2013, a year of extremes in pictures

I’m gazing out of the window, the rain is lashing down in ‘sheets’, driven by high winds that are bending trees at an alarming angle. Although only early in the afternoon, the light has already started to fail, making it seem more night than day. The traditional New Year’s Day walk has been postponed – in truth cancelled – due to a general reluctance to endure the terrible weather in person.

My mind keeps wandering over the year just past: this time last year we were celebrating the arrival of 2013 in Sucre, Bolivia, our home for a year. Although we would spend another few months in Bolivia, we were already planning a journey north that would take us through Peru, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica and Nicaragua, before returning to Bolivia. In between, we’d visit Argentina and Chile, Bolivia’s wealthier neighbours, for a change of scene and cuisine.

The Fiesta de Virgen de Guadalupe, Sucre, Bolivia

The Fiesta de Virgen de Guadalupe, Sucre, Bolivia

The Fiesta de Virgen de Guadalupe, Sucre, Bolivia

The Fiesta de Virgen de Guadalupe, Sucre, Bolivia

So, with one eye on the coming year, here’s my homage to 2013, a year which took us from the heart of South America to the heart of Central America. A journey from the high Andean mountains of Bolivia to the turquoise waters of Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast, and back again, before returning to Britain.

Adobe church and Vulcan Sajama, Sajama, Bolivia

Adobe church and Vulcan Sajama, Sajama, Bolivia

Siloli Desert, Bolivia

Siloli Desert, Bolivia

Salinas Grandes, Argentina

Salinas Grandes, Argentina

Cemetery in the Atacama Desert, Chile

Cemetery in the Atacama Desert, Chile

Fiesta in Cuzco, Peru

Fiesta in Cuzco, Peru

Magical Machu Picchu, Peru

Magical Machu Picchu, Peru

Oasis of Huacachina, Peru

Oasis of Huacachina, Peru

A woman sits on a Botero sculpture, Medellin, Colombia

A woman sits on a Botero sculpture, Medellin, Colombia

Cartagena, Colombia

Cartagena, Colombia

The Panama Canal, Panama

The Panama Canal, Panama

The beautiful San Blas Islands, Panama

The beautiful San Blas Islands, Panama

The Pacific Ocean from La Cruz, Costa Rica

The Pacific Ocean from La Cruz, Costa Rica

The magnificent Granada, Nicaragua

The magnificent Granada, Nicaragua

The idyllic Pearl Keys, Nicaragua

The idyllic Pearl Keys, Nicaragua

Glorious Little Corn Island, Nicaragua

Glorious Little Corn Island, Nicaragua

…finally, returning to reality in London…un feliz y próspero año nuevo por todo.

Tower Bridge, London, England

Tower Bridge, London, England

The Gordo Art of Medellin

Falling off the 13 hour overnight bus between Cartagena and Medellin into the early morning light, the first thing that strikes you about Medellin is the ring of large green hills ringing this city of 3 million people. The second thing that strikes you is that a horrible journey on a terrible bus without sleep is not good preparation for arriving in a city of 3 million people at rush hour.

We had a flight to Panama booked for the following day so we only had what remained of the day we arrived to see something of Medellin. After a short nap, a cup of strong coffee and a refreshing shower, we headed towards the Plazoleta de las Esculturas to see first hand what must be one of the finest displays of public art anywhere in Latin America.

Fernando Botero's sculptures, Medellin, Colombia

Fernando Botero’s sculptures, Medellin, Colombia

Fernando Botero's sculptures, Medellin, Colombia

Fernando Botero’s sculptures, Medellin, Colombia

Medellin may be better known as the former haunt of Pablo Escobar, but its other internationally famous, and still living, resident is renowned sculptor and artist, Fernando Botero. Known for his oversized, ‘gordo’, sculptures and paintings of people, animals, abstracts and historical events Botero’s work is monumental.

Downtown Medellin can’t really be described as a delight. It has an abundance of bad architecture, streets packed with diesel-fume-pumping traffic, a lot of homeless people and on the walk there from our hotel we found ourselves on a street populated by trans-sexual sex workers and drunks. However, it does have the Plazoleta de las Esculturas which hosts twenty three of Botero’s amazing sculptures.

Fernando Botero's sculptures, Medellin, Colombia

Fernando Botero’s sculptures, Medellin, Colombia

Fernando Botero's sculptures, Medellin, Colombia

Fernando Botero’s sculptures, Medellin, Colombia

Fernando Botero's sculptures, Medellin, Colombia

Fernando Botero’s sculptures, Medellin, Colombia

Fernando Botero's sculptures, Medellin, Colombia

Fernando Botero’s sculptures, Medellin, Colombia

Botero’s work is larger than life in more ways than one, and makes a profound impression as you wander amongst them. Its refreshing to see people posing, touching and climbing on the artworks – not something you normally see in a gallery. All the works are sculpted from bronze and have pretty literal names ‘Dog’, ‘Cat’, ‘Woman with fruit’ and so on, and although his work often has a political/social meaning the ones we saw seemed funny and ironic.

Fernando Botero's sculptures, Medellin, Colombia

Fernando Botero’s sculptures, Medellin, Colombia

Fernando Botero's sculptures, Medellin, Colombia

Fernando Botero’s sculptures, Medellin, Colombia

Fernando Botero's sculptures, Medellin, Colombia

Fernando Botero’s sculptures, Medellin, Colombia

Fernando Botero's sculptures, Medellin, Colombia

Fernando Botero’s sculptures, Medellin, Colombia

Fernando Botero's sculptures, Medellin, Colombia

Fernando Botero’s sculptures, Medellin, Colombia