My Second, Third, and Fourth trips outside of the US were to Brazil. I have to say, these trips were some of the most amazing that I have known. Finding a new home and family in Barbecena, exploring the countryside with Alé and learning about the culture of South America and its peoples is an experience that has lived with me everyday. I hope to one day return, all of my recent trips have been to Southeast Asia, Central America, and Europe. Brazil has left an impression on my heart. Take my advice, if you get the chance to go, then go. The Visa process is pretty simple and takes about 10 days, however it is good for 10 years! Travel, see the world, don’t settle for the tourist areas like Rio and Saó Paólo, there is more to Brazil than high tourist areas.
Minas Gerais –
Nestled just west of the coast and the popular destinations of Sao Paulo and Rio de Jeniero you can find the beautiful, National Park filled, state of Minas Gerais. A short flight from Sao Paulo to the capital, Belo Horizonte, puts you near some of the most beautiful National Parks in the state. I recently wrote an article for Travelicious entitled Hiking Ibitipoca National Park: Brazil. Take a look for information on one of the most amazing parks I have been to in quite some time.
The mid-sized town of Barbecena has unique churches, markets, train stations, and surrounding hillsides for photographers and travelers alike. While there I chose to use one of the local hotels as a base in order to keep my gear safe while taking day trips. If you have an International Drivers License, you can get one from any AAA office worldwide, you can rent a car and drive from there to any destination. There are two types of permits, one for South America and one for Europe/Asia. They are a must if you are driving in another country. If you are in an accident or caught driving without one you will be severely fined and or deported from the country. Day trips from Barbecena can include waterfalls, plantations, horseback riding, climbing, etc. There are two places I highly recommend, Ibitipoca listed above and Tiredentes.
Tiredentes is about 3 hours from Barbecena tucked into the mountains and is a jewel of Baroque architecture with multiple churches and hiking destinations. There are a great many shops, local artisans, villas, restaurants, and coffee shops within the town. Food and provisions are inexpensive and the local shopping has some beautiful merchandise made by the local artisans.
For the best cup of Chocolate coffee you have ever had I recommend stopping in to the quaint little cafe Cafeteria Oura Negro, tell them John and Ale send their love!
One of the most amazing things you can do in Tiredentes, among many that is, is ride the steam locomotive still in operation that transports multiple times a day to the neighboring city of São João Del Rei. The locomotive was a site to behold when I first arrived. It was the first time I had ever seen a Steam Locomotive up close.
For a gorgeous villa, try the Pousadium. Extremely comfortable rooms with breakfast in the morning of fruit and cakes. The Pousadium is well in the heart of Tiredentes near the center square and one of the churches yet it is very quiet and quite peaceful. They even have cloth hammocks on the front porch for you to use that are extremely comfortable! See Video below:
You cannot go wrong hiking through the State of Minas Gerais in Brazil. There is so much beauty to be found there that you could live there for months and still not see it all. If your holiday is in Sao Paulo or Rio I highly recommend buying a cheap flight from either Avianca or Azul to Belo Horizonte and rent a car and just go! If you have any questions, I will be happy to answer them! Stay tuned for a post on Santa Catarina and the island of Flórianopolis and a little fishing village loving named Barra de Lagoa.
The Best Damn Boots, Ever! – 5.11 A.T.A.C Desert Tan
March 19, 2018 – John Stebbins
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Walking, Always Walking! –
Well, as the title states, I do fully believe that I have found the best damn hiking/travel boots you could possibly ever wish for. Back in July of 2015, after I had finally decided to put my passport to good use and travel outside of the U.S. for the first time in my life, I went to my local GT Distributors and I purchased a pair of 5.11 A.T.A.C. Desert Tan boots. I bought them early in order to break them in before traveling with them. And I also wanted to be sure that these were the right boots for the requirements I had in relation to hiking, mountains, glaciers, etc. You see, I walk almost everywhere when I am at home or traveling. So, the boots needed to be comfortable enough for me to wear them 10 plus hours a day, every day. I don’t carry any other shoes with me when I travel so I also needed something that could be utilitarian in nature and still look good and these boots fit that bill for me. You can click on the link below that will take you directly to the product for purchase.
5.11 ATAC Desert Tan boots.
Side zipper for ease of taking on and off when traveling through airport security.
Durable Design; constructed with lightweight breathable materials.
On a side note, I wear wool socks, exclusively. When you wear a pair of shoes or boots with your feet in them and walk daily in temperatures exceeding a 100 or going below 20 you want to have a pair of socks that help your feet breath, are made of natural materials and are comfortable to wear. You can click on the link below that will take you directly to the ones I have been wearing for the last year.
