South America | Bolivia – Land of the Aymara – Water of the Gods
Above La Paz the Altiplano sprawls along the base of the Cordillera Real, the Range of Kings. Glaciers and summits fall abruptly into the ochre, windswept plains that support mountains of cumulus and a tapestry of azul. It is a land of wide horizons, full of myth and mystery.
We followed the base of the mountains north until the ochre gave way to sapphire. There below us was the shore of the mystical Lake Titicaca, where the sun was first commanded to rise over the darkness of the ante-diluvian world.
The Eden of Incan mythology, this is where the period of the ‘Fifth Sun’ began. In the Incan and Aymaran beliefs the world has been created and destroyed four times before the coming of our current age. We are now in the fifth age and according to the Native American sages it is to be our last. (Oddly enough, though it has been widely held that the Aztec and Mayan cultures of Central America had no contact with the Incas, they have also counted five suns in their oral history of the past which also goes back more than 18,000 years.)
While little can be verified from the oral traditions and myths that have been so carefully preserved for millenia, the first impression of the lake can only be described as magical; deep blue waters shimmering in the light of the fifth sun, reed boats plying across the placid surface, fields of potato and grain climbing the banks to small Aymara settlements of adobe, gentle winds and billowy clouds drifting across from the Peruvian Highlands under the summits of Andean giants that stand guard to the east, it is a setting that inspires divine thought.
At an altitude of 3810 meters this is said to be the highest navigable lake in the world and is by far the largest body of water in all of South America, spanning the length of the northern Altiplano from Bolivia to Peru. Facts and myth, however fascinating, do little justice to the lake. It is a place of indescribable beauty that must be seen to be understood.
After appeasing our hungry eyes for an hour through the scratched and smeared windows of the bus we finally arrived in Copacabana. There we watched the sun set over a sea of gold with a full moon rising behind us. Peace…tranquility…and contentment. Had we survived our misadventures only to behold this spectacular sight it would have been worth it, but there was more, and The Road goes on.
Morning light found us skimming the surface of the lake in a small boat heading for the Isla de la Sol, The Island of the Sun. There is no more sacred a place in the Andean world than this small island set in the southern fringes of the main lake. We spent two days walking the high ridges that span the island visiting ancient ruins and finally arriving at the sacred stone from where the sun is said to have risen over the darkness.
Creation, a new beginning in an old world, myths were born that would span the time between the darkness of calamity and the darkness of modern man. And through it all the lake ly dormant with an omniescent silence that understands far more than it’s peaceful setting would allude to.
What if we had it all wrong ? What if our present existence on Earth were truly but a fragile affair that could be consumed by global calamity and upheaval ? These questions followed us to another corner of the lake, to the ruined temples of Tiwanaku, a remnant of another time.
Tiwanaku has been officially dated by conservative archeologists to roughly coincide with the time of Christ, with the main period of construction lying about 1000 years before the present. Arthur Posnansky, an archeologist who spent the better part of his life studying Tiwanaku, shocked the scientific world when he dated the construction of the site to a date ‘somewhere beyond 12000 years’. This date was arrived at due to the present misalignment of the rising sun through the ‘Intipunku’, the Door of the Sun. Posnansky calculated that for a propewr alignment the axis of the Earth had to have been in a very different angle, an angle which modern computers have accurately dated to 12000 years ago.
Could this have been one of the first cities in the ante-diluvian world, all but destroying our present understanding of the evolution of the human race ? The recent developements in Eygpt in which the Great Sphinx has now been proven to be, at very least, 8000 years old confirms the presence of an advanced civilisation in a time where modern science still depicts us dragging our knuckles on the way to our caves.
Whatever the truth may be there remains one other piece of evidence which leads the mind to wander. Tiwanaku was built as a port city on the shores of Lake Titicaca. However, at the moment the shores are 20 kilometers away and 50 meters below the ancient port. What kind of upheaval could have caused the lake to recede in the relatively well understood timespan (geographically speaking) of the past 1000 years ? If stones could only speak…
Unfortunately Tiwanaku has been reduced to little more than several huge piles of megalithic stones, some weighing more than 200 tonnes. The Spanish used the site as a quarry from which they built several churches and other buildings carrying the ancient stones as far away as La Paz. This along with the ravages of time, has left little for modern archeologists to work with and travellers coming fom the more intact Inca ruins in Peru generally leave the site dissapointed. But many questions remain. How were the 200 ton stones, quarried from mountaintops 50 kilometers from the site, brought to Tiwanaku ? What happened to the lake and to the inhabitants of the once great city ?
Whenthe Spanish first arrived they too were amazed at the construction and use of the massive stones. The Aymara told the Spanish chroniclers that the city was built long,long ago by bearded men that came from the sea. These men were said to have taught the Aymara how to breed animals, cultivate crops and how to build houses and irrrigation systems.
Perhaps the bearded staues that were found at the site were not the fantasy of the indigenous peoples (who, for the record, are free of facial hair). Perhaps there is more to be learned of our history and our fate in the broken stones that are scattered around the shores of a lake that legend holds to be the site of ‘creation’.
Time might tell, but for now our journey continues with the simpler thoughts of mortal beings in search of beauty, entonces hasta luego !