Category: South America

Business card finally materialises

Posted by May 1, 2012

I’ve spent rather too long working on my business cards.  I had an idea which was never right, but I kept working at it like throwing good money after bad.  Eventually in despair I scrapped the whole thing and started over, with a better idea which meant it all happened much faster.

Here’s one side:

And here’s the other:

It’s not quite as random as it might appear.  I wanted a person in it – they’re the prominent feature in most storyboards and my favourite thing to draw – and an animal because they’re important to me.  The bird is a Cock-of-the-rock, which is a daft but beautiful species I got quite attached to in Peru.  I wanted a sequence to take place over the two sides, partly because it was possible (by using moo) and partly because it would fit with the storyboarding theme.  There are a few tweaks I’ll make for the next batch, but for now this idea can stay.

Peruvian craft

Posted by July 2, 2010

Here are three souvenirs I bought in Peru – all beautiful examples of crafts found around the country.  It’s extraordinary how many different kinds of craft the country boasts, and the quality of design.  I read that Peruvians have, through time, mastered every kind of weaving technique known except for those that are machine-made.

Here is a lovely example of weaving, bought from the Allyus Ecológicos artisans’ cooperative in Cusco.  All natural fibres and dyes.

A close-up:

This is a fabric made by women of the Shipibo tribe, in the northern Peruvian jungle.  The ink is from the fruit of the Huito tree and when first applied, it’s clear, but after a while turns dark (hence also used for temporary tattoos).  The women create this pattern from experience, ie knowing where to lay the dye.  I totally love it.

And lastly this was a present for my mother.  It’s a little gourd, minutely etched into by the master artisan Oswaldo Osores Medina, who is from a town called Cochas Grande in the district of Huancayo (the only place to produce etched gourds).  After etching they rub oil and charcoal over it to bring out the picture.  The detail and lightness of touch is amazing – the woman I bought it from only had 2 of his pieces and said they were difficult to come by (although he’s still alive).  It’s quite moving to look upon such patient, devoted workmanship; apparently the younger generation aren’t that interested, so who knows what will happen to such a special art.

What an incredible country, to produce such a fine level of design and craftsmanship in all these different forms.

The Manu Biosphere Reserve

Posted by July 1, 2010

Well we are home and very happy, eating roast beef and drinking PG Tips.  Our month volunteering in the Peruvian Amazon was brilliant – pretty difficult to draw any animals though as they’re either impossible to see or moving very fast.  But anyway here we go, my last travel sketch entry…

The lodge we volunteered at is called the Manu Learning Centre, owned by the CREES organisation.  It was a beautifully designed place, all dark polished wood and thatched rooves.  The buildings had open sides so you were breathing open air 24/7.  There was no electricity except occasionally for the kitchen/internet, so at night it was pitch black except for candles, stars, headlamps and fireflies.  There was wildlife everywhere in the garden; much easier to see than in the rainforest actually.

The purple flowers below are loved by hummingbirds, whilst the so-called walking palm on the right was one of my favourite trees.  As my notes say, when young they can move up to 2m by putting roots down on one side, thereby bringing them closer to the light.  I thought they were straight out of a Lord Of The Rings/Labyrinth-type movie.

The MLC lodge was just above a river, the Madre de Dios.  When down there you really felt like you were in the rainforest – misty hills of deep green jungle rising up whichever way you look.  It’s vast, despite the deforestation which you see taking place in many areas.

In our last week we went on a 4 day expedition into the nearby area.  First night was spent at another volunteering lodge where they had in-house monkeys and a macaw.  Below is Chico, a 9-month-old Red Howler monkey who, despite being a wild animal that had only been there a week, desperately wanted human affection.  He was there because he got injured falling out of a tree; I don’t think natural selection would have had a lot of patience with that, but they took him in so we’ll see what happens.

On the 2nd day of our expedition, we went to stay with a native community.  Most of the people in this area of jungle were actually Andeans who had moved there (Cusco/the Andes are 8 hours’ drive away) seeking a better life, but there are also native jungle communities scattered around.  It was fascinating.  These are some of the natives demonstrating their crafts to us – basket-weaving, jewellery-making and carving spears (which has to be done topless apparently).  They still used spears/bows and arrows to hunt in the forest.  Randomly they also had two very indignant turkeys wandering around, permanently tense and occasionally gobbling in horror over some unseen issue.

