Travel Tales: Sucre, Bolivia (February 2012)



Sometimes what you discover in a new place isn’t a mind-blowing landscape or a wondrous monument, but something much more unexpected – the feeling of a home. And that’s what I felt in Sucre.

We stayed in a hostel called Gringos Rincon and it was by far my favourite hostel that we stayed in on the whole trip. Although lacking in facilities and services such as lockers, breakfast and computers, which were usually top priorities when choosing a hostel, we took a chance on this one as a travelling friend was already there and it did have great reviews on the hostel booking websites. We arrived before dawn broke after a dreadful bumpy bus journey, and with a pang of guilt we pressed the buzzer to the hostel building 4 hours before they expected us, but Mike the owner welcomed us in through his sleepy haze to give us a tour and made up our beds for us even though we were way too early for check in. I think he took pity on us as we must’ve looked like we were about to cry from confusion/exhaustion, because as if the bus journey wasn’t treacherous enough we had just finished up a 4 day trip through deserts, floods, altitude and mud to Salar de Uyuni (Salt flats) where we encountered several occasions where we could’ve got stranded and died, and so the aim of Sucre was to get a bit of quiet and rest, rest, rest! When we finally awoke some hours later feeling a bit more alive, we reunited with our friend and she took us into town to show us around and get some food in us, and the first place we had to go was the local market for a fruit salad.

Tropical fruit is just something you can’t get right in the UK, there’s just no way it can be transported here without it tasting funky when it arrives. I gave up eating mango here decades ago because nothing compares to the ones you can get in the Philippines (and in South America as I learnt from this trip) and trying anything different would always result in disappointment and a squinty eye from the sourness. In the centre of the town was a market that had everything you could need – vegetables, toiletries, meat, clothes and best of all, fruit. It was a small square in the middle of the market with multiple stalls filled with piles and piles of fresh fruit. The women were ready in the their aprons and a gigantic knife to serve you the best fruit salad you would ever have for the grand price of 10 Bolivianos (that’s about £1!). They came served in boat-shaped glass bowls with the fruit covered in yogurt, condensed milk and whipped cream, and as we sat on little rickety wooden chairs we fell silent as we ate all the wondrous fruit. It was so beyond yummy, you just have to go there and get one!

One of the important parts of Sucre was food, and not just for the quality or types of food but the community and experiences that surrounded it. Although the hostel didn’t serve any meals there was a fully functioning communal kitchen that provided every utensil that you told yourself that you would not encounter again until you returned home, like a vegetable peeler, potato masher and pots and pans of every size, and they provided basic amenities to make cooking so much easier that would be so annoying to carry around in a backpack, like cooking oil, salt and herbs (free instant coffee and sugar was also up for grabs anytime of the day too). It was these simple yet genius touches to the kitchen that struck glee into every guest that stayed there, as the self-catering experience could turn from over-processed pre-made pasta sauces to homemade meals made from fresh ingredients that you could sit down and share with the other guests of the hostel. It’s one of the reasons as to what made this hostel so unique to all the others we stayed at and why so many who arrived took weeks or sometimes months to leave. There was a mutual kindness and trust to all that stayed there which is such a rare thing to find, and bonds were made so easily and deeply with people. (It’s from this hostel that I met travel friends that became real friends in the ‘real world’ … but more on that later!)

When you’re travelling over several months, you need places where you can relax and have some down-time because going full speed ahead with action-packed activities will just burn you out if you don’t stop, and Sucre, and specifically Gringos Rincon Hostel, was just the perfect place for that. It was a simple town that nudged me into taking a rest and to feel content with doing normal everyday tasks again. To sit down with a fellow traveller for hours and talk about anything and everything with no urgency to run off to visit some landmark, with some good food or a cup of coffee or three is what your body and sanity needs at some point on any trip – it’s what I needed anyways.

(Instagram: @arteelynne)


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Travel Tales: Cochabamba, Bolivia (March 2012)

Cochabamba in Bolivia was a strange town. I guess my head was just not in the right place to fully take it in as I got quite attached to the previous town we were in called Sucre. After spending 7 full days in Sucre – which is a long time to spend in one town when you’re travelling – me and my best friend and travelling buddy, Cath, turned to our Lonely Planet guide for the first time in a while to pick out a town to head to next. Against my feeble whimpers of wanting to stay a little longer in Sucre, we settled for Cochabamba. And boy did we feel like we settled.

There was nothing really offensive or dangerous about Cochabamba, and some parts were actually really pretty. There was just a strange vibe and we felt a bit like lost babies most of the time. The hostel we were in felt like a haunted house and there were not any friendly travelling faces to bounce new conversations and stories with, which was huge change to the experience of our journey so far.

