6,000 feet to go, a Condor in pursuit, and fried Guinea Pig

The Colca Canyon in Peru is the world's second deepest canyon. Hiking through the canyon offers stunning mountain views, Andean villages, terraced hillsides, natural hot springs, all while being watched by the great Andean Condor.


This 12x16 pastel was created on Uart 400 grade paper with a variety of soft pastels.

Multi-day hikes and day treks are available to explore the canyon. Food can be purchased from villagers and bungalows are available for overnight accommodations. See this You Tube video of this amazing natural wonder to appreciate this vast Andean landscape.


My daughter Sara joined a tour group of hikers on a three-day trek through the Colca Canyon several years ago. One of the highlights of the trip was the opportunity to dine on guinea pigs as part of the rustic Peruvian experience. A bit queasy considering that our family raised five such pigs as childhood pets. The only violence toward our Michigan-domesticated pigs was Piglet's fluid injection upon contracting pneumonia.


The Peruvian guinea pigs were cleaned out and dried - initially on a clothes line neighboring socks and a bra, and then stretched on the backpacks of hikers until ready to be pan-fried!

Hikers and their dinner ready for the trek! Not so appetizing at this stage.

The Andean Condor rules the heights of the Colca Canyon. A vulture that typically preys on dead critters, the Condor has been known to capture newborn animals, such as cows and goats. The Condor's maximum wingspan stretches over ten feet, and is considered the largest bird of prey in the world. Hikers are warned to keep their Swedish Fish concealed in their backpacks.


The entry point to explore the Colca Canyon is the town of Cabanaconde. The largest nearby city if Arequipa, about a three hour drive to the entry point. Guided and self-guided tours are possible to explore the Colca Canyon. Many travel experiences abound from trekkers that have traversed the steep trails of the canyon. Check out this blog from Along Dusty Roads.


As for the pastel painting, below is a sketch of the composition using a blue pastel washed with isopropyl alcohol. The composition was helped by the trail gracing through the hills and the line-up of the cactus on the left, pointing toward the valley in the center of the vista.

The reference photo below shows a muted, rather dusty appearance. It was a hot day. The guinea pigs were drying out quite nicely!

My challenge was to spike up the color of the reference photo. A saturated version of the reference photo (below) brought out the yellow-green foliage and the deep blue crevices of the canyon walls. When enhancing the color in the pastel, the artist needs to hold back on those yellows, as they vanish in the distance, giving way to the surviving purples and blues.

In the pastel, I decided to omit the blue sky areas behind the clouds, as the blue would compete with the blue of the distant mountains. The sky was kept simple so as not to compete with the mountain tops and ridges.

Every picture tells a story. This journey through the Colca Canyon via pastel was artistically breathtaking, enjoyable as well as educational. I am always eager to paint travel photos and enjoy sharing my rendition of vacation memories.


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