Wednesday, 13 November 2019


The day was characterised by motion as well as mountain sickness, thanks in part to Big D’s driving. Added to which my dread of heights and the vertiginous roadsides made sight seeing a test.
Falcon's Rest and a rest for us too!

Falcons’ View was our first stop for a view, 12,800 feet above sea level. And it was extraordinary to contemplate, for a moment, the magnificence of these wonderful mountains several of which were capped by cloud. I made a quick drawing and we were off again!  ‘Hey ho Domingo!’ 

Though not underground these comprise about four thousand pans through which water flows and is dammed. I stayed on the bus; the others got out, looked down and took pictures it must have been a thousand feet drop. The salt is supposedly the best in the world, much of which is exported to Japan.

The botanical circles of Moray were a curious place.  Set in a valley, it is a series of concentric terraces. Built by the Inca people to cultivate crops and see how they grew at certain heights and in certain growing conditions and soils. This was, I suppose, a sort of 12th century crop research institute. I of course was careful not to get to close to the edge of the viewing platform.
Inca crop research station

All around us now was a warm and softer landscape and a very fertile looking soil, a deep red-brown. Wonderful fields and trees shaped by the wind. And everywhere is the protective circle of the Andes.

Tourists, how do they do it?

Ollantaytambo is a village in the Sacred Valley set on the Urubamba River. We are now in the south Peru. It is oldest Inca settlement and on the Inca trail to Machu Picchu. The site sits above the small town. The narrow streets of the town are infested by tourism. Heaven knows what it will be like a few years from now. There were huge coaches in the narrow streets marshaled by a curious traffic control system: This operated by policemen brandishing ‘stop’ and ‘go’ signs, somehow they make it work. 

Tuesday, 12 November 2019


A typical airport check in....

At 06:15am, yes, in the morning! Tour Guide Desi and our driver collected us from the cavernous hotel lobby. Many other people were camped there already, distinguished by their anxious expressions and gigantic suitcases. They were waiting to board a big coach.

On the way to the airport Desi repeated her altitude sickness guidelines:
1.     Drink lots of water
2.     Eat lots of glucose sweets
3.     Avoid too many stairs – I don’t have a problem here
4.     Avoid too much pork or beef – Easy for her to say
5.     Eat lots of vegetables - I suppose so
6.     Avoid alcohol on your first day – I am sorry - impossible
7.     In case of the need to be sick inform your local tour guide

Desi told us that several years ago there were only some five hundred visitors a year to Cusco, now 400,000 visit each year.  Most these people were, this morning, in the airport terminal building.  No stranger to busy airport terminals I was mighty glad to have Tour Guide Desi shepherding us through to check-in and departures.  

(I checked later: It is estimated that around 1.5 million tourists visit Cusco every year, Machu Picchu and the city of Cusco have become the main tourist attractions in Peru and one of the most visited in South America.) 

On our flight everyone was chewing or sucking furiously on sweets and confectionary shaped like coffee beans. I felt vulnerable as I packed my prayer book in my suitcase, which I checked in to the aircraft’s hold. 

Cuzco is 11,150 feet above sea level. Sunshine and heat bore down as we crossed the terminal car park to our minibus with our new handler, Tour Guide Vitoria. Off we sped through streets of Cuzco. Our driver, Domingo, immediately applied his casual approach to fellow road users. This continued for another seven hours. Whether the road was narrow or wide, on coming traffic or no, there was one speed, ‘breakneck’.

The day was characterised by motion as well as mountain sickness, thanks in part to Big D’s driving. Added to which my dread of heights and the vertiginous roadsides made sight seeing a test.

Monday, 11 November 2019


If you want to see the second earliest civilisation in the world you have to endure a little pain - ‘the traffic’ in the five-hour drive to Caral. We traveled through Lima, northwards past various industrial wastelands, sometimes along the Pacific coast and broad plains

Remarkable pyramidal buildings
Caral was a large settlement in the Supe Valley, some 200 kilometres north of Lima. Caral is the most ancient city of the Americas and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2009. Source: Wikipedia

This civilisation was established 3000 years back. What remains still nestles in a valley of the River Supe and protected by the lower Andes Mountains.  Caral now contains six pyramids and attendant buildings and pathways. The sun was high as we arrived.

