The most strenuous activity might be getting in and out of the hammocks
A stream with crystal clear glacial water provided the soundtrack for the idyll afternoons
The late afternoon sun peeked through the leaves on the walnut tree, flickering as the breeze swayed my hammock ever so slightly from side to side. I had been in this same position for the past two hours… or was it three? In any case, time seemed of little consequence as I looked around, a similarly tranquilo scene was played out all around me. A couple was lazing in the sun next to the stream, watching the butterflies as they flitted from one lavender bush to the next. Another girl was on a swing in the far corner of the garden, and judging from the glee in her eyes, quite possibly the first time in many years she has been on one.
We were in El Bolsón, in Patagonian Argentina.
I hadn’t heard of El Bolsón until I was researching the route to take from El Chaltén to Bariloche in Argentina. A small hippy town two hours south of Bariloche, the centre of the Argentinian lake district, El Bolsón sways to a distinctly different vibe. Whilst Bariloche is busy and somewhat upmarket, a ski resort town with a Swiss-styled architecture, El Bolsón is the counter-culture capital of Argentina. A haven for hippies in the 60’s and 70’s, who settled in the town and declared it a non nuclear zone and an ‘ecological municipality’. Nestled in the valley between two mountain ranges, it has its own unique micro climate, suited for the cultivation of cherries, raspberries, boysenberries, apples, and hops, which goes into the production of artisanal beer, for which the region is famous.
We were staying at La Casona de Odile, a little sanctuary for those who preferred things a little slower. Situated about five kilometres from town, it was accessible only by a dusty track on which a private bus plied once every hour, with a break during midday for siesta. A curious assortment of travellers were gathered there during our nine day stay, a Belgian toymaker, a Luxembourger carpenter, a South African yoga instructor, a television producer from Buenos Aires, a French-Palestinian lawyer, a pair of French doctors and a few other battle hardened travellers who preferred to keep to themselves.
Evening conversations spanned anything from trading travel tips for various parts of South and Central America, to politics and philosophy and stories of home. Such is the camaraderie between long term travellers, unusually open as there was no fear of judgement and no emotional baggage to carry. Secrets flowed with travel tips across the dinner table, all washed down with a generous serving of the local brew.
La Casona de Odile, barely visible amidst the lavender bushes
A portrait of rural idyll
The late afternoon sun on Mount Piltriquitrón
An afternoon mate, the ubiquitous Argentinian beverage
Enrique and Pablo, childhood friends living in different continents, but reunited again in El Bolsón
A rather common sight during our stay in El Bolsón
I left my job as an advertising Creative Director in August 2012 to travel Africa and South America for a year with my wife, documenting these beautiful places with my Fuji X-Pro1. View the rest of my RTW adventures on Handcarry Only and follow me on my journey by subscribing/following/bookmarking.
Eating, Praying and Living in Bali (Part 3)
View Part 1 of my Bali series, ‘Pray’ and Part 2, ‘Eat’.
It is impossible to speak about Bali in the last few years without a more than passing association with Eat, Pray, Love - the literary phenomenon of lost, self discovery and ultimately, love from American author Elizabeth Gilbert. A tale of Elizabeth’s search for balance and self after a crushing divorce set her on a spiral of depression, her search takes her to Italy, which constitutes the culinary portion of the book title, India, where, holed up in an ashram in meditation, she discovers her inner spirituality, and finally, Bali, where she found love.
The book has been such a hit that ‘Eat Pray Love pilgrims’ have been visiting Bali, people coming from all over the world, drawn by the vivid descriptions painted by Gilbert, seeking their own versions of discovery. Not unlike the ‘Sound of Music tourist’ in Salzburg, skipping about in Mirabell Gardens and the famous gazebo, these Eat Pray Lovers roam about, clutching well-thumbed copies of the book, trying to identify places where the book (and later, film starring Julia Roberts) describes and to experience what Elizabeth Gilbert experienced during her time in Bali (primarily Ubud). And the local tourism infrastructure has cashed in, with drivers eager to point out places where iconic scenes were filmed, and where Julia Roberts stayed whilst in Bali (Four Seasons), and that Ketut the medicine man ‘is not the man he was since success came to him’.
Old lady selling baskets and other rattan products at Ubud Market
Eggs for sale
Lady preparing offerings
Fish for sale
The book and film paint a very romanticised picture of Bali, which to be honest, is not too far away from the truth. I worry about falling into the western trap of romanticising poverty and ‘a simpler way of life’ when evidently, those at the ‘unromantic’ end of the equation have understandable desires for a television or a new moped and the other little luxuries development brings. An incredibly laid-back, spiritual and idyllic place (assuming you avoid the mayhem that is Kuta), our week in Ubud, Bali allowed us a glimpse at life in the slow lane, and it is intoxicating.
A bucolic utopia
A rice farmer’s best friend, ducks not only eat the pests that plague their crop, they also fertilise the soil with their droppings.
Bucolic paddy fields and fruit trees growing wild, children catching fish with little nets by the stream, chickens scratching on the ground for worms in generations-old traditional family compounds, it certainly makes our addiction to smart phones and tight schedules seem a bit bewildering.
Eating in Italy, Praying in India and Loving in Bali? I think that Elizabeth Gilbert could possibly have saved herself some time (and money on airfares and attendant fuel surcharges) by finding all three in Bali.
Cocoa pods growing on the tree
Cocoa pod and nutmeg
View the rest of my Bali Series or check out the rest of my photography on Handcarry Only.