Late 2015 – Mid 2016
My First International Trip –
In August of 2015, I set out for Iceland. I had never been outside of the U.S. before this and I was trying to plan for every contingency I could think of in terms of gear and food. I had been wearing my A.T.A.C. boots daily in the Austin, Texas summer heat and they were working out amazing! From hikes in the green belt to walking downtown the 5.11 boots did very well.
I flew out to Boston and walked the Freedom Trail, Freedom Trail Website, prior to flying out to Iceland. The Freedom Trail is full of history and information. I highly recommend you visit it at least once in your lifetime. Once I landed in Iceland, there was a great deal of hiking to be done, and although I did not do nearly as much as I would have liked, the routes that I took were quite spectacular and challenging. The boots stood up very well to gravel, tundra, cold weather, and rain. The 5.11 boots are able to withstand quite a bit of water and unless you stand in water for periods longer than 5 minutes, you should be ok. They dry out overnight as well, as long as there are enough heat and warmth. Hiking up mountains, along town trails, walking between towns, black sand beaches, and inside dormant volcanoes, the 5.11’s never let me down. Keeping my feet warm and comfortable and providing me with peace of mind that I never had to worry about my feet being injured or cold.
From Iceland, I decided to visit Brazil. I have friends there and all I heard from them was come visit and hike the national parks! So, I flew there in September of 2015. For those of you that do not know, September is actually early springtime in Brazil. I went from late summer days in Austin, to pre-winter days in Iceland, to springtime in Brazil all within a matter of a few months. My boots, well, they handled the climate changes very well. This first trip to Brazil, there have been three so far, was quite beautiful and adventure filled. Between my trip in September of ’15 and the following trip in February of ’16 for my birthday, I hiked through Ibitipoca National Park twice! You can find my review of this stunning location here: Ibitipoca Article for Travelicious Rock climbing, trail hiking, waterfalls, nature in beautiful abundance, Brazil has it and my 5.11 ATAC’s never missed a beat.
I ventured to Alaska just after my second trip to Brazil. There was a hike there that I wanted to challenge myself with, Exit Glacier and the Harding Icefield. Anchorage is a small town compared to Austin. I easily walked from downtown to where I was staying 6 miles away. In addition to hiking, I also biked along the coastal trail. I did this because the coastal trail is quite beautiful and I received a discounted rate from the bike shop for the Flattop Mountain hike the following day. This hike was only about a mile or so and although I ran out of time, this happens when you are constantly taking photos, I still managed to get most of the way to the summit.
Exit Glacier –
My next step was to drive down to Resurrection Bay, near the small town of Seward, and the Kenai Fjords National Park area about 2.5 hours South of Anchorage. The views along the route are stunning and if you have never been to Alaska, I highly suggest you visit. Exit Glacier Nature Area is located about 2 miles outside of Seward at the Harding Icefield lies above the glacier field and feeds the Resurrection River. The trail up the side of the mountain is one of the longest and steepest that I have hiked so far. Traversing three climate zones and crossing an ice field in order to get to the summit overlooking Harding Icefield, the hike is tiring, to say the least. I began the hike in 60-degree weather with misty conditions and over 90% humidity. Once I got the ice field the temperature had dropped to just below freezing with minimal humidity and winds in excess of 15 mph. Needless to say, it was quite cold up there. Exit Glacier and the Harding Icefield hike travel through gravel, clay, mud, dirt, snow, tundra, wooden steps created from logs, rock, and icy terrain. There are multiple streams to cross as well and my 5.11 boots kept my feet warm and dry throughout the 8 plus hour hike.
There is a great deal of hiking, rafting, white water rafting, kite surfing, mountain biking, hunting and other activities to be completed during your stay in Alaska. Anchorage is a good starting point for any of these trips. I loved my time there, especially in Resurrection Bay. I would absolutely love to go back someday and spend more time in the wilderness.
Flattop Mountain –
As I mentioned above, Flattop Mountain is just outside of Anchorage. There are a few tour groups for both this hike and hiking Exit Glacier. The Exit Glacier hike will take you out onto the glacier itself and allow you experience ice hiking at its best! The Flattop Mountain tour only takes you to the base, you hike up on your own from there. The entire hike is quite peaceful and when I went the berries were ripe and you could see families picking them for pies along with the local wildlife. I caught sight of a couple of Moose (mama with baby) down in one of the valleys on my way to the top. It was so very beautiful and serene. The hike up the mountain was wet gravel and my 5.11’s tackled the hike without any performance issues.
