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To Bolivia, mysterious Tiwanaku and Back again

To Bolivia, mysterious Tiwanaku and Back again

KTM’s on the loose!  Petar and I have two different objectives.  He wants to continue his South American adventure by traveling through Bolivia.  I don’t want to go back to Bolivia for anything, however it was the shortest distance for me to travel to renew my Peruvian visa.  Petar worked long and hard to convince me to travel with him to Bolivia, I can tell you!  I really really don’t want to go back to that country. (I would have gone East to Brazil instead) He enticed me with some mysterious ruins called Tiwanaku, north of La Paz.  Okay then, I will only go that far into Bolivia, then I’m turning around and riding right back out!  Agreed.

We left Cusco at 7 AM knowing we could get across the border and into Copacabana, Bolivia by dinner: 528 km including a border crossing.  The sun goes down around 5:30 pm at this time of year.

Roadside stop at Lake Titicaca

Lots of grass for 4 little legs sticking out.  The highway for donkey’s along the highway..

Fast track to the Peru/Bolivia border at Lake Titicaca.

I liked these guys.  One of those super easy border crossings, the kind we always wish for.

The cops outside were always flirting with me while Petar was inside doing his paperwork.  I diverted their attention by getting them to pose with Petar instead when he came out.  Smart thinking Sherri Jo! 😉

A very short road from the border in to Copacabana.  After 2 or 3 stops checking hostels and not finding what we wanted either due to price or lack of safe parking, we chose to have dinner on the lake while the sun went down and sort out a place to stay after.  Fresh Trucha (trout!)  Very fresh and very good….

These guys were wanting us to move our bikes.. They feel they have a space reserved for one of their friends.. Hmpfh! No worries, there is plenty of room and they are drunk.  Easier to just move..

We had found a place to tuck the bikes into for the night. It included a standard stale piece of bread with margarine (yuck) for breakfast, and a very weak cup of tea.

We set off for the day..One last photo of Copacabana..

As we travel, I learn that Lake Titicaca, which was on my left, is on my right as well.  I did not know this before, but there is a north and south section of the lake and we will be crossing over by ferry.

I look at the lake and it’s hard to remember just how high we are.  Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world at 3812 meters (12,506 ft).

This was funny.  Which ferry boat do we pick?  A couple guys wave Petar down to board the ferry with the bus.. Makes sense.

I waited and watched.  He got on, and they said, “No, No!”  They want us on another boat.  I could tell Petar was frustrated.

OK.. this one will work, we didn’t have to change again..

From the ferry I took a photo of my favorite Cocaina (oops I mean Coka Quina) drink… love it!

Our piece of stale bread isn’t holding up.. So we pull over quickly for a snack.  Petar really wants a Snickers bar, and well, it’s sort of a favorite of mine as well.

The lady here swears she has Snickers in her shop!  Now, where did she put them??

The lady also lives in this shop. Her little baby couldn’t take her eyes off us.

Whew! The Snickers bar did the trick, we are off and running!  Once we got away from the lake, it was a little bit boring, so we were on a mission and whizzing past the vans.

Petar is out of cash and wants to go to La Paz for the ATM (Cajero Automatica).  I plead with him.. Please! Don’t go there! The traffic in that city is mental!  If we go in, it will take hours to get out just to get some money.  Surely there is a another village with money before La Paz.  (Nope).. Okay then, take my money! I’d rather give money away than ride into La Paz.. seriously!!

I lost the battle.  Petar was in front riding fast and before we knew it we were on the outskirts of La Paz.  I was angry in my helmet, he knew it and started asking locals straight way where he’d find an ATM.  They directed us to the first big cross road.  Good news!  There were 3 banks on this corner, saving us from riding all the way into the big city!  Thank the Lord… Hallelujah!

OK, I’m happy again.. don’t those Andes Mountains look great in the distance!?! 😉 We pulled over on the road going north again toward the Tiwanaku Ruins.  I was on this road just a few weeks ago with Barton and Dean and we flew right past the ruins, didn’t even know they were here.

