Day 11: Tiwanaku

Area 1

The stonework was beautiful

Such a peaceful setting

The last few days through Peru, Chile and Bolivia had been spend conversing, negotiating and learning about locals in their present situation. The next few would be spend looking into their past. Both Dominik and I had wanted to visit Tiwanaku, on the southern shores of Lake Titicaca due to its archeological significance. Just like the Mayan ruins in Central America or the Roman ruins scattered about Europe Tiwanaku is solid evidence of a sophisticated Empire that occupied parts of these countries centuries before our present geo-political boundaries ever existed.

If one was to track back through Bolivia’s history five main periods occupy much of its past. The first was the ancient Tiwanaku civilization which dates back to around 1200BC and held sway to around 1000AD. They were followed by smaller indigenous states that dominated until they in turn were incorporated by the Inca Empire around the mid 1400s. The Incas dominated much of the Andean region until the early 1500s when the Spanish arrived with modern weaponry and soon Bolivia was under Spanish control where it remained up until independence in 1825.

It is this first civilization, Tiwanaku, that had brought us to the town of the same name. Though it had emerged from  humble beginnings Tiwanaku grew in strength as the years passed and by 100BC had established a distinct class system and by 700AD had expanded to cover much of Bolivia and parts of Peru, Chile and Argentina. Their kingdom centred around Tiwanaku which had evolved into a religious and business city of 50,000. It is here that Dominik and I decided to spend our day, amongst the remnants of this great city.

Our hotel was just up the road from the ruins and Dominik collected his painting gear and headed out to capture some of them on canvass. I joined him later as I had a couple of blogs to finish. To enter the sprawling complex one has to buy a ticket at the ‘billotier’ where I was surprised to see a tiered pricing system in place again. Just like at the gas pump the Nationals paid a substantially lower price, this was all part of President Evo Morales plan to put the Indigenous people back out front.

The complex at Tiwanaku is quite comprehensive, there are two outdoor excavated ‘areas,’ and two indoor museums to explore. We were interested primarily in ‘Area 1” which included the Piramide de Akapana, the Temlo deKalasasaya, the Templo de Putuni and the one structure we really wanted to see, the Puerta del Sol, the door of the sun. Before entering Area 1 I looked around the complex to get my bearings and stopped to watch a large group of Bolivian children playing in a designated area. They were on a school field trip and all dressed in uniform. What a great outing and what a way to learn of ones culture I thought to myself. I couldn’t help but feel that the Bolivians were spending time and money where it was most important.

Inside I explored Area 1 and it soon became apparent how advanced the complex was. From the layout and design to the intricate carvings in stone everything portrayed a layer of sophistication that far surpassed my expectations. As I wandered around the complex large tours were being led through while two areas were under excavation, it was part museum and part exposition. At one point I couldn’t help but think I’d mistakenly walked onto an Indiana Jones movie set. It was fascinating.

I found Dominik next to the Templo de Kalasasaya, which he was painting. We had a brief natter and he told me of the school children checking out his work while one of the custodians shooed them back, “Give the artist room,” he encouraged. It appears that the Bolivian friendly spirit is nurtured from an early age.

I did some more filming there as three Llamas put on a show for us. There was Mama, Papa, and their young one. It was quite the sight, Dominik painting and I filming behind the blue cordon while the Llamas roughhoused on the other side like they owned the place.

We returned to the hotel a while later and started talking of moving from one timeframe to the next, as tomorrow we were heading for Copacabana, we were leaving the heart of the Tiwanaku Empire and heading to that of the Inca, the Isla del Sol.