Continuing south towards the Chilean/Argentinian borders we climb up to 5000 metres. Here there are signs of volcanic activity with geysers and boiling mud and towering volcanoes. There are multi coloured lakes, some fed by hotwater springs. Flamingos of various hues feed off the algae. They freeze in the cold nights and need the warmth of sun to bring back circulation to their legs so that they can become mobile again . I did this whilst the driver slipped off for brunch. It didn’t stop him from joining us for lunch, later along the trail.
There are no roads on the Bolivian high plain. The drivers seem to navigate between landmarks.This was a view out our hotel done just before sundown. The hostel was absolutely in the middle of nowhere. Unable to use a hairdryer to dry off my paint, I couldn’t include much detail, just capture the vista of siennas . The marks are tyre tracks left by 4x4s. Even without roads there were speed limit signs- though I didn’t see many speedcops, besides there weren’t many places for them to hide.
Other paintings are on my website: grahammcquadefineart.com
When we arrived at the salt flats in Uyuni in southern Bolivia I wasn’t that impressed. I did some of the sketches below, where the expanse of salt can be seen in the background, surrounded by distant mountains and vast tracts of land. However, venture out onto the flats in the evening where the water just covers the salt bed. The wind drops and the vivid colours of sunset start to fire up . Suddenly you are surrounded with colour as it is reflected off the now still water. Distant mountains seem to float in space as do the people around you and their 4x4s. Yeah, it was very impressive.
We stayed in a hotel just outside Uyuni, just on the flats. I painted this sitting outside the hotel, sat with my back to a rock. It became a bit uncomfortable, so I looked more closely at the rock. I realised the whole hotel sat on an old coral reef. Quite remarkable when you consider you are at 12,000 feet above sea level
This was the view from the back of the hotel. Tracks seemed to go from nowhere to nowhere across the vast expanse of the Altiplano.
Other watercolour paintings can be found on my website: grahammcquadefineart.com
After moving over to Bolivia from Peru across Lake Titicaca and then on to La Paz we eventually arrived at Sucre. Like most things in Bolivia everything seems to come in twos and I was told that Sucre was the capital of Bolivia, but the role seems to be shared between La Paz and Sucre, with Sucre now being the judicial capital. There are also two flags, the old one and a new, rather fetching,chequered one which reflects the ethnic diversity of the country. From the hotel roof you could see the bell towers of two of the many churches. As the sun set I painted the scene.
The town square in the pleasant city of Sucre has plenty of statues of local and national worthies like any square in Bolivia. It is a busy haven away from the traffic. As I sat here and painted one of these worthies I had many traders trying to sell me different things from balloons to a shoe shine, despite the fact that I had selected a seat with an enormous puddle in front of it.
Like Cusco in Peru, and I suppose most of the towns and city in the region, the town has a lot of Spanish influences, but our hotel went a little further, having the feel of a souk, displaying a Moorish feel with flower festooned courtyards with running water and a fabulous roof area. I started to paint a group in the main courtyard, but they upped and left, but, doggedly, I completed the sketch which gives a feel of the place.
Other watercolours are on mcy website: grahammcquadefineaart.com
South to Puno on Lake Titicaca near the Bolivian border. The Uros developed a system of floating islands to avoid hostile tribes. You can visit them and they are supported by the Peruvian government as a tourist attraction. The modern Uros have solar panels on their reed huts, floating schools and community centres . Though the school didn’t look like it had been made of reeds. These huts I have painted were a mock up in the hotel grounds, but I liked the juxtaposition of them against modern Puno in the background.
After visiting the Uros we went further out into the lake and landed on the Island of Taquile. Here the indigenous people follow the old Inca Creed and run their own tourist regime. I managed this just before lunch. I liked the red corrugated roofs against the blue of the lakes with some of the snow capped Bolivian mountains in the background.
Other paintings can be found on my website grahammcquadefineart.com
Cusco in Peru was once the centre of the Inca empire until 200 or so Spanish arrived and stripped them of all their gold in return for a strong dose of Christianity. In the process they took apart the Inca palaces in Cusco and built their own architecture on top of the Incan buildings. When the earthquakes eventually arrived the Spanish buildings fell down but the Incan buildings (or what remained of them prevailed)
Despite all this the centre of Cusco is lovely with mixed architecture, cobbled streets and lovely squares. This is a corner of the main square with the Spanish arcades running around the outside. You can sit and watch the comings and goings in the main square from the bars and restaurants on the first floor of the buildings.
This is one of the smaller squares in the artist’s quarter. I sat on a bench and painted these guys who I thought were chewing the fat around a very dry fountain. As I worked I realised that each of them were selling something and had their goods laid out around the area. Someone even came around to sell me a painting.
Paintings rather than these rough sketches are on my website: grahammcquadefine art.com
There are four and five day hikes to Machu Picchu, but my arthritic hip could only take a day’s hike up a thousand metres from the sacred river, along a few miles of the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. When I got to the Sun Gate after eight hours the sun was shining and I paused for half an hour to do a water colour sketch.
All along the route there are Inca remains and here is another one called Winay Wayna which seems to be more of a farming settlement with terraces for growing crops, clinging on to the almost vertical slope to the river below. Whilst lunch was being eaten I managed another sketch.
Other paintings are on my website grahammcquadefineart.com
The little boats dodge the floating tree-trucks as they seem to hurtle down the river carried by the current. It’s still the rainy season and the mud filled river is bloated.
Unfortunately the Macaw wasn’t wild. It was the pet of an old man who lived in a small farm up along the river. The old man said he was 94 but was it 49 and a hard life? He lived alone; his wife and son had died. The son was killed by a venomous snake which bit him whilst he was harvesting Brazil nuts.
I was told that the macaw’s beak could easily break a finger if you were incautious enough to let it get near to your hand.
Other watercolour paintings are on my website: grahammcquadefineart.com