The most impressive is the absolute loneliness of the region and the fact that it is despite all odds inhabited. This extensive, empty highland of Bolivia is an imposing area. The first time I came to the Altiplano was in the year 2000, when I worked researching in the Amazonian Jungle in Peru and this highland struck me. Can you imagine a place, where either you eat potatoes or you eat onions, one or the other, every day? But reassuringly you have 300 different types of potatoes, including the little white and black ones that are produced by drying, freezing and humidifying the normal potatoes. Even the dogs smell of potatoes here.
People on this highland have mainly no heating despite the fact that it gets freezing cold in winter. Still today every winter many children freeze to death. I longtime wondered, why the hell would you not install a heating, when it gets so cold? The answer is, there is just no wood you could burn. You wear Alpaca Ponchos and that is it. What a proof of the flexibility and toughness of the human race.
People here live in so small earthen huts that you first think it cannot be that someone lives in there.
And then there is Tiwanaku. In this incredible, empty highland lies Tiwanaku.
A huge stonewall lines it and damaged pyramids are standing in its center. The heads of immense statues look out over the plain like mystic guardians. Tiwanaku was longtime pillaged and destroyed. It is only now that parts are registered and rebuild. If you are in the area of La Paz, by all means stop by.
Look at this place that was once a port city. A port city with no water to be seen around it today. Tiwanaku lay once at the Titicaca-Lake and the lake, it seems, moved 15 kilometers further.
The historical Tiwanaku was the religious and administrative center of pre-Inca cultures around Lake Titicaca from 1500 BC to 1200 AD. The first traces of settlement date from the 15th century BC, even if this is disputed. Around 300 BC Tiwanaku began to grow into a center for religion and culture and reached its peak between 600 and 900 AD.
The main phase of its development lay between 600 and 900 AD. In its heyday, the influence of Tiwanaku ranged from the Pacific coast, to the Atacama Desert, to the province of Cochabamba and to parts of present-day Argentina.
But at the end of the first millennium, Tiwanaku fell victim to climatic change and the associated drought. The city was abandoned. When the Inca reached the area, Tiwanaku was already uninhabited.
New research at the Titicaca-Lake show that there was once a catastrophic event that submerged structures that today lie under water. Human remains were found. How much do we yet not know of what happened on this hostile and yet so beautiful Altiplano?