The people on the right were in Cusco airport, waiting for our flight to Lima at the end of our trip.

And then it was all over.  As usual everyone on our flight to Madrid was asleep except for me.  I feel kind of mischievous drawing sleeping people, but they make such obedient models you can’t not really.

So goodbye South America.  Peru was wonderful; actually I might post some photos of the crafts I bought, they’re all so beautiful.  Thanks for checking my blog if you’ve been following it; it’s back to sketches of everyday British life now I’m afraid.  But there’s no extra value in the exotic really; it’s all just life trying to get by whichever land you’re in and species you are.  I will miss the variety of life in the rainforest though, and going to sleep to the sound of thousands of creatures buzzing in the night.  Quite pleased to see the back of the microscopic ticks though.

Ciao x

The Inca Trail

Posted by May 25, 2010

And so we set off on the ‘moderate to strenuous’ Inca trail, a trek through the eastern flank of the Andes that lasts 4 days and ends at the numero uno tourist destination of Machu Picchu. This is the view from the notorious Dead Woman’s Pass, day 2, looking back the way we’d come. Notorious because you ascend steeply on the Incas’ worn stone steps to an altitude of 4200m above sea level. The views, as you’d expect, are amazing but best of all, you know it’ll never be that difficult again. In the picture one of our porters waits for the last of our group, ready to reward them with a hot drink.

There was little time for sketching on our trek; the next opportunity I got was on day 4 at Machu Picchu itself. It’s a magical place, a small city built at 2400m in the midst of deep green, forested mountains which rise up momentously around it from the valley floor. The air is suffused with light and has an almost tangible presence, like it would hold you up if you leaped into it. Machu Picchu is one of the most popular tourist destinations in South America, yet it still feels incredibly peaceful.  I would have been very happy living there as an Inca lady, ritual sacrificing of women aside.  Pleasingly, the Spanish never discovered it during their conquest – you can’t even see it from the valley below. 

Ps – On Wednesday, we travel into the Peruvian rainforest to volunteer for a month.  We have fairly limited internet there so I’m not sure when the next posts will be, but I will try to get something up.  Will probably involve a lot of parrots.


Posted by May 25, 2010

Cusco was built by the Incas in the shape of a puma, with Sacsayhuaman as its head. A fortress built at around 3500m (correct me if I’m wrong), we dragged ourselves up here partly as training for the Inca trail. Local women and children tended a flock of llamas on the grassy slopes below; one of the girls ran down at one point to pelt an excitable male with stones. I guess they all understand one another.

Back to Peru

Posted by May 13, 2010

Gancho, the bulldog in the hostel where we stayed on our return to the Ecuadorian mainland.  You couldn’t be too nice to him or he’d be after your leg.  And other passengers waiting in Lima airport, Peru, for our flight to Cusco.  Unfortunately we’re back with the dim photography..

Cusco, ancient capital of the Incas and 3400m above sea level, is a lovely place once you’ve stopped feeling like you’re going to pass out.  Our first hostel here was a wacky hippy creation in the artists’ quarter.  Stars and hearts hung from the ceiling and there were paintings of earth goddesses everywhere.  It was actually quite nice, but the bedrooms were too cold and uncomfortable for an 8 night stay, so we ended up moving.  Before we did I drew one of their cats.  The other page is of the English pub here (occupying myself while R watched the football).  My sketchbook has got a bit people/animal heavy – more interiors/views on the way…

Islas Galápagos

Posted by May 7, 2010

After Lima, we flew to the coast of Ecuador, and then 1000km westwards over the sea to the Galápagos Islands.

