etc., etc. Monbiot knows how to be a true investigative journalist, and thankfully his writing is as thrilling as his research is thorough. Through the book Monbiot looks at some of the factors that have led to the destruction of the rainforest, and goes to both the people who the destruction is affecting and those that are doing the destruction.

In short, I can’t recommend this book enough. I can’t imagine a more evocative and informative book on this great rainforest.

Futebol: The Brazilian Way of Life by Alex Bellos

All I need to say about this book is that if you have any interest in football or Brazil you will love it. Months after reading it I am still boring my friends with all the ridiculous anecdotes I have taken from this one.

We all know Brazil is crazy about football, but it’s not until you read this book that you really just how crazy!

The Condor and the Cows by Christopher Isherwood

Isherwood is an old-school author – this was written in the 40s – and it shows. This is a South American travel diary from a time that I struggle to evoke. Isherwood travels across South America (minus Brazil and Uruguay) staying with dignitaries and fellow authors and artists. The sections which talk about the social circles he finds himself can be a little suffocating but there is something very warm and erudite about his descriptions of the landscapes and cities, especially as his often barbed, sarcastic tones are the perfect antidote for anyone sick of the normal hyperbolous guff that finds its way into many travel journals these days.

Brazilian Popular Music & Globalization (edited by Charles A. Perrone & Christopher Dunn)

A selection of essays about Brazilian music. Some of these are very interesting, i.e. those on tropicalia and mangue bit, but some can be a little analytical. I don’t really want to talk about this book too much as it’s really only something that people with an academic nature and interest in Brazilian music will enjoy. If you’re not interested in the academic style but want to know more about Brazilian music then you should buy Veloso’s Tropical Truth instead, it’s far more enjoyable!

Let My People Go Surfing by Yvon Chouinard

Yvon Chouinard is the founder and owner of Patagonia, the most respected of all outdoor clothes manufacturers. This autobiography tells how he started out rock-climbing in South California, got involved in surfing as he started selling his own climbing equipment, until eventually starting Patagonia and making millions with an ethical business model. The first half of this book is very interesting with Chouinard’s tales of the early days of surfing and climbing, includes his first experiences in Patagonia where he climbed Mount Fitz Roy. It was these experiences in Chile which led to his company being named after the region. However, the book tales off as Chouinard dissects one too many detail about how his ethnic business model is able to work and succeed.

Bloco da Lama in Pictures

15 Apr

Okay, so I have been a bit crap in posting up some of my Carnival pictures – I can’t believe Carnival finished over a month ago!

In order to make amends I thought I would post some classic shots of the Bloco da Lama mud party in Paraty. This happens on the first Saturday of Carnival and is one of the most surreal yet incredible things I have ever been involved in.

Bloco da Lama

“Uga Uga” is what the people chant as they parade through the streets.


This is an actual person.



This guy was in the back of a horse-drawn carriage, which was legging it around the streets. His dog always looked quite confused.


Bloco da Lama

I think you get the picture. It’s ridiculous!

The Unique Sights and Experiences of Panama

15 Apr

Panama is a nation rich in history and tradition. Once a shipping gateway for Spanish gold and a haven for famous swashbucklers like Henry Morgan, the country is now a world-renowned recreational paradise filled with amazing natural sights as well as extraordinary man-made attractions like the Panama Canal. While in Panama, hotels like Veneto Panama can arrange a variety of tours that will help you take advantage of all the tourism opportunities that are available to you. Many visitors to Panama don’t realize that, less than an hour away from the capital, you can find breathtaking beaches on both the Pacific and Caribbean coasts and ecotourism excursions to Panama’s rainforests as well as world-class golf, fishing and diving.

Bocas Del Toro

Bocas Del Toro is a region of unparalleled natural resources and its rain forests are considered very important in the development of Eco tourism. Located on the Panamanian part of the Caribbean, it’s also ranked as one of the best scuba diving spots in the world. The Isla Bastimentos Marine National Park located here is the country’s first national marine park covering 32,682 acres. One of Panama’s most beautiful and important marine habitats, the diversity of the marine species and coral reefs make it an ideal place for diving. Also located here is Bird Island. Although it looks like just a giant rock in the middle of the ocean, it is of vital importance in the preservation of the ecosystem as migratory birds travel great distances to rest here. Depending on the season, the island is home to as many as 50 different species of birds.


Many travelers say that when you go to Chiriqui, you are transported into paradise. Chiriqui boasts rivers of crystal clear water flowing into magnificent waterfalls, beautiful beaches and thermal pools known for their healing powers. The tropical rain forests and the “Baru” Volcano are a breathtaking sight .The La Amistad International Park World Heritage Site by UNESCO is the last of the primordial forests in Central America and the National Marine Park of the Gulf of Chiriqui showcases the splendour of many different coral reefs and their marine life.


It may surprise many visitors that Panama has mountains but the majestic mountains of San Blas, Bagre, Pirre and Sapo rise from 4921 to 5905 feet above sea level. The Darien National Park is considered one of the most important natural reserves in the country.  Occupying most of the province and covering 1430 acres, it was declared a World Heritage Site in 1983 by UNESCO. Most notably this area is home to the Harpia Eagle, which is Panama’s National Bird. In fact, this ecosystem is known as one of the world’s best areas for bird watching. Inside Darien National Park, there are also the remains of a fort that protected the Spanish entry to the gold mines of Cana.

San Blas

San Blas is the region where the women wear the famous multicoloured molas. Molas are regarded as one of the most sophisticated crafts from Latin America and is classified as one as the most beautiful indigenous costumes in the world.  They are made from brightly coloured cotton fabrics with geometric and abstract designs reflecting daily life embroidered on them. They also have items made of pure gold that the women use to adorn the garments. The chaquira necklaces are also produced in the region. This area is characterised by the fact that the people keep true to their customs and traditions; so much so that tourists are only allowed into the areas by permission of the chieftain or by permit.

Panama City presents a fascinating contrast between historical and modern, from the famous Bridge of the Americas to the Historical ruins of Old Panama, which was destroyed in 1671 by the pirate Henry Morgan. The city center is characterised by narrow alleys and brick streets surrounded by colonial buildings, historical ruins of the first city, museums, and churches. But, in addition to the many interesting sights to see in Panama City itself, there are also many unique sights and experiences to be found outside of the city.

New Journalism Website

12 Apr

I just wanted to quickly let you all know that I now have a new website for my writing, which will include links to any new articles that find their way into existence as well as a few notes regarding my writing, as well as covering anything that I haven’t been able to include in articles. You can find the new site here:

New web design web site

2 Apr

Today, I’ve got something a little different, a bit of self-promotion! I’ve been designing web sites for a number of years now and thought it was finally time I updated my personal web design site. So, now I can reveal the new look THG Creative site which you can see right HERE.

If you like what you see, get in touch.