June Donaldson and Edward Garry live at an altitude of 2,600 metres in Mosoj Llajta, Yotala, 20 minutes from the colonial city of Sucre in Bolivia, South America. Using earth and stones from the land, we have sculpted beautiful buildings which compliment the high desert landscape and incorporate creative and innovative elements of design.

We have designed a high quality hotel in Sucre for guests who want to get off the treadmill of travelling from city to city in South America. At Sky Hacienda you can dictate your own timing and choose how to enjoy your stay, whether it is doing very little or exploring the best that the Andes in Bolivia has to offer.

29 July 2009


Buying land in Bolivia is incredibly easy in theory. Once the papers are produced proving title a search is performed to make sure there are no outstanding loans or mortgages on the property. Then a document is drawn up with the owners agreeing to sell and the buyers agreeing to buy, it is notarized and once the money is handed over, so are the deeds to the land.

Of course I won't mention that the ID card of one of the owners was 8 years out of date, that there was less land than indicated on the original plan (resulting in a nice reduction for me in the price) and that my bank manager in France initially refused to send the money unless i returned in person to authorize the transfer!!!...

21 July 2009


The oblong plot consists of just over 10 acres of land giving us plenty of scope to create a recreational hacienda. It is bordered on one of the short sides by a public access dirt road and a steep slope leading down to a ditch on the other. The steep slope will be terraced to form a campsite and an orchard. The long sides of the oblong slope down from back to front facing north (don't forget we're in the southern hemisphere) with two knolls at the high end giving sites for the main building and the cottage.

There are no planning restrictions on building in rural areas - we can build what we like and don't have to submit drawings for approval. So we can indulge ourselves with a mix of our two favourite design concepts -


and New Mexico adobe architecture.

We are still working on the final design, but for now here is a description.....

From the public access road there will be a large gate in a 2m high adobe wall with a drive leading to a parking area. South of the gate will be the site for the septic field.

The main building will be a large two storey building with a reception office, restaurant, lounge bar, kitchen, library/internet room on the ground floor with private accommodation upstairs. We might end up living 'above the shop' but in the meantime we are building a separate cottage to move into asap. If we like it enough, it could be our permanent home, if not it will be a guesthouse for friends/family or rental accommodation.

Built into the slope in front of the main building will be an as yet undetermined number of interlinked but individual guest suites with terraces and courtyards, with a large swimming pool to one side.

Other buildings will include a cinema, a gym, an arts and crafts studio and a toilet/shower block for the camp site. Also a stable as we are hoping to have a couple of horses.

We are contemplating acquiring a few chickens, raising a few pigs and possibly some llamas and alpacas.

Apart from many courtyards with flowers and trees a fruit and nut orchard is also on the cards, as is a large veggie and herb garden.

17 July 2009


The realization that I needed a project to fill the void left by my decision to set aside my sea-going adventures led me to South America and to Bolivia. I knew that the sale of my little cottage in France would only yield sufficient funds for a project in one of the poorer countries so when I returned to South America in late 2008, my first try out was in Ecuador. A small but perfectly formed country with coastline, mountains and jungle, it seemed to fit the bill, but a steadily increasing stream of disgruntled North Americans looking for a cheaper place to live not too far from the USA had driven property prices up. I wasn't interested in being part of a large ex-pat community, preferring to integrate into South America in all its parts. I spent a couple of months in Cuenca, going to Spanish school and looking at property but nothing inspirational was within my budget, so it was back to Bolivia with Ed in early 2009.

It felt so good to be back in what is sometimes known as 'the Tibet of the Americas' - Lake Titicaca, soaring mountains, jungles thick with wildlife, arid deserts and vistas of dazzling white salt flats to the horizon. In Bolivia there is a feeling of authenticity where life and culture have continue unchanged for centuries, juxtaposed with 21st century additions such as internet, mobile phones and huge 4 x 4 jeeps fueled with LPG.

The climate is near perfect for me - spring-like temperatures of around 25C all year, although with the high altitude the sun is fierce and it feels more like 30C. June and July are the coldest months, but only at night when temperatures can drop to near zero. So it is possible to sunbathe during the day and enjoy a chimney fire at night. The rainy season runs from November to March, but Sucre doesn't have a lot of rain, so the skies are rarely grey for long.

