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 December 2011


The decision to embark on a mosaic project for our large outdoor jacuzzi could have been seen as a crazy one.  Ed and I had no time to devote to the precision and continuous application required, so we decided to train our Workaway volunteers.  We chose the tile colours and drew out the design, showed how to break the tile, mix the adhesive to the correct consistency, stick it to the walls flat with no huge gaps and no tiny pieces, mix the grout, fill the cracks and then wipe it off to create a smooth finish.
Sina works on one of our fun fish.
The concentration is intense!
Soon the walls are completed and only the rim is left to do.
The grouting of the rim is still to be done but the jacuzzi looks beautiful.
Plenty of room for a few guests on the seat.
A good view of the fish.
Sina is so happy to be the one to finish the mosaic work.
Our volunteers did such a great job, with none of them having any experience of this kind of work.  We still had a bit of finishing work to do with the taps, the installation of a pump for the air jets and the solar heating system that we had planned.........

27 December 2011


Christmas is always a challenge when family and friends are so far away.  But as the song goes - "If you can't be with the one(s) you love, love the one(s) you're with".

Our volunteers Sina and Sky are staying with us over the holidays and they helped us decorate the living room. 
Sky decides to decorate himself.

On Christmas Eve our caretaker Carmello, his wife Lydia and their children Jose Miguel, Mariana and Adriana visit us to the see the fairy lights and to receive their presents.

On Christmas Day we prepare food for the barbecue.  Sina is vegetarian, so we make veggie kebabs.

They look pretty good!
Sky loads the barbecue.
The day is made complete by being able to talk to our loved ones now that we have a fixed landline.  If we could have transported them over to Bolivia the day would have been perfect!

19 December 2011


After their great work on the dry stone wall that formed the terrace in front of the bedrooms, Rosando and Marcello moved to the other side of the Roundhouse, above the pool.  Although we had stopped the wind blowing the dust into the pool from the prevailing northerly direction by building the pool wall, we still had the occasional storms from the south.  So we set to work terracing the slope that ran down the side of the pool to contain the muddy water that ran down the slope during the rainy season.  Grassing the area adjacent to the pool would prevent mud splashing into the water in heavy rainstorms.

Our team construct the steps in the wall.
The wall is backfilled with rubble and small stones.
Ed and Carmello help haul a huge stone into place on the back wall of the terrace.
A mixture of leverage and brute force is required.  
Our workers leave for their 2 week break for Christmas.  On their return in the new year they will finish up the walls and prepare the ground below the terrace for grass sowing to take advantage of the highest months of rainfall in January and February.

15 December 2011


With the concrete bath dry, it was time to break the mould and move the heavy tub out of Ed's workshop and into the principal bedroom.
Our first chance to see the form of the bathtub.
Strong ropes are required to lift it.
It takes all our manpower to haul the heavy bath through the door and into the room.

The tub is lowered carefully onto the brick pedestal.
A check is made to ensure it is level.
David applies cement to the base to cover the bricks.

The bath is installed to allow plenty of tiled floor on the access side.
 We think our guest will love relaxing in the bathtub, taking in the view.

13 December 2011


With the mezzanine floor completed, Ed was able to work on a design for installing the cooker hood over the hob.  We had discussed the possibility of hanging it from chains from the beams, but felt that they would intrude on the clean lines of the living room interior.  So when we were designing the layout of the mezzanine, we deliberately matched the outside edge above where the hob would be installed.  By doing this we could suspend the cooker hood from the mezzanine to line up above the hob.

Ed welded a frame from the metal band around the extraction pipe on the outside edge of the mezzanine.

It looked rather precarious to me at the time, but I was assured that the structure was strong enough to support the cooker hood.
And sure enough it was still hanging there the following morning and works fine!
Of course, as with all things, it requires further work - a stainless steel cover where the hood would normally be fitted against the wall, and casing in the metal support structure.

