More Travel Reflections in South America

22 08 2012

Yes, sorry, I know I´ve posted reflections in South America already, but stuff you, I´m on a roll – so here´s more reflections in South America!!

Travel Reflections in South America

15 08 2012

I´ve taken the travel reflections photography theme on to another level using car bonnets, shop windows, marble pillows, TV screens, framed pictures and shadows. I like it – and hope you do to!

The Isla del Sol, Lake Titicaca, Bolivia

20 07 2012

The Isla del Sol (Island of the Sun) is the sacred island of the Inca and sits in Lake Titicaca near the border of Peru and Bolivia. You can reach it from Puno in Peru, but I chose to stay in Copacabana as I was coming from the Bolivian capital of La Paz and by all accounts the views of Lake Titicaca are better from this side.

At 38,000 metres above sea level, Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world which makes the Isla del Sol the highest island in the world that can be reached. Legend has it that the first Inca King, Manco Capac was born on the Island. Subsequently the Isla del Sol was regarded as the most sacred of places for the Inca.

To get to Isla Del Sol from La Paz catch a bus from the cemetery (Cemeterio). You will hear people shouting “Copacanana, Copacabana” in rapid, barely audible Spanish. The nominal fare of 15BOB (£1.20) is a bargain considering the journey is almost 4 hours. The downside is you are designated a seat and have to sit next to whoever bought the ticket before or after you.

Buses in Bolivia – smelly

Unfortunately I was seated next to a Bolivian boy who had the same dirty smell of poverty I had noticed on my first day in La Paz. But then again my hostel didn´t have hot running water thus didn´t really wash so I know how the poor buggers feel. I didn´t exactly smell like morning coffee myself!

In front of us was a man in his 40’s – old enough to know better – playing pop music through his mobile phone. If the music wasn’t horrendous enough by itself, the bassless tinny tones emitted from poor quality speakers made it even worse. If I hear “Lady in Red” one more time I will have to rip my ears off!

The journey to Lake Titicaca is non-descript; rundown neighbourhoods where women in traditional dress sell their Alpaca woollies and home-made soups by the side of dusty roads. People (mostly men in western clothes) mill about the streets without seeming to be doing anything other than loiter. The scene was a familiar sight in Bolivia.

En route partially built houses show no signs of completion. There are no builders or building equipment. Perhaps work had stopped due to the rainy season, though most just looked abandoned. It crossed my mind that the perspective owners might have run out of funds. Either way, I get the sense that construction work in general is pretty slow in Bolivia. I’m not holding my breath that Tiwanaku will be restored any time soon.

The Legends of Lake Titicaca

Lake Titicaca is a sacred region for the ancient tribes. Many of the Aymara still inhabit the region. Indigenous myths say the sun god Viracocha rose from the depths of the Lake on foam – just as Aphrodite did in Greek mythology. It struck me that two myths from two different parts of the world shared the same image.

Breathing through my mouth in an attempt to quell the sickening whiff, I look out the window to see Titicaca shimmering beside us. She looks magical. The immediate change in scenery is like traversing into another world.

The Bay at Lake Titicaca

Spanning 118 miles, the sprawling lake feeds from 37 rivers than run down the Andes Mountains. One of the mouths is San Pedro, a tiny village on the shores of the lake at a point known as the Tiquina Straits.

We were ordered off the bus, but because I didn´t speak Spanish I didn´t know why. Still I was relieved to get some fresh air and escape the nasal insult and audio torture. After a lot o finger pointing it became apparent that the bus would cross the lake on a barge whilst the rest of us jumped into a small boat.

And it was small. About 25 of us squeezed into a tiny space where there was barley any room to put my feet let alone get two full cheeks on the seat. I tried to make myself comfortable, but it was impossible wedged in between two large Bolivian women in life jackets. I didn´t put my jacket on otherwise I wouldn´t have been able to sit down at all. Despite some slight buttock discomfort, the ride was peaceful, the air was fresh and the views simply stunning.

The coach is pulled over by a very slow moving tug boat, but the time delay is an ideal opportunity to grab a drink and nip to the toilet. I wander into the local market where people are selling some kind of food, none of which I recognise. I bought something that looked vaguely edible. Pastry. It was offered to me with a limp looking corn-on-the-cob and two boiled potatoes that looked like they´d been shit out of a camel. I took the two meat and veg pasties, which were pretty tasty, and fed the rest to waif a dog. He turned his nose up at it as well! Then it back to the bus for another hour of ear and nose assault.