Bolivians are friendly and helpful, calm by nature but extreme party lovers. Ed and I have received so much kindness as we start to integrate into their world - they are both puzzled that we should want to live so far from our country and delighted that we are so enamoured of Bolivia. There are a few ex-pats in Sucre, mostly European - some of them are running hostals, restaurants and bars, others founding or working in volunteer projects.

A large part of our decision to live in Bolivia is to assist others less fortunate. On a very basic level it is possible to give very little but to make a huge difference to someone - sharing food with the old or disabled on the street or putting in time at one of the local centres for street kids. Leaving generous tips for the restaurant staff who earn so little, and paying above the average wage for workers.

Our big picture is to create a cultural centre in Potosi where young disadvantaged people can be creative in arts and crafts - a luxury in their world which is based on pure survival. We have set up an NGO in Canada, called GIVE, TAKE, SHARE and our application for charitable status is being processed. You can check out the details on our website www.givetakeshare.com

11 July 2009


Of course, I could never have taken on such an ambitious project without Ed. His ability to take a design and transform it into a physical reality is well known to our friends and family. But this is the first time we will be working as a team to build ourselves a home and a business.

We have spent many hours walking the land, looking at the rise and fall of its contours - the position of the sun at different times of day, the direction of the prevailing wind. Evenings are spent researching adobe architecture online, earth building construction techniques, doodling on drawing pads, and brainstorming eco-friendly ideas that will keep our carbon footprint on the land as small as possible without compromising comfort.

The stones that cover the land will be used for stem walls to support the adobe bricks that will form the structures of the buildings and the perimeter wall. Adobe, or mud, is a common building material in regions that have low rainfall, and is also more able to withstand seismic shocks. Although the countryside is dotted with small mud houses, adobe has also been used for some of the most architecturally complicated and grand colonial architecture in the city of Sucre.

Our intention is to use passive solar heating as a natural resource by positioning all the buildings to face the sun. One of the main attractions in building with adobe for is its ability to absorb heat from the sun during the day and store it at night. We will have an unlimited supply of mud from excavating the foundations of the buildings and perimeter walls, underground water cisterns and the swimming pool.

06 July 2009


Around about my birthday in June of last year I remember saying that my dream would be to build a house high on a hill with views all around.

I was in the process of selling my home in France with a view to relocating to South America. Earlier that year I had fallen for a large dilapidated colonial house for sale in the centre of Sucre, Bolivia, and was hoping to return with enough funds to purchase and, with Ed's help, to restore it. The idea was to create a home, incorporating guest accommodation and a bar/restaurant.

Returning to Sucre in February of this year, I found that the global economic crisis had not affected property in Bolivia - in fact the price of the colonial ruin had increased to a level beyond my means. Still feeling enamored of the country and the Sucre area in particular, the decision was made to rent an apartment and keep an eye out for other possibilities.

Anyone who has spent any time in a South American city knows of the downsides. In Sucre black smoke pours out of the city buses (exported polluting rejects from Japan) as they climb the hilly streets. The pavements are crowded with street sellers and pedestrians, with the choice of staying out of the road and getting body bumped or stepping into the road and risking one's life in the traffic. One morning I woke to the sound of impatient taxi drivers honking their horns and irritating car alarms and longed for silence laced only with birdsong. It was no good - I just wasn't cut out for living in the city.

Then I remembered my dream - the land around Sucre inclined from hills at 2,700 meters to mountains at 4,200 within 2 hours drive south. A visit to a local estate agent produced details of a large section of rural terrain for sale 20 minutes south of Sucre. I went up to view it, thinking I would only need a couple of acres, but once i arrived my horizons expanded to match the view. The sky was endless, with 360 degree vistas towards hills and mountains. The land sloped gently to the north - an ideal position south of the equator.

Even though the land was pretty barren, covered with rocks, a few small trees and some vicious low growing thorn bushes, I could see its potential. With all the land there would be more than enough to build a home - a recreational hacienda to share with world travellers who wanted a change from the crowded cities of South America. It would be a huge undertaking, but with Ed's agreement to project manage, I felt confident that we could pull it off.

It would be called Sky Hacienda.