Late 2016 – Early 2017
Brazil, for a third time! –
I have to say, I absolutely love Brazil! The people, the culture, the beaches and mountains all come together to create a beautiful destination. On my third trip to Brazil, I decided to do some volunteer work in Florianopolis in the little fishing town of Barra da Lagoa (Baja de La-go-a). This quiet little town on the beaches of Florianopolis has some of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen. And although I spent a lot of my time here barefoot, I did manage to do quite a bit of hiking in the forest and hills above the town. Rosemary Dream is an empowerment center dedicated to helping you achieve your life’s goals through multiple programs designed to heighten your sense of self and create within you a better human. The center is located on the river in Barra da Lagoa and has some extremely beautiful hiking trails that stretch from the back of the property all the way to Pria Molle. You can find out more information on Rosemary Dream and their current programs here: Rosemary Dream
Northern California –
Ahh, Northern California. Redwoods, coastlines, cold air, log cabins, and wood stoves for warmth all culminate to create a magical forest experience that I had the pleasure of immediately after leaving the beaches of Brazil and before heading off to the Alps of Japan. The forest area surrounding the log cabin was tranquil, wet, and very fun to hike through. My daily trips out of the cabin to gather wood and kindling for the fire along with trips to photograph the area brought me a sense of serenity I had been missing for some time in my life.
The Japanese Alps are some of the most beautiful mountain ranges I have ever had the pleasure of visiting. Beginning in Tokyo and traveling to Nagano Japan, the home of the 1998 Winter Olympics, and the little farm town turned ski resort village of Hakuba took me from city streets to gravel farm roads. I walked everywhere in Hakuba. Once the snow finally sets in in January the roads began to become too icy to traverse safely. Of all of the other climates that I had subjected my 5.11 boots too so far, the ice was proving to be my Achilles heel. I had to eventually buy a pair of ice slip-on ice spikes that helped me safely walk the roads. Traversing through the woods and gravel paths presented fewer problems, however. The 5.11 ATAC boots have a hard sole made of rubber and although they create a comfortable shoe, slippery locations like rocks and icy streets present a problem for the wearer.
City streets in Bangcock, city streets in Chiang Mai and trail hikes in Pai Thailand put me and my boots to the test. I thought it was hot in Texas when I first bought my boots in 2015, it was nothing compared to the humidity and heat that is Thailand. My 5.11’s never gave me a problem handling the heat and helping, along with my wool socks, to keep my feet comfortable and dry. Hiking in an urban setting is hard on the legs and feet. Concrete has no give to it and creates a constant jarring effect on the lower body. The 5.11 boots help mitigate that effect and quite honestly, it is almost like I am still traveling through the forest. Coming from 3 months of freezing temperatures and meters of snow to a city gridlocked with people, traffic, smog, and humidity was a definite adjustment. I am just happy I did not have to worry about my footwear.
Beaches, rice fields, mountains, canyons, rivers, waterfalls abound in the Land of the Gods. By the way, can you tell what types of environments I like traveling in yet? I spent three months on the island of Bali and I was able to accomplish quite a lot of goals while there. One of those goals was to hike Mount Batur in the middle of the night in order to see the sunrise over Mount Agung, which was threatening eruption last month. Mount Batur surpassed my previous hike, in both difficulty and height, of Harding Icefield
Late 2017 forward – Back to Japan! (My final thoughts)
Well, I finally traded up on my boots to start the next chapter of this long journey. I ordered the exact same pair of 5.11 A.T.A.C. boots and I can honestly say, they only got better. My biggest concern, the biggest con of the last pair, was the sole of the boot. You see, the original pair that I wore had a hard plastic sole on them and although it was very comfortable to wear, they slipped, a LOT! This pair, however, has updated their materials. The boots are still made the same but the sole of the boot now features a hardened rubber composite that has considerably more grip. The true test, my winter in Japan. Last year, 16/17, I had to buy a pair of slip on ice spikes in order to walk around in Hakuba, Japan without falling on my ass every five steps. This year, 17/18, I didn’t need them once. Extremely well made and super comfortable and now they have even fixed the SINGLE issue I had with them! I cannot tell you how happy I am! I am looking forward to many walking miles in these new boots! I highly recommend you buy a pair for your hiking and travel needs! The zip-up side alone makes traveling through airports a breeze! If you buy a pair, I would love to hear your thoughts on them! Drop me a line or send me a message on IG! @onawalkabout