Copacabana has the feel of a seaside resort. Tacky! The two main streets are geared for tourism, lined with restaurants, hotels, and shops selling garments woven from Llama and Alpaca wool. In the main Plaza is an extraordinarily big church considering the small size of the town.

Like all the colonial churches I have seen, Copacabana’s is over-decorated with silver and gold that was pillaged from the land of the indigenous peoples by the Spanish. Bizarre carvings of religious figures leave you with the same uneasy feel you get watching a horror movie. Everything about it is over-the-top and ugly.

Copacabana Church – dripping in pillaged gold!

Attached to the side of the church is a long, narrow room. This is known as the Capella de las Velas – Place of Candles. People come here to melt wax and make wishes.

On the wall were several sculptures moulded from candle wax. They represented wishes – cars, houses and dollar signs. One person had sculptured a heart. For me, the scene summed up modern day values and the fact that materialism outnumbers the desire to love and be loved. Why do we hate each other so much? Welcome to the world we live in.

Tour Operators in Copacabana

There are plenty of tour operators in Copacabana. Buying a ticket to Isla del Sol is simple and costs about £2. The boat leaves from the harbour at 8.30am or 1.30pm and is usually packed to the rafters, top and bottom. I’d been told that on a good day a seat on the roof is great for the views and fresh air. In rainy season though it’s best not to chance the outdoors, instead find shelter underneath.

The morning sky was ambiguous; a chill clung to the air. I found a downstairs pew. On the boat I met Julian, an Englishman who has been living in Peru and Bolivia for the last five years undergoing intensive Shamanic training. He told me each part of the Island represents a different chakra – puma, eagle, hummingbird, snake and condor. Julian says he feels a dragon there as well.

“Which parts of the island represent which animal?” I ask.

“They keep moving around,” he tells me, “but the north tip of the island is most definitely Puma.”

“How do you know the difference between the energies?”

“It’s something you learn over time. Each animal represents a different chakra. That’s how you know. San Pedro helps with that.”

His reference to San Pedro was of the hallucogenic plant, a masculine form of the better known ayahuasaca. Julian explained that the “medicine” gives you an outward experience whereas ayahuasaca is more inward. They are both used by Shamans to connect with nature and heal past wounds.

Stunning views from the Isla del Sol

Lake Titicaca is mysterious. Perhaps it was my imagination recalling the strange myths and legends the lake is associated with, but the water looked to be shape-shifting. On one side of the boat the surface had a chrome-smooth shine, yet on the other side the colour was the thick black of an oil spill.

As we approached the island, black-grey clouds hung ominously over the hills like fire smoke and I feared the day might be ambushed by a terrific downpour. A solitary shack sits at the bottom of a grass covered hill shaped like a camel’s hump. As we round the corner it is evident this is a remote corner of the island.

Further along the coastline five more bungalows peak from the hillside. There are no paths. The only place for the residents to go is into the water. I wonder who would choose to build a house on cragged rocks beneath steep, harsh hills. Who would want to live here? As we navigated the island more houses appeared. It seems plenty of people want to live here – in fact about 3000 of them.

The Isla del Sol is not very big. You can hike it north to south in about 3 hours. This route is downhill and easier though the terrain is still rugged and tiring; but the views are outstanding.

Most of the major tourist attractions are on the north side of the island with a few lesser important Inca ruins down to the south. To get into the archaeological sites buy a ticket from the museum for 10BOB (£1).

Inca Sacrifices

Making the steep climb along the donkey trails and Inca paths, donkey’s grazed quietly alongside scrawny sheep. A horned bull lazily watched over them from a grassy knoll above. A trickle and gush of water lingered on the breeze, accompanied by the chorus of birdsong.

The Inca´s sacrificial slab

On the northern tip of the island in Challapampa, you find the sacred rock which is shaped like a Puma. Opposite is the ceremonial table – which is really a polite way of saying, sacrificial slab.

It is believed Inca men inhabited the Isla del Sol whilst female slaves were held on the Isla del Luna, a two hour boat ride away. The most attractive and intelligent of these women were used for child birth. The others were sacrificed to the gods.

A short walk from the Sacred Rock is the Chinkana, a labyrinth of rooms looking out to the lake. In the side of the walls were the same niches I had seen in the ruins at El Fuerte in Bolivia and their reoccurrence was beginning to make me think they held some kind of significant importance. I would later learn the coves is where the Inca stored their dead relatives between death and burial.