06 December 2011


It seemed like an eternity since the mezzanine floor had been started - the supporting beams had been installed during the building of the thick adobe walls a year and a half ago.  We worked hard on the design of the floor area, narrow at the top of the floating staircase, past the door to the roof terrace then opening up to provide a sitting area, before narrowing again above the main entrance door, then widening again to give a good space for the office over the kitchen.

Ed had faced the outside edge of the beams with curved steel and then made a banister to match the curve, glueing thin strips of plywood together.  He then installed thick cables from the roof beams through the bannister to the curved steel frame below.  Narrow steel uprights would be welded to the steel frame and slotted into the bannister above, but this could not be done until the flooring had been completed.

The installation of the flooring was a challenge from the start.  Although Ed had done tongue and flooring before the complicated design of the mezzanine space meant that it would not be a quick job......and Ed had a list pages long of other work to be completed....None of our workers had any knowledge of carpentry, and the wood flooring we had seen in Sucre was not of the standard we required. 

So we advertised on the Workaway work exchange site for an experienced carpenter whilst we made endless trips to Sucre trying to locate the necessary tongue and groove flooring planks.  We had so many false leads and promises of deliveries that didn't materialise (all too common in Bolivia) that we were overwhelmed with joy when we found enough dry flooring for the mezzanine.  Even better, we had an English carpenter from Workaway lined up to arrive imminently.

We discovered very quickly that first world carpenters and third world materials don't work.  Our volunteer complainted bitterly and consistently about the quality of the wood which, to be fair, was not good by British standards.  But we thought that an experienced carpenter would be able to overcome the challenges of third world standard wood.  After a week of continuous vocal frustration he threw in the towel, having only completed a quarter of the floor space.   So it was down to Ed to finish the floor.

Some planks were better than others, and although we had asked the carpenter to mix up the different grades, he used all the best wood.  Ed was left with the sub-standard wood and a lot of space to cover.

Mind the gaps!
The arrival of new volunteers, including 19 year old Sky from Canada, was a blessing.  With very little experience of woodworking, Sky set to work as Ed's assistant.
The work proceeded smoothly and efficiently with no complaining.  Before too long the flooring was nearly completed.
Ed and Sky work well together making the pieces fit as the wood stock gets low.
Ed places the last piece of the jigsaw in the floor.
Done!  Hurrah!
 Being able to walk around the mezzanine gives us a new perspective on the views outside.

27 November 2011


Mr Midnight had been a much loved member of our feathered community for the past 14 months.  He had looked after the hens and jumped them on a regular basis with little or no dignity, facilitating the production of delicious eggs all year round. 
But following the clandestine hiding and hatching of eggs by his missus we added another rooster and a hen to the family.  When the rooster, George, became fully grown and starting jumping the hens, Mr M was most put out.  He became at least grumpy and at worst downright vicious toward George.  He stopped him from coming near the daily scraps I put out and kept him away from the hens.  George was nervous and excluded, not having a good life at all, and our feathered friends' happiness was of great importance to us.

Our Bolivian workers, all of whom kept chickens, advised us that two cockerels together was not a good idea.  They also suggested that as Mr M was getting past his prime, it might be a good idea to dispatch him and give George the responsibility as head of the coop.   Although I had been taught in Guatemala how to kill a chicken I was nervous of making a mess of it and causing Mr M suffering, so I asked Carmelo, our caretaker and his wife Lydia to do the deed.  We met at 7 am the following morning and in a couple of minutes Mr M was no more.  Lydia plucked and prepared him and I thanked her and Carmelo for their help, promising to share the planned dish I had in mind.