Tiwanaku, (Spanish: Tiahuanaco and Tiahuanacu) is an important Pre-Columbian archaeological site in western Bolivia. Tiwanaku is recognized by Andean scholars as one of the most important precursors to the Inca Empire, flourishing as the ritual and administrative capital of a major state power for approximately five hundred years. The ruins of the ancient city state are near the south-eastern shore of Lake Titicaca about 72 km (45 mi) west of La Paz.  Wikipedia.

Sit the chairs right in the middle of the train tracks.. why not?  Anything they can do for some excitement for when the train comes through Tiwanaku Bolivia…

And the boys below, I loved watching.  One of them has found a mirror and was completely entertained by the sharp hot point he could paint on the house wall.

Petar and I made a big mistake.  We drove past the ruins and decided to check into a hostel we found online early, so that our gear can be locked up while we explore.  Then, we were really really hungry.  We thought we would get a quick sandwich before wandering the ruins for the next 2 or 3 hours.  There was nowhere to eat in this town!  We asked and asked, until we came across this one lonely restaurant.  Or is it??

It seems a bit odd and we are not sure to follow the wall into somebodies back yard.  But sure enough, that is where we found a little room to sit and order a meal!  We ordered chicken and chips (french fries).  The only other option was trucha (trout), but we had that last night.

I’m fairly sure we heard the chicken take the ax… and once our meal came out of the hut below, I can tell you it was VERY good!  We waited a fair while for it, but it didn’t matter once we were eating.

Now the mistake that we made was that we missed seeing the ruins.  Once we wandered back to the entrance around 4:45, the guards explained that we can not enter because they close at 5 PM. Bugger!

Here’s a photo of the ruins I took through the fence!  I do like that stone work! 😉

Now what’s worse, is that they don’t have internet here.  We can’t explore the ruins.. We’ve already eaten.. what can we possible do in this town????

Have a look around, what else!

Wow.. this is it.. Rush hour in Tiwanaku…

If that is Jesus in the center piece window of the Catholic church, he’s not having a good day. And.. I’m not feelin’ the love!

The next morning we were the first ones to walk in the gate of the ruins.  Once we were inside, this man wants to sell us his souvenirs on the outside of the fence.  I appreciated that man, because he doesn’t just sit and wait for you to walk out of the place and browse his crafts along with 10 other groups with the same crafts.. He goes and GETS his business!

First we walk toward this ancient mud pyramid.  Mud can only last so long so there’s not much left of it.

Akapana Pyramid, Tiwanaku

What they did better was build even greater structures with stone.

Gate to the Sun, Tiwanaku

Much of the architecture of the site is in a poor state of preservation, having been subjected to looting and amateur excavations attempting to locate valuables since shortly after Tiwanaku’s fall. This destruction continued during the Spanish conquest and colonial period. During the 19th century and early 20th century, destruction included quarrying stone for building and railroad construction and target practice by military personnel. Wikipedia.

This old piece not only had graffiti carved into it from a Japanese tourist, but was deteriorating from the wildlife.  I suppose if you want to see these interesting ruins, you better get here quick!

There is still a lot of mystery about Tiwanku, so Petar and I speculate at every stop.  My theory sticks with the aliens.  I reckon the ruins in the photo below is of a petrified spaceship…..the proof is in the windows! 😉

Gate to the Moon, Tiwanku

The post below appears to be important.  With a closer look, there are seem to be some important carvings on it.  However, they are letting it erode instead.  I think if they could at least put a roof over it, it might last longer, but maybe they don’t think it’s worth it?

Temple Kalasasaya – Political and Spiritual Center

Lots of head figures in the plaza.  Must be from the dignitaries that ruled here so long ago.

Tiwanaku sculpture is comprised typically of blocky column-like figures with huge, flat square eyes, and detailed with shallow relief carving. They are often holding ritual objects. Some have been found holding severed heads. These images suggest ritual human beheading, which correlate with the discovery of headless skeletons found under the Akapana pyramid. Wikipedia.