As midday bedded in, the sun that gave the island its name banished the cold and dispelled all threats of rain. Somewhere within ear-shot a lone sheep bleated; perhaps separated from the herd or merely wanting attention. Either way, her call went unanswered. Below the steep cliffs the emerald waters of Titicaca sparkled.

I began the trek to the south side of the island and looked out across the lake to find the triangle of mountains that jut out from the water. The area is said to be a central energy vortex of the cosmos, and therefore the Gods.

Another rumour about the Isla del Sol is a tunnel that leads all the way to Cusco. It’s supposedly submerged underwater and no longer visible. In the 1960’s French oceanographer Jacques Cousteau explored the Lake in search of sub-aquatic temples but only found ancient pottery.

The Secrets of Lake Atitlan

However, in 2000 the Atahuallpa expedition lead by Italian scientists claimed to have discovered a road and a wall that lead to a temple. They claimed the submerged site dates back around 1500 years and has been attributed to the Tiwanakans who dominated the region long before the Inca.

Is there a lost city under Lake Titicaca?

However, there is some suspicion about the authenticity of the Atahuallpa expedition. Akakor, the company conducting the explorations have failed to provide sufficient video footage of their findings on their website, nor have they produced a peer-reviewed report.

Bolivian archaeologist Carlos Ponce is one of the researchers that is sceptical about Akakor’s claims. He finds it hard to believe that 12 previous expeditions failed to identify the road and a 2300 foot wall, nor does he believe a short expedition of 20-days would have produced such results.

In addition to the road, wall and temple, Akakor also claimed to have discovered the fabled cave where it is believed the Inca’s practiced child sacrifices. The Italians also claim bones of children were recovered – yet have not produced any physical or documented evidence to support their claims.

Akakor are also excavating Tiwanaku. I have my doubts we will learn anything convincing about the enigmas it represents. Nor does it surprise me that the reconstruction works have been delayed. I was beginning to ask myself what it is about the Tiwanakan civilisation scientists don’t want us to know? Bolivia had certainly left an impression on me.

The Enigma of Tiwanaku

20 07 2012

Alternative Theories of Bolivia´s Most Important Archaeological Site

Tiwanaku is an archaeological phenomena that provokes questions. Yet few people have asked questions and even less have offered answers that are acceptable. According to professional stonemasons in the 21st Century, to achieve the feats of engineering the builders of Tiwanaku did in 500AD is simply not possible.

What we are looking at with Tiwanaku therefore is not architecture from the past, but architecture of the future. Yet, how can this be possible given what we understand about history. Or do so-called educated scholars that make up these theories not really know anything about the history of ancient man?

Mainstream Scholars on Tiwankau

Orthodox archaeologists and historians insist the beginnings of Tiwanaku started as a village around 1200 BCE and developed into a vast settlement during a golden age between 600 AD and 900 AD.

They also acknowledge that the Tiwanakans are the forward thinking ancestors of the Aymara Indians who still live around Lake Titicaca today and are a race that is known to have not had any form of writing. Modern day architects are amazed the builders of Tiwanaku could have planned a complex of this stature without any written plans, particularly considering the precise astronomical layout of the Kalasasaya temple and the accuracy of precision cut stones. Could mainstream scholars be wrong in their declaration? Most likely they are but they arrogantly choose to dismiss any challenging questions!

The only reasonable explanation from a respected archaeologist came from Arthur Ponanksy who dedicated 50 years of his life researching the settlement of Tiwanaku. Ponanksy suggested that the complex was probably around 17,000 years old which would make it the oldest known city on the planet. His modern day counterparts at Yale University dismiss Ponanasky´s findings and pass his theory of as a scar on his otherwise glittering career. This to me sounds like the typical brain-washed and narrow-minded views of scholars who are too afraid to go against the tide of reason that is popularly accepted as history.

Advanced civilisation is considered to have begun with the Sumerians in Mesopotamia around 5500 BCE. That part of the world is now modern day Iraq. The problem scholars have with Tiwanaku is that it throws accepted history into dispute, yet stubbornly refuse to acknowledge the history we teach children is a pack of lies. Why is that? Is there something about our past that is deliberately kept from us? So what did Arthur Ponansky discover that made him believe Tiwanaku was built in 15,000 BCE rather than 1,500 years ago?

