Thursday, June 20th: Tiwanaku is a small town
some 80 kms west from La Paz on a good paved road. It took us no time to get there. Found
an expensive little hostal ($4pp instead of the usual $3pp) and we had to share one room.
By dark it was pretty cold and we put on all our thermal underwear. Town was beginning to
get filled up with tourists coming in for the all-night party. As we walked around the
plaza we bumped into several other travelers we knew: a group of traveling Argentine
buskers and Raul, the Venezuelan biker we met the day we first rode the Dead Road. After
dinner I turned in for the night because I was coming down with a bad head cold. The boys
stayed out for some time into the night to watch all the dancing and music.
Friday, June 21st: Winter Solstice = After the longest night of the
year in the Southern Hemisphere, the days will start to get longer. At 5am we woke
up to go to the temple complex for the sunrise celebration. Archeologists believe this
site might date back to 1600 BC and was an important Inca ceremonial place. The site is
made up of a bunch of standing stone statues surrounded by stone walls. Every year on the
event of the winter solstice, the local celebrate the sunrise with a colorful display of
dancing, music and mystical ceremonies. It was still bitter cold and hard to get out of
bed. We walked the dark paths, along with thousands of others, in the direction of the
site. On the way, vendors sold hot cocoa tea and alcohol to warm the masses.
We stopped at one stall and drank down warm Api (a fruit and corn syrup drink) and
fried dough. Huddled in the stall was also another traveler we met back in Uyuni, a French
woman name Marion. When we reached the entrance gates there were hundreds of people,
probably many drunken, trying to push their way into the complex. We got pushed in with
them. Locals had to buy entrance tickets for less than US$1, while tourists had to pay
US$3. The Policia Militar had a tough time of holding the crowd out of the sacred
area while checking entrance tickets. It was some time still before the sun rose but
there was plenty to entertain us while we waited. Most of the time we were stamping our
feet trying to ward off the cold. When the sun finally peeked over the mountains at us
everyone raised their arms and held their palms up to receive the force of the first rays
of the sun. We were told this was a cleansing thing, a new start. It was all very
interesting and a feast for the senses. After about an hour more we returned to our hostal
to get some more sleep.
After a brief sleep and breakfast we packed the bikes and rode out of town. Besides the
temple complex, theres not much else to see and do in town. About 20 kms from the
Peruvian border Liam and Chris decide to discharge their remaining two sticks of dynamite
before crossing the border. They found a remote road into the mountains near Lake Titicaca
and did the deed. I relaxed on the shore of the lake and watched the little sail boats
pass through the reeds near the shore. Many residents make their living off of catching
fish out of the lake. The little sailboats are made of the reeds from the shore and have
been made this way for centuries.