After hanging him in the dark storage room in our outbuildings for 36 hours I jointed Mr M with a machete - he was a tough old bird, but his flesh was a beautiful dark colour with bright yellow fat under his skin.
I put the joints in a container and poured a bottle of Bolivian red wine to cover.  The container was left in the fridge for 5 days.
Then, following Hugh Fearley-Wittingstall's coq au vin recipe in his marvellous Meat cookbook, and feeling slightly smug that I had a proper cock to cook when he had advised how difficult they were to come by, put Mr M in a very low oven.  Having dismissed Mr HFW's 3-odd hours of cooking time as being insufficient for high altitude cuisine, I started the cooking at 10.30 am and decided to leave the dish in the oven until it was cooked.  At 7.30 in the evening the meat was meltingly tender and Ed and I, after giving thanks to Mr Midnight for providing us with the main ingredient, sat down to one of the best meals of our life. 
The next day we gave some of the dish to Carmelo's family and the rest went into the freezer to await a suitably appreciative diner.  This came in the form of Vincent, our French friend from Sucre who, on eating it, proclaimed that it had taken him back to his childhood when his grandmother used to cook coq au vin with a proper coq.

Mr Midnight was a proper cock! RIP

17 November 2011


Although we had completed the boundary wall and fencing, we were still vulnerable to animals wanting to munch on our newly planted trees in the outer area as we had a gaping hole where the main entrance gate was to be installed.

Our talented welder Phillipe, who had made our metal windows and doors came up to our property to make the gate as, this time, there was no question of him being able to remove it from his workshop.  It is formed from two large gates to allow large lorries and coaches to enter and there is an integral door for walking in and out.

One side of the gate is propped up on wooden blocks to install the hinges.
Ed checks the level with Rosando.
The locking bar is checked.
Both sides of the gate are in place.
Final adjustments to the hinges.
We then make drains to take rainwater underneath the gate, then make a stone driveway to prevent heavy vehicles getting stuck in mud in the rainy season.

06 November 2011


I was born and brought up in Lewes, Sussex, England.  For anyone familiar with this neck of the woods, Lewes is most famous for its bonfire night celebrations.  Protestant martyrs were burnt at the stake above the town during catholic persecutions from 1555-1157 and many of the inhabitants of Lewes have never forgotten this outrage, nor the attempt by Guy Fawkes and his fellow traitors to blow up Parliament on 5th November 1606.  To this day effegies of the Pope, Guy Fawkes - and anyone else considered to have behaved badly during the previous year - are burned in the town and on bonfires lit on the outskirts on the 5th November. 

Although the days of hurling flaming tar barrels into the River Ouse are over, thanks to health and safety regulations, Lewes is still an excitingly scary place to be on November 5th. Proud members of the many Bonfire Societies parade through the streets in costumes and masks (dating back centuries to when young men used  disguise to avoid being arrested for letting off gunpowder in the streets on the big day).  They carry flaming tar torches that pass inches from the faces of onlookers lining the pavements, shout and toss loud bangers into the air on a regular basis, leaving the ears ringing from the noise.  My grandfather was a passionate member of one of the Bonfire Societies and used to take us as very small children to the parades - after his death my father would accompany us to the town centre each year.

I think of the above celebrations as my heritage, as a very important part of my childhood and as there is a large part of me that has never grown up, each year on 5th November I yearn to make the best guy (an effegy of Guy Fawkes), and the biggest bonfire to toss him onto and to set of the noisiest fireworks possible.   Ed and I tried really hard to make it happen last year, but we were so busy trying to make the Roundhouse sufficiently habitable to move into that we couldn't get it together.  But this year was different........
Our caretaker's children Jose-Miguel and Mariana proudly display the guy we made.
Lydia, our caretaker's wife watches the driving rain that threatens our celebrations.

Friends' children arrive hoping for a fun night.
We have a chorizo feast waiting for the bonfire to dry out so that we can light it.
The guy is tossed onto the bonfire.
The flames leap into the sky and as with the fireworks can be seen from all the villages around us.
Our friends enjoy the spectacle.
Ed hands sparklers to the dubious children.
A huge bonfire and loud fireworks - June's happy!
The children overcome their fear and enjoy the sparklers.