Our 8 days in the Galápagos were some of the best of my life – I’ve always wanted to go there.  We stayed on a gleaming white catamaran with 10 other passengers, 7 crew and 1 naturalist guide.  Each day was spent visiting 2 island sites, with snorkelling in between.  The Galápagos Islands are relatively young; they were (and continue to be) created by volcanic eruptions, with the oldest thought to have been formed upwards of 5 million years ago.  As I mentioned earlier, they lie approx. 1000km off the coast of Ecuador and all the land animals there are descended from ancestors who were either washed ashore on flotsam from the mainland, or found their way through the air.  They slowly evolved to make the best of their new environment, becoming the creatures we see today.  Consequently a great number of the species you see are endemic (ie only found there) to the islands, and often to one island specifically.  Humans have lived on the Galápagos for about 200 years to some degree or another, but the animals have mostly been unbothered by them and continue to behave as such.  You can get incredibly close; sometimes you actually have to be careful not to step on them.

An excellent example of the adaptations these washed-ashore creatures had to make are the Galápagos Marine Iguanas.  The ones below were on Isla Isabela.  Read the writing by the drawings to find out about them, they’re amazing and only found on the Galápagos.  You can click on the pictures to enlarge them.

Eimear and Michael, a couple on our boat, who are Irish and moving to Australia.  The sea lion sketches are taken from an hour or so we spent wandering among a colony on Isla Española.  Occasionally they would bark/grunt/cough, gave me a jump every time.  Later in the week a sea lion swam up to me as I stood in the surf, looking up at me with its huge dark eyes before sniffing my legs, then (gently) biting my foot.  Am in love.

Birds on Isla Española.  Española is the oldest island of the Galápagos and has an incredible abundance of wildlife.  Here are pelicans (these two came to rest on each prow of our boat), Nazca Boobys and the beautiful Waved Albatross, which only nests on Española.  I’ve always been very curious about albatrosses so I was excited about seeing one for the first time.  The wing span of these birds is over 2m, allowing them to glide for hours.  They have an ability to monitor air pressure and therefore can sleep as they fly, alerted by their brains if they drop below their ‘cruising’ altitude.

More albatrosses, our captain and some Galápagos Giant Tortoises.  It was strange to see all the baby ones and know they’ll outlive you.

Our last day, when we visited the Islas Plazas and North Seymour Island.  At last I managed to get some Blue-footed Boobies (is it Boobies or Boobys?) down.  They’re brilliant, they just stand there, occasionally stepping left to right, looking at you about as inquisitively as you look at them.  I also loved the Swallow-Tailed Gulls, with their strange, red-rimmed, marble-like eyes.  They’re only found in the Galápagos and are the world’s only fully nocturnal gulls.  Very beautiful.

And then it was time to leave.  What an amazing place and what a privilege to have been there.  It was like seeing what the world might have been like if humans hadn’t got involved: everything in balance, nature in its pristine state.  And I haven’t even got onto the snorkelling.

Ps – for a comprehensive, beautifully-shot photographic summary of our week, have a look at the blog of two of our fellow passengers, Erin and Matt.  There’s some great videos on there too.

Flamingos in Chile, labradors in Peru

Posted by May 7, 2010

Well it’s been a while since I’ve posted on here.  After Salta we crossed the Andes into Chile, where we visited some (not very impressive) salt flats.  Did however see beautiful flamingoes and go on a wonderful astronomy excursion.  I have now seen the rest of the Milky Way as it stretches across a deep night sky – magical.

Below are the Andean flamingoes, and some pictures from a rather complicated day of travel which started in Chile and ended in Lima, Peru, by lunchtime. And I’ve found a scanner!  Just for these pics and the Galápagos ones which follow.

In the garden of the hostel we arrived at in Lima.  It was a lovely place, but empty, possibly because they charge you to use the oven.

So long Salta

Posted by April 15, 2010

My final picture of Salta – this was the view from our hotel room.  I thought it captured Salta’s charm perfectly – the lovely architecture (you can only see its roof here but the building below was a grand colonial building in the midst of restoration) with all the subtropical greenery surrounding it.  If I had to live in Argentina, this is where I’d go.

Salta La Linda

Posted by April 11, 2010

We are now in beautiful Salta, city of madly ornate, pastel-coloured churches and shuttered colonial buildings.  Verdant green hills surround us while hummingbirds hover at flowers on the terraces.  I’ve been ill so will be getting out to draw some buildings next week.  For now here are some indoor shots..

Salta has a strong tradition of folk music and our street is lined with peñas: bars/restaurants with live acts. 

And the reception desk in our excellent hotel, the Altos De Balcarce!