Gearing up, leaving Quebec City

I’ve been busy at MEC today. I bought a stove, a 1l fuel bottle, fuel, a pot / pan set, and two dry bags, a 20l one for my laptop and a 5l one for the stove.

The stove is in two parts, a fuel pump and a burner. The burner fits very nicely inside the pot set, without the lid in place. The snap shut handle of the pot holds the stove in place nicely. The pump can travel inside the fuel bottle, so the whole thing has packed down remarkably small. I’m really pleased to have my laptop inside a dry bag inside my waterproof cases. Any spills in there and the laptop will still be dry.

Here’s a video of the first burn on the stove. We made tea, it worked like a charm.

I’m leaving Quebec City tomorrow. I may be off the grid for a while as I’m now fully equipped to camp and cook wild! I’m heading for Les Escoumins to catch a boat over to Trois Pistoles, then up by way of Gaspes and back down to Charlottetown, PEI. Here’s a map of my proposed route courtesy of Google.

View Larger Map

Guatemalan photo catch up

Catching up on a few unposted photos. I’ll start vaguely in chronological order…

Caught a Chivas football game in Guadalajara. They are the only team in Mexico to have a team of only Mexican players. The game was interesting, 3-3 the final score. The crowd went absolutely nutso!

Sam and I stayed on Lake Atitlan in San Marcos for a couple of nights. This was the view from our bungalow on the first night.

View over Lake Atitlan

This morning we rose at 5:25am to catch the sunrise over the mangroves. Hard work this travelling lark!

Here’s a couple of shots of other tourists on another boat.

Boat silhouette standing

Boat silhouette moving

Our captain, tour guide and local connection, Sender, seen here standing majestically at the helm of his vessel.

Our boat and captain

The volcanoes around Lake Atitlan were visible in the distance.

Volcanoes in the distance

We stopped for a look inside the mangroves.

Touring the mangroves

Then back into our merry craft.

Back onto the boat

There were lots of local fishermen out at sunrise.

Local fishermen

We got back to the hotel and ran into our friend Felix, wearing only a towel and carrying a one-eyed parrot!

Felix and the one eyed parrot

Then over breakfast I heard a strange sounding “Hola” from behind the next table. Turned out there was a chatty little parrot in town!

That concludes this edition of MacNews. Check back soon for more exciting action! 🙂

Mexican Madness

A few snaps that have been building up on my cameras over the last few weeks, in no particular order.

Mexico City Subway

The Mexico City subway costs only 2 pesos (15c USD / 10p GBP). It’s subsidised by the government I’m told. So at peak times, it gets just a little crowded!

Cramming on the subway

Here’s a couple of videos to fully convey the madness…

Mexico City Taxi

The classic beetle taxi…

Beetle taxis

Lucha Libre

Mexico has something similar to WWE in the form of Lucha Libre. It’s equally as ridiculous and apparently ferociously popular. I was (un)lucky enough to see some up close in Mexico City.

It turned out to be a publicity stunt to raise awareness for…

Yep, condoms!

I think it may have inspired my travelling companion as a few hours later a small fortune was spent upon the acquisition of his very own El Santo silver mask!

Masked warrior


My flatmates made sushi, how awesome!

Flatmates make sushi

We ate sushi. 🙂

Flatmates eat sushi

Then Lluis was cooking an octopus, although I didn’t actually see it being eaten!

Flatmates cooking octopus

Tacos are hard to beat on your way home at 4am!

Latenight tacos

Finally, I couldn’t resist breakfast in a cup of these proportions.

Breakfast in a cup

Mexican Toilets

I was struck by two scenes in Mexican toilets. The first was in a mall toilet.

Mexican toilet sinks

This second shot was on my phone so the quality is pretty poor. The green circles are slices of lime placed at the bottom of the urinal. Very eye catching I thought!

Mexican urinals

Mexican Wedding Afterparty

One last picture to conclude this session. This was taken in a nightclub at about 4am after a Mexican wedding.

Mexican wedding after party

I’ll try to publish photos a little more frequently in smaller batches.

Partying on Koh Pha Ngan

To my amazement, when I called my bro at 11pm on Saturday night he was sleeping. Aghast, I decided I’d have to party on alone. What a night.

There was Thai on Thai fighting. Two guys who both work for the same bar apparently! Some farrang (foreigner) girl on guy fighting. Then lots of drinking buckets, dancing, and general debauchery.

I was last on Koh Pha Ngan for the new year party 2006/7. It was much, much busier, the beach was absolutely packed. The vibe this time was a lot better. Fewer people, but enough to make a good party. It had less of a thugs out on the town feeling.

Here’s a short clip of the fire skipping to give you an idea of what it was like.

Early adventures with Ubuntu

I’ve been thinking about switching from Fedora to Ubuntu. I downloaded the latest Ubuntu version a few weeks ago. Today I took the plunge and booted it up.

