The Quest to Puma Punku & Tiwanaku, Bolivia
I’m writing this on a grey old day after slowly but surely making my way through an Irish Breakfast. I’m waiting for the sun to shine so I can go and play La Paz Golf Club which has the distinction of being the world’s highest golf course. Yesterday I made my way to Tiwanaku with the sole intent of arriving at Puma Punku, being humbled by it’s grandeur and mystery then taking photos for my friend’s at iBankCoin…
A little background, yes? Tiwanaku is an archeological site in western Bolivia that acted as the capital of an egregious empire that extends to the present day in Peru and Chile. It was a splendid site with large temples and even the “Gateway to the Sun”. The majority of the tour was about this site but I signed up all to get to a smaller less popular spot but much more mysterious called Puma Punku which was a massive and splendid temple site now in complete ruins known as “The Door of the Puma”.
Archeologist believe that Puma Punku was built after Tiwanaku but local legend is that Puma Punku was built first. The legend is that creatures from another world came and built this temple in one day and one night and that Tiwanaku was built later as a copy cat of this incredible temple. Let’s be serious, archeologist seem to know a whole lot about really old things based on a few rocks, yes? What makes Puma Punku so special is the handicraft if you want to call it that.
They have precision cuts into the hardest of stone that look like it was a hot wire cutting through styrofoam. Beyond that, the finishes of these cuts are perfectly smooth without even the slightest scuff or scratch on the stone. Also, there were lines drawn through some pieces which are perfectly straight, you can’t find a flaw in these precise cuts even if you tried. There are also smaller holes throughout the cuts which are absolutely perfectly placed as though someone with today’s technology was doing it in soft clay, these were stones.
There are also some of the largest stones used for any sort of temple anywhere in the world, some over 100 metric tones moved several kilometes with the largest being 131 metric tones. How they were moved is an enigma and those without childhood like imaginations will make up all sorts of theories but they just don’t add up. There is also an aura about this site which makes you feel as though the legends could be true and that the archeologists should go back to the drawing board or looking at rocks.
Back to how it went down, I signed up for a tour… The tour will cost 60-80bs depending on where you book and then you’ll have to pay the 80bs to get into the archeological sites. They also have this meal they offer you as a tourist for 35-40bs which is basically shoe leather like llama meat with cold vegetables and luke-warm noodles, yum. I joined the tour and it took us 3 hours to do the ~72km trek from La Paz due to horrendous traffic that you can’t even imagine.
We did the tour and spent 85% of the time at Tiwanaku almost as though Puma Punku was an afterthought, the horror. As a result half way through the tour I started thinking it’s time to ditch this train going nowhere. I also saw big storm clouds coming so I asked the guide and he said it should be fine but I didn’t believe him and he couldn’t comprehend my motives. I ditched the group and set out for Puma Punku on a solo mission of sorts. I jogged there and got lost as I naturally had no clue.
I ran back to town and asked these workers and realized I was almost there, jogging in full clothes with an SLR around your neck at 3800M above sea-level is no fun. I arrived out of breath and the guy at the ticket-booth asked for my tickets, I pleaded my case in broken Spanish and he let me through. There I was at Puma Punku, somewhere I had heard about at great-length and tried to take some photos for iBankCoin. It was windy and I couldn’t get a good shot trying to hold the sign when I saw this Swedish gent wandering around.
He was more than happy to assist and I took my shots, roamed around and enjoyed the energy. The temple was roughly 5m high and took up 2 hectares of land, it was a big spot. Not much is left as it’s basically just ruins but what is left tells you the story of what this place was all about. I ran back to the Tiwanaku site and ran into some Argentinians who told me the group had left on a bus, great. I was still elated from Puma Punku so I didn’t let that break my stride.
I continued to ask where the possible restaurants were as I stopped in a few on the way to Tiwanaku. Turns out it was in the nearby town so I ran as fast as I could while dying for breath until I finally arrived at lunch and guess what, the soup was still warm! The Quinoa soup was delicious, I really like Quinoa and had never heard of it before arriving in Bolivia. As mentioned earlier the rest of the lunch was rank and overpriced considering you can get a wonderful 3 course meal in the city center for 33bs…
As I arrived at lunch it started raining and I knew I had made the right call ditching the group and going at it on my own. We went to Puma Punku in the rain and didn’t stay long, maybe 15 minutes total which was weak considering we spent hours at Tiwanaku. Back in the bus we went and stopped at a great viewpoint of La Paz along the way. I’d continue but we’re approaching 1000 words and the sun appears to breaking through the clouds which means my golf game my actually be arriving. You can’t wait around for the weather in La Paz, it’s decidedly bi-polar.
Now, some of the coolest things from the tour. The temple in Tiawanka was situated so at both solstices and equinox a single beam of light would hit the center of the temple. The used to use bronze keys to hold the blocks together which was quite ingenious. The temple was a real meeting place as well and they have several megaphones throughout the sights at both Tiwanaku and Puma Punku which really worked. Also, the entire site is in this valley surrounded by majestic mountains and it has a feeling about it that is hard to put your thumb on.
If you’re in the area and this appeals to you I suggest you look into it. I don’t think you need to go with a tour though as most of it was in Spanish so I didn’t get a lot out of it, that said our guide as cool and explained certain things that mattered to me at length, don’t forget to tip your guides ok? I’m shocked how many people eat up their time not to even leave a few Boliviana. Also, if you’re a small group, just go on you own for 15bs each way and pay the entrance when you arrive if you’re tight on cash.
I saw a few people doing that and it seemed the way to go, I would have but I’m flying solo and not particularly worried about $20-$30 tours so just went for it without another thought. If you’re gregarious you may even join up with a tour, befriend the guide and get a free tour + lift back like these gregarious gents from Argentina who we met did. Alright, I’m officially rambling but very glad to have gotten to see Puma Punku, it’s a special spot on this planet. Also, I’m going with the legend aka local belief that aliens definitely built this place as even with today’s tech; I’d love to see someone even think of trying and replicate it…