Not a soul about apart from us and the archaeologists 
Caral is extraordinary and there was not a soul about, aside from us and several small groups of archaeologists. These were busy discovering things or preparing to discover more things. One was busy mapping a part of the site making marks on a large drawing board. 
Hey, that’s my job sunshine! I thought.

Peaceful, peaceful and at one end of this sixty-eight hectare miracle was a small shelter from the sun. Here we looked westwards out across the valley. We could see in the distance several other smaller archeological sites; there are over twenty sites close by all of the same period. This was construction on a big scale; these pyramids were built for administration, entertainment rather than for entombment. Sacrifices were made of vegetables honoring the Gods for the plenteousness of the Supe valley.  
All the time, high sun, breezes, bird song and the occasion tap tap of an archeologist’s trowel made Caral so very special.

Saturday, 9 November 2019


Up towards the The Temple of the Sun

Our minivan did its very best to cut through the local traffic. An hour after leaving the hotel we looked out onto a vast stretch of sand and adobe brick. This was the site of Pachacamac.

Pachacamac is an archaeological site 40 kilometres southeast of Lima, in the Valley of the Lurín River. The site was first settled around A.D. 200 and was named after the "Earth Maker" creator god, Pacha Kamaq. Source: Wikipedia

As a prelude to the walking around the site we visited the museum. This was full of exquisite pieces, textiles, ceramics and devices and tools for building. A instrument for making measures to cut the bricks for building was series of knotted cords all attached to a longer cord so as to resemble a necklace.  Just as efficient as a rule and as easy to carry.

Pachacarmac Museum; Friendly faces
This is pre-Inca Peru although the Incas did turn up eventually in 1400 AD. They came away impressed and let the locals’ get on with it. (The Inca’s of course had their hands full turning the Cuzco area into a World Heritage Site, for us to visit on Thursday.)

Pachacamac was remarkable, especially when looking towards the Sun Temple high on a ridge.

We repeated the chariot race back into the city. The route ran parallel to the coast, past swamps and low scrub and marsh, then the outskirts of Lima. By the roadside small shops, car washes and repair shops marked our way back into the city and the Larco Museum.

Our time at this museum was piteously short, a regret that will last. What we did see were important statutes, masks and funeral attire in textiles, silver and gold. The memory of these will outlast the regrets. These riches were created 1AD through to and including the Inca period ending 1533 with the Spanish Invasion.

A word to the wise; spend a lot of time in the Larco Museum, it is a world-class museum and is free from the rowdy crowds in the British Museum, Prado or the Louvre.

Thursday, 7 November 2019


The splendid churches 

Each church vied with one another to be more splendid, and determined not to be out done in the application of every shade of gold, bronze and silver. Statutes gazed heavenwards, or down upon us miserable sinners, strewn with lights, fresh flowers and candles at their feet.

Rest stop from cathedralling
Underneath the Cathedral Basilica of Lima, dedicated to St John, Apostle and Evangelist, we saw the bones and shrouds of the dead. Burying people under churches was common practise until the mid nineteenth; while the clergy were given coffins, the rest of us were just laid in earthen graves.

Traipsing around streets we saw Baroque standing shoulder to shoulder with French and Spanish Colonial, Gothic and Classical pastiche and occasionally a delight of Art Deco!

Our hotel is in Miraflores district, modern and populated by tall buildings, which look empty. However the area was not unattractive and round the corner from the hotel is a Starbucks serving great coffee. Our greatest find is a 24-hour supermarket called Metro. This is world-class emporium with its first floor delicacies of fresh produce, a bakery; meat counters displayed a dazzling array of pork and beef products.