Arthur Ponansky on Tiwanaku

 Ponansky determined that the layout of Tiwanaku mirrored the astronomical alignments of the constellation Pleiades as they would have appeared in the night sky in 15,000 BCE.

The Gateway of the Sun, Tiwanaku, Bolivia

To support his theory he turned to a piece of evidence he had found buried in mud. It was a 24-foot long calendar weighing 20 tons and dated back some 15,000 years to possibly 20,000 years and identified the ancient culture of Tiwanaku had an advanced level of intelligence and documented 27,000 years of astronomy. The “Great Idol” as it is called now has it´s own enclosure in the museum at Tiwanaku, but curiously visitors are not permitted to take photographs of it. I wonder why..!

So convinced of his discovery, Ponansky wanted to draw the attention of the world to his findings and self-funded a project to erect the monument in the centre of La Paz. Because the “Great Idol” as it is known represented the roots of the subjugated indigenous peoples, there was an outcry from white supremacists who called for its removal. To provoke a negative reaction these despicable people labelled this profound work of art a “piece of rock bound to bring trouble,” and in was described in mainstream media as “an ugly reminder of a useless pre-civilized past.” A pre-civilsation so useless we can´t replicate heir building techniques today!

The astonishing thing about the Great Idol is that it records 27,000 years of astronomical knowledge and is based on the principle that the earth was round – which mainstream history tells us when Christopher Colombus discovered in 1479, even though the Greek philosopher Aristotle had already proposed the theory in the 4th century BCE, but was ignored.

Alternative researchers today however, are unearthing evidence all over the world which adds weight to Ponansky´s theory and casts even more doubt on the accepted views about history that is taught in schools. Numerous ancient sites have been discovered to reveal physical evidence that the ancient peoples had an immense knowledge of advanced technologically, mathematics, geometry and astronomy and were not primitive cavemen pounding rocks with basic tools. Yet despite the mounting evidence mainstream scholars refuse to budge and consistently come up with random theories that just don´t make sense.

Evidence of Advanced Civilisations at Tiwanaku?

Carved into the Gateway of the Sun at Tiwanaku are stylized animal species that are now extinct. Among them is the Toxodon, a three-toed amphibious mammal that died out in the Pleistocene era about 12,000 years ago. Why would the Tiwanakans carve pictures of a dead animal they had never seen in the 6thCentury?

Space-Age Technology

We also find precision-carved shapes cut into stones with 90-degree angles and drill holes penetrating right through lock. The Tiwanakans also had an interlocking device system cut into their stones which bound the rocks together. Modern day stonemasons say some of the techniques can´t be replicated with the advanced tools we have today, and other achievements can only be completed using CNC technology.

Furthermore, the stones at Tiwanaku are made from granite and diorite. Granite is a pretty tough material, but diorite is the second hardest compound on the planet and can only be cut with diamond. The area where Tiwanaku is situated is volcanic and it is plausible that they would have had access to diamonds, but they would still have needed to attach the precious stones to the tips of their tools. It´s impossible they cut have cut the patterns into the stone by hand.

The only possible explanation (unless you believe in the ancient aliens theory) was that advanced civilisations existed long before recorded history tells us, but mankind was wiped out by a flood like the story we read of Noah in the Bible. In fact, there are over one hundred recorded flood stories in cultures all around the world which suggest high water levels did destroy almost the entire population of the planet.

It´s time we forget what we were told in school and by indocrinated scholars protecting their faith and start looking for the truth about our past in the evidence that is carved in stone. We will explore more on the veil of truth throughout my blog, but for now, Tiwanaku is a good place to start.

Tiwanaku, Bolivia Defies Historical Records

20 07 2012

Tiwanaku, 45 miles (75km) west of La Paz in northern Bolivia is perhaps the most important archaeological site travellers can currently visit. When I was examining the stones at Puma Punku I had butterflies in my stomach. Tiwanaku is quite simply an enigma.

This ancient settlement has baffled modern day archaeologists and stonemasons for decades. What´s more it throws what we understand about history into serious doubt. According to mainstream scholars, Tiwanaku was built around 500AD. They also tell us that the tools used by the ancient peoples of South America during this period were made of Amorite stone. Yet at Tiwanku we find precision cut stones with edges carved to 90-degree angles.

Modern day stonemasons say the complex technology needed to cut stones like those found at Tiwanaku defy logic. The results cannot be achieved with the advanced tools we use today. Whoever built this amazing settlement had advanced knowledge of architecture together with immense abilities of hi-tech construction. Their achievements do not correspond with the history we are taught in school.

