FOLLOW THE EXPEDITION
DATED 25/03/98

Due to numerous hardware problems and the fact that I was out of action in hospital for several days, there have not been any reports for a while - Therefore, in order to catch up, this one is huge. Due to numerous requests, from now on we will be including many more photos in our reports. So here is report three.

On Monday March 16th we reached the town of Desaguadero at the river's mouth on the Bolivian-Peruvian border. On Sunday many Bolivian VIPs came to a celebration on the beach where we were to launch our boats. Speeches were made, flags hoisted, the boats blessed by the town priest and a good time had by all. Prudently we waited until our guests had gone before launching the boats into a strong following wind.


The Border


The Launch Ceremony

When Capt. Jim Masters, Capt. Lee Smart and Lt. Luke Cox had organised the crews we pushed the boats off. For a few moments there was confusion as the wind filled the sails and drove two of the boats into reed on the Peruvian bank. But they soon got the hang of things and made a brave sight as they drifted down river.

In the late afternoon they approached a place on the Bolivian bank that Colonel John Blashford-Snell had chosen for our overnight camp. Then, just as before Sir Francis Drake left Plymouth in 1577, a tremendous storm broke. "Virachocha" one of the two smaller boats came near the bank as the heavens opened. Lightning flashed down in Peru and the entire expedition were drenched in minutes. The first night was spent by tired crew members putting up tents in a downpour with numbed fingers. But as someone said, it is, after all, an expedition.

On Thursday March 19th a significant archaeological discovery was made.

The Spanish overwhelmed the Inca Empire in the 1530s but before the Inca a civilisation called the Tiwanaku ruled the land around Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world at 3820 metres above sea level. Until today only one Tiwanaku centre was known but the Kota Mama expedition, along with archaeologist Oswaldo Rivera Sundt have discovered evidence of a settlement 20kms south of Lake Titikaka on the banks of the river Desaguadero at Iruhito.


Our Base At Iruhito

Here it seems there was an ancient city populated by fishermen and farmers. Two man-made mounds rise on the east bank of the river, high enough to escape occasional flood. One, the domestic quarter, lies near the Desaguadero. Further inland is the ceremonial mound on which no doubt Tiwanaku rituals took place. We know this because local people directed the expedition to a point in the ground where a plough had once hit stone. A local woman took Richard Snailham, the expedition historian, to the area. Prodding the ground with a spike he soon struck stone and with Capt. Lee Smart began scraping away the earth to reveal a half metre stone slab.


Excavating


Excavating

Further excavation over the next day revealed a metre high pedestal and lying by it two Chaca-Pumas. These are stone figures some 50 centimetres tall, which are half man, half puma.


Statue


Statue


Lee Smart's Picture of the Statue

Only two others have ever been found which were at Tiwanaku.

This means that a second Tiwanaku city has been positively identified. Oswaldo Rivera claims this to be a most important discovery.


Oswaldo at the Statue

So the newly discovered statue at Iruhito was measured, photographed and the pit then filled in. The two chacha-pumas were washed cleaned at taken to Iruhito's small museum.


Night Time at Iruhito

The expedition party was ready to move on down river. The challenge in Col Blashford-Snell's previous river journeys has been the volume and power of the water. Here the problems were different: the river was too sluggish and too shallow and the weather was extreme, searing hot sun one minute and storms of hail the next.

At a place called Aguallamaya where there is an impresive foot suspension bridge it was decided that the river had too little water in it for the reed boats. So a portage was necessary. We hired a local truck and with some difficulty lifted the biggest and next biggest on to it. The convoy of two trucks and two range rovers then drove to a small town called Nazacara and the two boats were unloaded.