First thing I noticed, no wireless networks. It detected my card and it seemed to work, but no networks were listed by NetworkManager. I unplugged the power and went through to the living room to plug in with a good old fashioned ethernet cable. Fairly quickly I found a solution. So back to my desk on wireless.


At first glance, Ubuntu is just not as pretty as Fedora. The graphics seemed a bit too Windows 3.1 for me. I switched to one of the other included themes. It was a bit better. I think I’d have to hunt around for a nicer Ubuntu theme. Personally, I think this is a big failure for Ubuntu. In aiming to bring free software to everyone, appearance matters.

For a Windows user, comparing Windows Vista with Ubuntu 8.04, I think Vista wins on appearance. For many users, that’s an important factor. Personally, it’s not a deal breaker, but I will do something about it.

Installing software

The package manager in Ubuntu is streets ahead of Fedora. Straight away it just works. It feels nice and clean. It tells you the expected download time until all your packages have downloaded. It strikes a great balance between the fine grained control I get with yumex and the simple interface of the default Fedora package manager. Thumbs up for Ubuntu.

Proprietary formats

Playing MP3 files, avi files, or any other non-free format is a little tricky on Linux. You need to install software which can be “questionable” in terms of it’s copyright position. Fedora gets round this problem by not shipping any of that software. Instead you grab that stuff from livna. However, livna is not installed by default. You have to manually add it yourself.

In Ubuntu, I tried to play an MP3 file. It asked if I’d like to search for the codecs. Then it warned me that I was installing software from the Ubuntu community. A minute or so later, the song started playing. Whatever magic happens behind the scenes in Ubuntu happens automatically. A big plus for Ubuntu, particularly for new users.


By default, Ubuntu boots in Live CD mode. So no changes are made to your hard drive. It’s a great option for new users. You can test the operating system. Check all your hardware works. Then choose to install if you want to. It was at this point that Ubuntu crashed. I’m not sure what went wrong. I could move the mouse, and the clock was ticking, but nothing else. I tried a ctrl-alt-backspace to restart X, no luck.

Ironically, I was proceeding with the install when it crashed. Now I’ve booted back to Fedora. I’m still swaying on whether to try Fedora 9 or not. If I do go with Fedora 9, I almost certainly won’t switch to Ubuntu. In Ubuntu’s favour, I already have the CD. I’ll have to go to the local library to download Fedora 9. That might end up being the deciding factor! 🙂


I recommend Ubuntu to anyone interested in trying Linux. I think they work really hard to make it easy to use, and largely succeed. Personally, being fairly experienced with Linux, I don’t think there will be much difference. Package managing is better in Ubuntu. TrueCrypt ships .debs and not .rpms, so that’s a bonus. I’m just not sure if it will be worth the effort of switching.

For new users, Ubuntu is great. Personally, time will tell.

Ismael Lo at Kirstenbosch

Last Sunday I was at Kirstenbosch gardens for their weekly sunset concert. Last week McCully Workshop were playing. They’re a popular South African ’70s band and the concert was excellent.

Yesterday, Ismael Lo was playing. The concert set a new Kirstenbosch record selling out all 6’000 tickets in 6 hours. Ismael Lo is a Senegalese singer, songwriter, guitarist and harmonicist.

He really is a great performer. The whole band were excellent. They worked the audience well. By the third song people were already standing and dancing in the garden. By the end the whole audience was upright. It was a great afternoon.

They made an announcement at the beginning of the concert asking for no videos or photos. So the following are brought to you illicitly. 🙂

Here’s a shot of the stage early in the concert:

South Africa Cape Town Ismael Lo at Kirstenbosch Early

Now here’s a shot of the crowd later in the concert:

South Africa Cape Town Ismael Lo at Kirstenbosch The cr

Then a shot of the stage again nearing the end of the concert:

South Africa Cape Town Ismael Lo at Kirstenbosch Nearin

Finally, a short video of the closing seconds of the whole concert, after the 3rd encore, when the crowd were at their most excited:

A trip to Guguletu

Guguletu is a township outside Cape Town. defines a township as “A racially segregated area in South Africa established by the government as a residence for people of color.” Another word might be a ghetto.

I was told there’s always a good feast on a Sunday in the townships and some friends invited me to head out there with them. Being the proud Scotsman I am, I accepted so long as I could wear my kilt. It was set to be quite an adventure! 🙂

We left Cape Town a little after noon and caught a minibus taxi out towards Guguletu. It didn’t quite take us all the way, so we walked the last mile or so. It was obvious that we had left the “white” South Africa behind. For example, the hairdressers were in shipping containers.

South Africa Guguletu Hairdressers in containers

We arrived in good time to get a table. Later in the afternoon it’s next to impossible to find a seat. The place sells meat and ice, but no drinks. So you head to the local liquor store to stock up on beer, which we promptly did. Here’s a shot of Zim behind our bucket of beers.

South Africa Guguletu Zim going for the Amstel

Here’s a picture of me while I’m still (fairly) sober!