Space-Age Technology

When Francisco Pizarro and his band of rampaging Spanish conquistadors arrived in South America and discovered Tiwanaku in the 16th century they demolished the settlement and used the stones to build San Pedro Church which stands on the fringes of the archaeological site. Subsequently the vast majority of Tiwanaku lies in tatters.

Holes drilled into Amorite stone!

As an eye-catching spectacle Tiwanaku may not be the archaeological eye-candy of Machu Picchu or the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt, but there is still plenty to admire and there is certainly enough evidence of space-age technology to inspire you to ask question about the makers of these phenomenal structures.

Visit Tiwanaku and you will find stones with inter-locking devices their surfaces so smooth it´s like running your hand over freshly plastered walls. Some stones have shapes cut into them with perfect 90-degree angles. Even more mysterious is a stone with holes drilled into it! How did they do that with a piece of Amorite? Furthermore, some of the stones found at Tiwanaku were made from diorite, the second hardest material on the planet. The only thing that can cut diorite is diamond.

Rebuilding the Akapana Pyramid

Not only is Tiwanaku an enigma of precision engineering, but the builders also had the distinction of an advanced knowledge in astronomy. The entire settlement is plotted to replicate the constellation of Pleiades and it has also been discovered that on top of the Akapana pyramid are two rows of columnar stones that form the Andean Cross, or the Chakana, the Southern Crux constellation the ancient Andean cultures considered was the centre of the Universe.

The Akapana Pyramid is the first structure you will encounter when visiting the archaeological site of Tiwanaku. It is in the process of being rebuilt, but in its prime the seven terraced platforms reached 60ft (18m) in the air and its base covered a surface area of 16 square metres.

North of the Akapana Pyramid is Kalassaya, the most preserved part of the settlement and the best indication of the Tiwanakans extraordinary ability as builders. During the solstices the sun shines directly through the doorway, thus it is known as, “The Gateway of the Sun.”

Solving the Mysteries of Tiwanaku

The walls of the Temple complex are made of red sandstone and andesite, some of which weigh up to as much as 100 tons, yet the nearest quarry is in Copacabana 24 miles (40km) away. We therefore have the same quizzical question asked about the Great Pyramids of Egypt. How did the ancients transport these great stones up the mountain and manoeuvre them into place?

Interlocking stones

The day before I went to Tiwanaku, I met with Lindsay Hasluk, an Australian historian, anthropoligist and archaeologist living in La Paz. Hasluk has conducted extensive research into the ancient structures found in the Andean region and deduced the stones would have been floated on rafts and rolled to the site of wooden logs.

There is evidence to support his theory in the onsite museum at Tiwanaku. A fossil of a seahorse was found on the site which suggests Lake Titicaca, which today lies on the shoreline of Copacabana, used to be at a higher altitude in the past before it sank. Puma Punku, part of the Tiwanaku settlement a short distance from the main centre, also has convincing evidence that it acted as a harbour. Mystery solved!

But that is only one mystery that Tiwanaku presents. There are many more. Nobody even really knows who the Tiwanakans were as no written accounts have ever been found. As far as historians are concerned they didn´t use writing or the wheel. Yet they built this immense settlement with such technological precision we can´t replicate their achievements today. To build something of this scale they must have had written plans! Does that not make you wonder who the Tiwanakans were and not only how they achieved such advanced feats of engineering, but how they acquired the skills to pull it off! And why is it hardly anybody has ever heard of Tiwanaku?

How to get to Tiwanaku

Tiwanaku has to be seen to be believed. To get there you can either take a private bus from the cemetery (Cemetorio) in La Paz for about £1.50 return, or for 70 Bolivianos (£6.20) go with an organised tour which includes the cost of a guide, who are essential if you want to know more about the site.

And now that I have aroused your intrigue you can learn more about the alternative views relating to Tiwanaku on this blog – how was it built, and perhaps more importantly from a historical point of view, when was it built? In the meantime watch this documentary video on Tiwanaku and see what I have described above for yourself.

The Ancient El Fuerte Fortress, Bolivia

20 07 2012

Mysteries in the Ancient Inca Settlement

It was a strange day at El Fuerte. Winding along the eastern foothill of the Andes Mountains in a 12-seater minivan with a demon behind the wheel was a hair-raising experience in itself. How we didn´t crash or run over a dog is beyond me. The archaeological site is full of mystery and symbolism I don´t quite understand, and to top it off my camera inexplicably stopped working. Was it just a surreal day, or is there something more mysterious about El Fuerte?