Our journey with food reached a pinnacle in the evening, eating at Panchita. Only five minutes from the hotel. Quite wonderful, fish, beef, and for me pork tenderloin, all served with charm. Every permutation of cooking was on the menu, grills stews, roasts, mashed, spiced, very spiced, totally spiced. Each of our choices was bang on the money. Word to the wise, portion size was humungous! None of us finished our choices, yet plates were cleared from the table with a smile and a flourish. 

The Mercy Church: The service is about to begin 
The hotel, Jose Antonio Deluxe where we checked in on Sunday and leave on Thursday is very good. Much marble and trendy chairs, frequently large parties of tourists drift through like nomads, each with impossibly large suitcases.

Tuesday, 5 November 2019


Journey Map
In October Siân enjoyed a significant birthday. She sponsored our Peruvian escapade. She, I and Megan and Bronnie travelled some three thousand kilometres, one thousand nine hundred miles, by plan train and automobile and boat.   We were in this remarkable country for twelve days. We started in Lima, arriving one Sunday evening by air 6,316 miles. Our experiences will be celebrated for a long time.
This story is told in parts across the coming weeks 

We had planned a tour of old Lima, the city centre, with Antonio, the first of several guides. Once the Spanish had settled in Lima in the early 1500’s there was a frenzy of church building. The Inca’s had their Sun God. He had to move over for Jesus. Rome’s God was in and has remained so. Over 80% of Peru is practising Roman Catholic. In Lima the result of all this church building was a clutch of Baroque lovelies. These we devotedly visited under the direction of our dear Tour Guide Antonio. 

Our first church - across from Starbucks 

Monday, 21 October 2019


Cheery note in my mail box from Jake Parker who has organised Inktober for nearly 10 years. 

'I hope you're having a good time with Inktober. We are just a little over halfway done for the month! Can you believe it??
If you've been able to do 18 drawings so far, I want to congratulate you! So far 3.5 Million Inktober drawings have been posted to Instagram* this year. 
According to one popular study it takes anywhere from 18 to 254 days for people to form a new habit. If you are finding it easier to do your Inktober drawing when you sit down, then perhaps a daily drawing habit is starting to take hold on you now. That’s great!
If not, don’t worry. Keep going!
As author John Irving once said “Good habits are worth being fanatical about.”
I hope Inktober is helping you create more and get better at drawing.
If you haven't been able to do 18 drawings so far, don't worry! Forget about the last 18 days and set a goal for yourself to start back up this weekend and finish out the month.'

Some of my inktobers 

Sunday, 20 October 2019

HARWICH PART 2: Hooray for Harwich

Part two of a Curious Coast Adventure

Harwich Land of Lighthouses
Relaxing with Mum

This is a walking town, peaceful streets run down to The Quay are criss-crossed by alleys, and we felt we could be back in the 16th or 17th centuries. 

Wandering along the seafront we come to Harwich beach and a small Museum. Further along takes us to a point, the breakwater, where immediately behind is Beacon Hill with the remains of a radar station and gun emplacements. In WW2 Harwich was one of main east coast minesweeping and destroyer bases. 

Further round the headland and we were into Dovercourt. Dovercourt has kiss-me-quick feeling, beach huts, and a café nearby in Cliff Park. Here the pilots of mobility scoters pulled over for afternoon tea. 

We walked back into Harwich, down Barrack Lane, along Harbour Crescent. We saw one of those huge Knife Amnesty Dump Bins

Every street and lane is associated with the sea or the military. We turned back to the car and readied for the journey home. If The Only way is Essex Harwich must be very much part of the package. 

There are now fourteen coast cappers on

Thursday, 17 October 2019



Another Curious Coast Adventure with Trevor, see all 14 coastal on

Container Central
Nice Buoys


The port of Harwich is the place to be when the sun is high and offshore breezes are light. Trevor and I discovered a town full of history, all nicely curated by The Harwich Society.

Docks and cranes tower above us; The Trinity House organisation makes a home here. The paraphernalia of it’s work; buoys, anchors and chains are neatly stored in their yards. 

