After arriving at Tiwanaku our guide, who thankfully spoke English as all the displays were all in Spanish, took us around two on site museums the first displaying many recovered artefacts such as pottery, metal tools and skeletal remains (including a replica of a mummified member of the upper echelons of society)
. Some of the more interesting things that we learned was that Tiwanaku was the capital of a huge empire that endured for almost a thousand years and that the complex was home to upwards of 50,000 people whom regularly practised human sacrifice (mainly women and children) as gifts to the Sun God and that as proved by many human skulls displayed in the museum they also adopted a practise of skull reshaping (infants from higher society would wear a wooden or metal head brace to elongate the skull) to differentiate themselves from the lower classes. The second museum housed structural relics from the site which included a huge monolith decorated with imagery and symbols that demonstrated their knowledge of astronomy (365 circles, 7 celestial bodies etc).
We then got to visit the actual site (the majority has yet to be excavated – much is under dirt mounds - and as work has to be abandoned in the rainy season it is going to be a long, long process) unfortunately lots of the sites treasures were looted in the past and have ended up in different countries and in other important buildings in Bolivia (such as churches and mansions) but what has been uncovered is impressive in itself and I’m certain there are so many other secrets deep under the ground waiting to be discovered in the future. Perhaps the most impressive thing about the site which is said to have covered several square kilometres is that its positioning is intrinsically based upon the alignment of the sun – so the inhabitants were fully aware of the Equinox and the Solstice
. Also we were amazed at one element where a hole in a stone pillar within the walls had been carved like the human ear and as such acted as an amplifier of sound – demonstrating just how intelligent this civilisation was and how knowledgeable they were in complex fields.
We went for lunch at the only nearby restaurant after visiting the main site and sampled the set menu which for 2 pounds fifty we got 3 courses, first a traditional soup made from corn and vegetables, next I had llama again and Andrew tried the Lake Titicaca trout then we had fruit for dessert. A bit of a bargain. Before leaving we visited a much smaller part of the ruins where only a very small part has been uncovered - it is weird you can still see the edges of stone pillars sticking out of the ground that are yet to be excavated and we were just walking over the top of everything. Again it really makes you think about who’s footsteps am I walking in, which hand carved these shapes in this stone and how much more is below our feet that is yet to be discovered. At the end of the tour my mind was racing.
We arrived back in La Paz at about 4pm which was great as we had time to go down to Gravity Assisted and pick up our DVD of our days mountain biking the World’s Most Dangerous Road
. On the way back we booked the bus to Cusco at one of the local agents and then got a take away pizza from the pizza shop at the bottom of our street along with a couple of beers to take back to the room. We watched 'Get Him To The Greek’ which we had downloaded and had a night in, just like at home, only with a soundtrack (being played at full blast on the street outside) of Chris De Burgh – okay I’m ashamed to say maybe not too different from home. So, we were leaving Bolivia to go on our Christmas vacation to Peru, a little holiday within a holiday so to speak. We can’t think of anywhere better to spend Christmas than Cusco (ahem apart from home) and as we have signed up to do the Inca Trail for New Year we are going to chill out there for a week or two preparing ourselves for the trek and continuing to acclimatise. Bolivia, we hope to return in the new year to do all the bits we have missed out on (Rurrenabaque and Isla del Sol) after this short interlude – Hasta la Vista!
Today, which was to be our final day in La Paz, as a precursor to our trek to Machu Picchu we decided to take a trip to Tiwanaku, Bolivia's most important and impressive archeological site located 72km outside La Paz on the southern shores of Lake Titicaca. The civilisation that created Tiwanaku pre-dated the Inca’s and in many ways surpassed them with their knowledge of astronomy, physics and biology. It took about one and a half hours to reach the ruins via El Alto a satellite city on the outskirts of La Paz, a city that has dramatically increased in population (now standing at 1.2 million compared to La Paz’s 2 million) in recent years as an influx of people living in rural areas have converged on the Altiplano (El Alto stands at 4100m above sea level) turning their back on their ancestors way of life in favour of the city.