South Africa Guguletu Callum at Sunday meat

Zim ordered the meat, and some hours later, a tray of chicken wings arrived. I forget the name of the white stuff, but it’s made of maze meal I believe. Despite the fact it looks terrible, it actually wasn’t bad!

South Africa Guguletu Chicken wings on Sunday

It was hard to capture the essence of the afternoon with a still photo, particularly the pounding music (I had my earplugs!). So I shot a few videos, and I think this one sums it up best.

There was dancing, I think our table led the charge on the front actually. There was eating, drinking and much merriment. More than a few people asked me what was under my kilt and I gave my standard response to all of them. “To answer that question involves a woman and a blindfold.” Alas, no takers on this occasion. 😉

These girls did pose for a photo though. It seems to be the only picture of the day which actually shows I was wearing my kilt!

South Africa Guguletu Scotsman in the ghetto

Thanks to the kind Unathi, our friend with a car, we were able to stay out past the last taxi at 5pm. We got back into town around 11pm after stopping at a house in another township. Then three of us came back to my place and I think I finally crashed out somewhere between 1am and 4am. It was quite a Sunday!

It was really interesting to see a real South African party. The townships have a reputation as being dangerous, mainly because they’re poor areas. My experience was entirely positive. Everyone I met was friendly and welcoming. Several people had to be sharply corrected for confusing the words kilt and skirt, but everyone took it in good spirits. 🙂

Overall, it was a great day out. I’m sure it won’t be my last visit to the townships.

Miro: TV On Demand

Miro is an awesome program. It’s a very simple concept. You download the player and subscribe to “channels”. Those channels are simply RSS feeds which include videos. The videos are downloaded automatically for you, and the program tracks what you’ve watched and what you haven’t. So it tells you when you’ve got new stuff to watch.

It even supports torrents, and the channels are simply RSS, so with a little effort (or probably searching) you could set it up to download your favourite TV programs by torrent.

There are currently over 3’000 channels, all of them free. My favourite thus far is The Onion News Network.

The best part is, the player runs on Linux, Mac and Windows. Here’s a screenshot from my lovely new Fedora 8 desktop.

Screenshot Miro

Here’s the most recent Onion News instalment which inspired this post.

I can no longer bear CSI Miami

I tried to watch a recent episode of CSI Miami last night. It was too much for me. I barely made it through twenty minutes, while doing other things, before I had to turn it off. Personally, I hold Jim Carrey responsible. Every since seeing this little gem on YouTube I can no longer take David Caruso seriously. 🙂

For the cunning linguists amongst my readers, I hope you enjoyed the barely bare bear! 😉

Awesome Autism

This is a pretty amazing video. Stephen Wiltshire, Kunst Savant Aus London (damned unfortunate title that one!) spends three days drawing a five foot aerial portrait of Rome having spent only 45 minutes in a helicopter viewing the city. The document is near perfect, his rendition of the Colosseum is practically identical when overlaid on a photograph of the real thing. That’s deeply awesome!

Birthdays in Bangkok

I celebrated my second consecutive birthday in Bangkok yesterday. As is my usual custom, I took the day off work and instead attended to a few personal administration issues. First on the agenda, it was getting very out of control…

Thailand Bangkok Birthday Haircut 2007

Then I wandered by Lumpini Park for a little jaunt in the swan shaped pedal boats. I’ve seen the next scene countless times in the park, but it never fails to bring a smile to my face…

Alas I couldn’t bring myself to participate, I just wasn’t wearing the right brand of spandex, but maybe next time! 🙂

Upgrade to Fedora Core 6

Yesterday I upgraded to Fedora Core 6. All in all, a smooth process. Took a few hours on Sunday, couple of hours today recovering stuff as I needed it, and everything seems to be working like a charm.

I also upgraded to Firefox 2.0, lovely, major improvement on the previous version. It includes spell checking in text fields, so this post is spell checked courtesy of Firefox! 🙂

For those that are interested, I’ve decided to give up on using Linux as a tablet. I’m instead going to, somewhat sadly, install Windows for my mobile, tablet related stuff.

On the plus side, with one click in Fedora Core 6 I was able to run Xgl, which is an awesome 3d desktop. Check it out…

Now if that’s not a good enough reason to switch over to Linux for you non-believers, I don’t know what is…

Back to Khao San

Having been in Bangkok for almost 3 months now, I went back to Khao San Road for the first time in weeks. It’s where we first arrived, and the only place in Bangkok most backpackers ever see. Ahh, it was nice to be back amongst so many farrang faces in a way. To spare the spirit of it with you via the wonders of the web, I shot a little video…

I was over there seeing Vicky before she flies home after two and half years of travelling! She’s heading to Edinburgh, ahhh, home, and she’ll fit right in with all the other grandmothers with her super trendy shopping bag pictured below…

Thailand Bangkok Vicky Leaving

Vicky was the very first person I met in Chiang Mai when I arrived from the UK. My first backpacking buddy! Safe flight Vick.