To get to El Fuerte from Santa Cruz in Bolivia, you have two options. A private taxi for around 200 Boliviano’s (£17) or a shared minibus to Samaipata for 30 Bolivianos (£2.60) with Expreso Rapido Samaipata (366 2312), then arrange a trip to El Fuerte with one of the tour operators in the village. The second option was my plan.

It changed slightly however, as a young German couple also wanting to go to El Fuerte agreed a fee with the mad taxi driver to take us to the ruins and back to Santa Cruz. He gave us a good price so I tagged along.

El Fuerte Museum, Samaipata

The majority of the mini-busload was locals of Samaipata. Some were dropped off by the roadside on the way up the mountain, the rest in the town. Whilst the driver finished making his house calls with the village post I went to the small museum with the German couple Annaka and Ferde.

The museum is small, but we only had 15-minutes – and ten of those were spent watching a video about El Fuerte which basically told us, nobody knows a great deal about the settlement. As I would come to discover on my travels to archaeological sites around South America that is a common claim by scholars, but for me, that was not the only pattern that emerged. Life in the world of our ancient ancestors also came to light.

At the time of visiting El Fuerte however, not of what I would discover about the Inca and other ancient civilisation was apparent. However, I had done a lot of reading before embarking on my journey through South America and knew a little about this ancient settlement.

As we climbed the trail and stopped to admire the view of the ruins and the surrounding hills I tell the Germans, “El Fuerte is the largest rock carving in the world.” The air is thin and I am breathing heavily, not yet acclimatised to the altitude. “It’s shrouded in mystery.” When I saw this so-called “largest rock carving in the world,” I am not convinced it is true. This is not the first time I would discover scholars get their facts wrong!

Ancient El Fuerte Fortress built by Mojocoyan Indians

El Fuerte is believed to have been built by the Mojocoyan culture who inhabited the area around 300 AD. They will have started the building works long before the Inca arrived in the 1300’s. Before the Inca the surrounding valleys were populated by the Chane culture who were repeatedly attacked by Guarani warriors. When the Incas arrived they made a pact with the Chane to help fend off the enemy, but when the Spanish arrived the area had succumbed to the Guarani’s.

The Spanish gave the site its name, El Fuerte (The Fort) because of its fortress like shape. Archaeologists are undecided. Some believe it was used for religious ceremonies, others suggest it was used as a central meeting place where tribal leaders from the surrounding areas gathered to participate in spiritual rituals.

“So basically, nobody knows what it is,” said Annaka.

“Exactly,” I said. “Erich von Daniken thinks the parallel lines carved into the rock there is a landing pad for alien spaceships.”

“Ha, ha, Von Daniken,” Annaka laughs. “He’s an interesting character.”

In his book “Chariots of the Gods,” Erich von Daniken presents a theory that human beings were injected by alien DNA. Anybody who has seen the ancient alien theory on the history channel may be convinced this is true as some of the evidence presented in compelling. You can´t say the same about El Fuerte.

The Link Between Ancient Snakes and Human DNA

Gorged out of the rock are two huge lines that run parallel to one another. The lines are known locally as El Dorso de la Serpiente (The Snakes Back), due to two intertwining cross-spirals that run down either side of the grooves to give it a snake-like impression.

Because of damage caused by tourists visitors are forbidden to go on the rock therefore a close-up inspection was not possible. Also, because the memory card (of a one month old camera) packed up as I came out of the site I don´t have photographs to show you here, but you can visit here and here for visual images. The first picture is what von Daniken believes is an alien landing strip, but why would alien aircraft need a slope and why is there no evidence of anything else quite like it?

You will note the “Serpent’s Back” in the second image looks remarkably like the double helix which depicts the human DNA. In his book, The Cosmic Serpent, Jeremy Narby, an anthropologist conducted research into Shamanism and molecular biology and concluded that snakes that appear in Shamanic and ancient legends are directly linked with the human DNA.

He bases his hypothesis on the startling similarities reported by Shaman’s who communicate with the ‘spirits’ of nature with those discovered by scientists examining DNA. Shamans claim the hallucogen found in cactus plants like Ayahuasca and San Pedro help them transcend on to a higher dimension where they are able to communicate with nature. They say because God is nature, the spirits present themselves to them in their visions.