On our second night there we looked up a restaurant to eat at, because on our first night in Cochabamba we struggled so hard to find anywhere to eat that we ended up resorting to buying chicken and fries from a small stall which they served to us in a plastic bag. They literally put the chicken and fries INSIDE a plastic bag… We looked so sad eating it in the courtyard of our hostel. So, we found an all-the-meat-you-can-eat Brazilian restaurant in the shopping mall and due to our impatience and hunger, we arrived about 45 minutes before they even opened. So we turned around and decided to get a snack and sit in the small park square outside to look at the surrounding views – including the “Jesus on the hill”.

‘The Cristo de la Concordia’ Jesus Christ statue is the main feature of Cochabamba, and is in fact taller than the Jesus statue in Brazil – by about 30 cm! We hadn’t taken the cable car up the hill to visit him up close yet, but he was in good view from a distance at most points of the town. As it had been cloudy that particular day he was pretty hidden away, and whilst innocently waiting in the park square with our rumbling tummies, we didn’t expect to see the spectacular formation of the clouds and light surrounding the statue as the sun was setting.

It was incredibly magnificent to see and the statue had a somewhat omnipotent presence around it – for a the lack of a better or logical description – and that moment became one of my favourite sights I saw and one of my favourite photos that I took.

(Instagram: @arteelynne)

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Travel Tales: Intro.

“Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.” – Dr Seuss.

So, here we go, the introduction of ‘Travel Tales’! So the idea is to post a past or present travel photo on my Instagram account and link it to my blog here where I talk about it.

In the past I have tended to post travel photos on my Instagram when I’m feeling especially nostalgic or sentimental or just have plain ol’ itchy feet, and let’s face it – that’s pretty much every day! So I figured I should add some organisation to it.

On my last big trip to South America I didn’t keep a descriptive personal diary about the places and experiences as they were happening. It’s true to say that a lot of the time I got so caught up in the moment that I really didn’t know what those moments meant until now when I’m looking back – hence the opening quote.

I have found myself realising the importance of remembering it all, and not only remembering the places and experiences but also remembering the kind of person I was out there and making sure I don’t lose that.  So as I sit in my home in London with the constant itch of wanting to get away again, I want to share some of the moments and experiences fully whilst I figure out my next move. I’m hoping in the near future these travel posts will be with more ‘present-time’ adventures.

So, call it the travel blog I never made … In a messed up order. And whoever sees this, I hope you enjoy it.

Follow me on Instagram: @arteelynne

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Against all my protests against iPhones and fake Lomo photos, I of course went and got an iPhone and downloaded Instagram. I am weak and slightly obsessed with it now. I no longer read or post a lot on Twitter, I’ve become far more interested in seeing what my friends/celebs are seeing or thinking visually with a digitally-induced, vintage-tinted filter.

So, although I now have an Instagram, after spending some quality nosing time on it, I am going to lay down some ground rules:

1) I will NOT be posting photos of food. *
2) I will NOT be posting photos of pets. **
3) I WILL, on many occasions, post photos from previous travels/moments as well as current ones (because everyone seems to have a ‘thing’ on Instagram; and travel is the ‘thing’ I care most about).
4) And finally, I will most definitely, under any circumstances, NOT be posting photos of my nails.

If you’re down with that and would still like to follow me, you can do so at arteelynne. Thankyouplease.

* With the exception of pancakes, Christmas and if I ever bake a kick-ass cake.
** I currently don’t own a pet, and I don’t intend to for the foreseeable future. Therefore animals that don’t belong to me may be posted. Because I love zoos.

(Disclaimer: This list is subject to change without notice, but I will do my damn hardest to honour it.)

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Lomo LC-A in Argentina & Uruguay.

Wait, can you hear that? That’s the sound of a sigh of relief after getting back the photos off the first roll of film from the second-hand Lomo LC-A camera I bought off ebay. Phew! I brought it with me on my travels in Latin America, but I didn’t use it as much as my digital. However, now I know for sure that it works and it works great, I’ll be sure to use it more.

(Photos taken in Buenos Aires, Argentina; Montevideo, Uruguay; Colonia, Uruguay; and Iguazu Falls, Argentina.)

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National Geographic: Photo of the Day – 26 August 2012.

I took the photo below in La Paz, Bolivia and it was selected as a ‘Photo of the Day’ for the National Geographic website. I am completely overwhelmed by the amount of kind people from all over the world who have liked, commented or shared my photo.

Click here to see my photo on the NG website

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Latin America Adventure.

To say it was best thing I’ve ever done would be an understatement. I cannot express in words what an incredible, beautiful and challenging part of the world it is. I saw and experienced such mindblowing things and shared it all with the most special people. I have created a new photographs folder entitled ‘Latin America’ for you all to see. (I have also updated the ‘People’ and ‘Places’ folder too… So please take a peek!)

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