There are lighthouses everywhere, a high one that stands in the town and a low one, The Low Light is near the shore. In line they have guided ships into the port

Arriving early we started with a great breakfast at The Café on the Pier ( fab food and great coffee.

More and great photographs here

Thursday, 10 October 2019


New York has been a leitmotif for me. My dear friend in the city P J Lehrer takes great photo's of the city which in turn inspires work from me.

No so long ago she wrote this generous piece on her blog. 

This by way of late reciprocation!

Friday, 13 September 2019


The tall castle was on the edge of the town
“Hey lets have a cup of tea” said Sian
Tim made a drawing of a chapel painted in pink.
This man was enjoying  his ice cream.
The cheese factory was on a farm, here is the cheese making equipment.

Sian and Tim and Rosie the Puppy had been to West Wales before. 

This adventure sees them on a huge beach.
“Hey lets have a cup of tea” said Sian and so they did.
At a lovely café called Tea by the Sea.
Well, Tim had a double espresso as he always does.

Next day they visited a castle and see cheese being made. 
And they try to visit the National Museum of Wool, 
This plan is thwarted, as the car park is full.

In a small town called Newcastle Emlyn the see several chapels.
These are like tiny churches, there are many in Wales.
Tim makes a drawing of a chapel painted in pink.

Tim also takes photographs of chapel asking Sian to park precariously by the side of the road.
“Oh, dear do I have to?” Asks Sian and then calls Tim a rude name.

The cheese factory was on a farm. 
Prince Charles had been there in 2004.
He likes welsh cheese
Just as well though Sian, he is the Prince of Wales.

The castle was on the edge of the town,
It was surrounded on three sides by a river.
It was difficult to capture, only Oliver Cromwell succeeded.
Sian said “Well, nasty Oliver C must have someone on the inside to help him”

It rained all day, it does often rain in Wales and they felt tired perhaps
it was because of the cans of Kronenberg 1664 they drank with their yummy picnic lunch.

The next day was bright and sunny so Tim said 
“Let us go to the big beach again”.
“Oh lets” said Rosie the Puppy
“Oh, alright then” said Sian.

Then they drove home, to Angryland, which is near London, having had a lovely time.

Wednesday, 11 September 2019


St Andrews: faces everywhere, looking down.

There are two Oxfordshire churches, both almost in the dark shadow of Didcot Power Station; All Saints North Morton and Saint Andrews Church in East Hagbourne.

One August morning the cousins ventured forth, with Rosie the Puppy, and enjoyed a wonderful time in each. 

In St Andrews, there were delights a-plenty including some extraordinary corbels, three-headed carvings, on the chancel arch and on the other side of the arch, saw a Lion’s head!

Looking up at the ceiling they saw other faces, stonework phantoms looking down on them as they looked up in marvel.

The cousins then jumped back into the car, “Hey Ho we’re off to North Morton” Wendy cried.

Miles' magnificent chapel window

In this second church they discovered a remarkable mediaeval window in the south chapel. 

This chapel was built by a rich and powerful courtier called Miles de Stapleton who served at the court of King Edward I. 

Miles had the money to commission this magnificent window. Only he could afford to pay for to the most skilled glassmakers and stone carvers in London to do his bidding. In 1299 he set them to the task of creating a window with scenes from the life of Saints Peter, Nicholas, Paul andthe Blessed Virgin Mary.

The cousins stood back in awe in gazed at this window as the Sun streamed in highlighting the green silk of Trinity on the altar. 

"I’m so glad we came" said Tim, 

“So am I and I’m so glad we are following footsteps of Mr Simon Jenkin” said Wendy

The cousins went small lanes and by ways to Wittenham Clumps. Two hills which looked down on to at least five counties. This is another dreamlike part of Oxfordshire. 

Before setting off on a brisk walk, with Rosie the Puppy, they had a wonderful lunch, cucumber sandwiches, green salad, crusty bread and other yummy things, all made by cousin Wendy.

After the walk cousins exclaimed“Let’s plan to go a churching again soon!”

And so they probably will.