I have to admit, I’m glad I came to Bolivia and saw Tiwanaku ruins. They are VERY different to the many sites I’ve visited in Peru or anywhere else in the world.  It’s mind-boggling to imagine how these civilizations lived at this high elevation.  To carry or drag or whatever they did to move those large stones into place in a region that is hard enough to just breathe.

I said my goodbye’s to Petar and I’m on my own once again.  With a late start, I’ll cross the border and stay the night in Puno. Then carry on home to Cusco the day after.

I did take one small diversion after Puno to a place called Sillustani.  It’s supposed to be an impressive complex of funerary tombs! This is something I’ve not seen in any other of the sites visited lately. (You can see them on the hill in the photo below)

They were built by both the Kolla and Inca cultures, which developed in the Sillustani region during the time of the Inca’s.

These cultures had peculiar burial customs for their nobles: chiefs and priests were buried in funeral towers called ‘Chullpa’ which means tomb.  According to historical sources, the body was first mummified and then placed in the tomb in a fetal position.  Additionally the women most dear to them, their servants, and favorite animals were sacrificed and buried with them. Geez! How much would that suck!? Also placed in the tomb were their most valuable possessions for example gold and silver objects, ceramic utensils and food.  This strange burial custom can be explained by the cultures belief that the dead pass on to another life. I’m just wondering if anyone in that culture ever noticed that the spoons and gold never did move on to another life?

It was a long walk from town to wander around the tombs.  I was quite honestly not interested in paying the entrance fee and wandering around even more ruins.  It’s sad really, but this happened to me in Turkey.. I swore if I saw another ancient Greek amphitheater I’d scream!  The same is happening here. I’m guilty of being a bit spoiled for travel and all the great things I get to see. I know now lucky I am, but not today.  I took a couple photos from the road, and then loved my surroundings even more.

The funeraries are on the hill behind my bike.

The communities out here are unique.  I really like them, they look comfortable.

From what I can tell, under each gate is four homes. You can see the double bulls on the roof’s to ward off the evil spirits.

That’s not what I think it is up ahead, is it?

Yep, the live sheep are tied to the roof.  It’s very sad, and I told this sheep “sorry” when I passed by and hoped it wouldn’t be too much longer before they let him and the others down.

Guess what.. I’m back in Peru.  How do I know?  They are dancing in the street.. well, the highway this time!  Peru is just one big party.. all the time.  That is what I’ve learned of my time here..! 😉

The good news?  I get to take that little track between the poles for Motocicletas.. and avoid the toll.. I love the countries that do this.  Paying a small toll is never fast or easy on the bike.

And through the lovely and bustling town of Juliaca..

My fuel stop today.  This lady was so nice, I enjoyed talking to her.

Here is a serious example of not to believe road signs.  Well into Peru, it says the Cusco is 1366 km from here.. What??  It’s only 640 km if I rode all the way from La Paz Bolivia.. How did I gain that many KM’s?  I didn’t.. my gps is more correct for once.  But this was worth a photo.  Always best to double check distances to prepare for fuel, but gee whiz, this one was far too far out of whack.

Nearly back to Cusco.  The road is always full of dogs along the way.  They don’t seem to be hungry, and I can only think they lay along the road for the heat of the pavement.

Only a small 5 day diversion to update my visa. But it was nice. I really enjoy traveling with Petar and I got to see more things I hadn’t seen the first time through.  Petar carried on to Uyuni where he visited Kevin’s memorial, which was nice to see the photos he passed on to me.  Now I’m really looking forward to being on the road again soon full time when I start my way to Brazil and the Amazon.  Ciao!

Originally from America. Proud citizen of Australia. Currently riding my motorcycle around the world. 44 countries so far and counting. ;-)


  • January 29, 2013

    Sherri Jo: Are you planning on travelling up the Amazon and then overland to Venezuela? I spoke to some Brazilians who claim that the road north of Manuas is unpaved and muddy. I think that their information is outdated…do you have any real time information on that route, by chance? I am currently in Ushuaia, and heading north. I appreciate your writing style and great photos. Keep it up(right)..


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