The snake is a symbol of wisdom, or knowledge, in ancient cultures all over the world. Shamans say the cosmic serpent is the creation of life. They describe it as two snakes intertwined with each other, an image that replicates the double helix of DNA identified under the microscopes of scientists.

It is also a known fact that all living cells on the planet contain DNA and are filled with salt water. The legends of mythical serpents also make reference to water. Likewise, DNA is the informational molecule of life and that the basic mechanisms are identical for all species; just like with the serpents described in popular myth around the world.

If Narby’s connection is right it could be that the spiral lines at El Fuerte were carved into the rock as a dedication to life and the origins of knowledge, therefore the site is more likely to have been used for ritual ceremonies rather than a fort. One thing for certain is Andean cultures placed a lot of importance on esoteric wisdom and went out of their way to pay tribute to the cosmos. I certainly wasn´t buying Von Daniken’s theory based on this evidence!

Ancient Orgies at El Fuerte

One of the more interesting and realistic theories about this rock and the carvings etched into it, is they were used to observe the rising of Venus and Jupiter. Archaeo-astronomers predict the event was due to took place at sunrise on the 20th August 1066. So why did the Mojocoyan Indians who lived here go to such extraordinary lengths some 700 years before the cosmic event took place. It must have some immense connection of importance to mankind. Venus certainly was an obsession with ancient civilisations.

Also carved into the red sandstone rock are two prominent reliefs in the form of a domestic cat.

“In Inca religion the cat represented motherhood and fertility,” I tell the Germans. “It also represents promiscuity.”

“Perhaps they came here for orgies,” Ferde said.

According to ancient tradition, the rocks at El Fuerte link the mountains to the sun. The rock is also known to emit high levels of energy. In what is described as a residential area, small alcoves, big enough for an ancient Andean to stand in, are built into the wall.

Andean cultures worshipped the Sun as a god and I considered whether the alcoves might have been used as some kind of meditation capsule the Indians stood in to help them transcend into the Upper World. I would later learn the alcoves are where they ancients stored their dead until burial.

Just beyond the residential area are several stone-built enclosures that looked remarkably like Roman baths we find scattered across Europe. The German couple agreed they shared a resemblance with Roman structures they had seen in Germany. Ferde’s idea about orgies suddenly seemed a plausible possibility.

On the other hand I felt these “baths” could have been used for some form of cleansing. Or perhaps they were just baths for bathing in. Water played a major role in the rituals and belief system of Andean tribes. Water is said to wash away worries and fears and give the body balance. In fact, we see water used in many religions around the world for spiritual cleansing. Roman Catholics use holy water to ward off evil spirits.

Mysterious Tunnels at El Fuerte

In the far corner of the complex was a path lined with trees either side. They met in the middle to form a foliaged archway. The downhill slope had steps built into it and zig-zagged back and forth. It seemed to be leading nowhere, but there was a mysteriousness that compelled us to keep going.

When we reached the bottom we found a well. “I’ve read about this well” I said. “It’s so deep that if you dropped a penny down you won’t hear it hit the bottom.” I looked into the well and found discarded pop bottles a short distance down. “Oh!,” I say slightly bemused, “Perhaps this is a different well.”

“Is this the underground passage that was mentioned in the video [at the museum]?” Ferde asked.

“It could be.”

“But where does it go?” Annaka said.

There was a path running down by the side of the well, but it was closed off to visitors and we couldn’t see where it led although it looked like it went into the rock. I’ve heard stories of Incas building roads and tunnels that covered great distances. In fact, they’d built a road that ran from Samaipata to Tiwanaku almost 1000 kilometres (621 miles) apart.

But for us the route of the tunnel at El Feurte would remain as much of a mystery as the grooved tram lines and the “Roman baths.”

Back in the mini-bus we rattled back down the mountain side headed for Santa Cruz. The journey back was even more of a white-knuckle ride than getting here. To show his intention to overtake the taxi driver rides on the bumper of the car in front and beeps his horn, a demonic stare firmly fixed on his face.

A young dog, no older than three, was eating in the middle of the road. As the taxi driver risked another crazy overtake we hurtled towards it. He looked up from his food, but didn’t move, didn’t panic. He had nowhere to go so stood his ground and accepted death. My heart stopped. Annaka gasped. The taxi driver swerved in the nick of time. A smile parted his lips, a mystery to rival El Fuerte.