Wednesday, January 25, 2012
La Paz, Bolivia
A full free day in La Paz and what to do?

The 3 hour city tour bus was still being serviced. Surely another bus could have been used?

Several times different people had mentioned go and see Tiwanaku just out of La Paz. This is Bolivia's prime pre-Inca ruins. Not wanting to be walking up and down the steep cobble stone streets this was a good option. Not expensive at all. Only B/- 55 / NZ$ 10 / US$ 8 for the all day tour and included a bi-lingual guide plus cost for the ruins entry and lunch.

Leaving the city and from the height and comfort of the bus I took these city scenes images as we drove the 80 minutes and 70 kilometres towards Tiwanaku.

Tiwanaku was the first major civilization in the Americas which lasted for over 27 and one half centuries from roughly 1580 BC to 1172 AD, far longer than the Roman Empire. The sprawling ruins of the Tiwanaku metropolis near the shores of Lake Titicaca and La Paz, was the capital of an Andean state that stretched over present day northewest Argentina, northern Chile from Copiapó to Atamcama, and occidental Bolivia. The Tiwanaku civilization, considered one of the most important in the Americas, achieved amazing advances in science, art, engineering and agriculture. Tiwanaku is placed among the great ancient civilizations of the world, which differ from others through the construction of temples in the form of pyramids.

Tiwanaku is undoubtedly the most remarkable archeological site yet discovered in Bolivia. It lies just 72 kms. from the city of La Paz. The arrcheological site covers at least 30 hectares of mostly unexcavated area, including several fascinating temples. The site features the Kalasasaya temple (126 per 117 mts.) hosting the famous Puerta del Sol (Sun Gate), the semi-subterranean temple complex with its mysterious carved stone heads, as well as the ruins of the Kantataita, Putuni and Kericala temples. The remarkable Akapana and Pumapunku pyramids were discovered recently and are currently under excavation.

This archeological site is among the oldest in the Andes due to its monumentalitiy and the skillful stonework and technology used there. Today local campesinos continue farm work amid the pottery shards and on top of submerged ruins of the city outskirts.

The Winter Solstice at Tiwanaku
This is one of the largest and most authentic religious celebrations in the Andean world. The central ceremony occurs on every June 21st at Tiwanaku at the Kalasasaya temple. This marks the Aymara New Year and is dedicated to sun worship. The ceremonies begin the night before as Aymara priests begin preparations. At sunrise, the gathered masses assemble inside and outside the temple with their hand reaching out for the sun, as sacrifices and offerings are made inside the temple. After this ceremony begins a mighty celebration with indigenous music groups.

First stop was Museo Litico but one could not photograph their main exhibit. Others did. I did take 2 photos of the drawing showing what it looked like but alas not how tall it stood in the middle of the darkened exhibit hall.

A large part of these ruins was restored back around 1960.

With development (hotel) bordering and now encroaching towards the ruins we headed up onto top of the Akapana Pyramid. The 7 levels represents the 7 primary rainbow colours.


Akapana Pyramid

This is a massive pyramid with 7 different platforms and a total height of 18 meters. It was built by taking advantage of a natural hill. On the top once stood a temple that was destroyed by the Spaniard Oyardeburu who searched for treasure inside. Since its destruction, Akapana was plundered and only parts of the temple are conserved.

The Putuni or cemetery with 17 tombs and was just for the upper class. In each tomb 4 - 5 mummies were found. Our guide demonstrates the foetal position that the dead were buried in. Sitting upright, the face was left open and once a year the tomb was uncovered so that offerings could be made to them.

One of the highlight was the 3 metre high and 10 tons Sun Gate. The stone came from 10 kilometres away.


Puerta del Sol (Sun Gate)

This famous stone gate is the quintessential symbol of Tiwanaku sculptures. Its high and low relief carvings represent a very complicated calendrical system relating to the Andean Cosmovision and religion. In the center stands the Aymara god, standing on a pyramid of three platforms which represent the earth. In the lower part are 11 small suns that represent the months of the Aymara year and the position of the solstices as defined by a Willka Kuti, or figure that announces the return of the sun to the equinoxes. On the sides are three files carved in low relief, each with sixteen figures with wings and human heads, except the file in the middle where the figures have condor heads. The back side of the Sun Gate is more simple and was probably carved for ritual purposes.


Kalasasaya Temple ("The Temple of Standing Stones")

All of the temples at Tiwanaku are astronomically-oriented. Thus in the Kalasasaya was verified with remarkable precision the changes of seasons and the sun oriented year of 365 days. The Tiwanakotas measured the seasons by the two equinoxes (March 21st and September 21st) and by the two solstices (June 21st and December 21st). The Kalasasaya hosts the Ponce stelle monolith and the Fraile Monolith and the famous Sun Gate.

Here 170 faces of important people (eg governors) were recently uncovered.


Near by was Puma Punka.


Pumapunku Pyramid (Puma Gate Pyramid)

This is a temple-pyramid similar to Akapana but smaller. It is quite far from the principle ruins complex. It is the temple that constitutes the second most important monument of Tiwanaku. Excavations on this temple are in progress but already great sculpted stones forming walls and structures can be seen.

After lunch (llama for B/-30 or NZ$ 6) a visit to the Museo Ceramica finished our day's visit to Tiwanaku.

While not as grand as Machu Picchu it again showed me the fine stone masonary work and a ruin that is still being evacated so lets hope that in the decades ahead it will answer some of the unanswered questions as to what happend to this civilistion.

Back aboard the bus and with the threatening black clouds in the distant staying away we headed back to La Paz.

Having eaten so much meat on this trip, suggested to vegetarian Alison C to return to Tierra Sena for a healthy vegetarian dinner. As Alison C was not 100% when she was last there, this was a good choice. So for me Brazilian style peanut soup followed by an African (Cameron) stew of lentils, bananas, potatoes with rice. A cerveza (beer) finished off wonderful dinner.

Other Entries