FOLLOW THE EXPEDITION
DATED 27/03/98

At Nazacara, whilst one truck went back to collect the third boat, Oswaldo Rivera took us to another interesting site: the remains of a five million year-old giant armadillo, known as a Glyptodont, had been cordoned off by locals.


That evening we became worried by failure of the truck to return. A Range Rover driving near the windswept Altiplano met one of the drivers, who had walked for three hours to bring the news that the lorry's gear box had broken one kilometre short of its objective. Frantic satellite phone calls followed and a range rover sent to La Paz for a new gear box. Mechanical breakdowns often affect the course of an expedition and we now found we had to stay an extra day at Nazacara.

Next evening the new gear box arrived and the two-man lorry team courageously drove off into the night 35kms, fitted the gear box and came back with the boat at midnight. The following morning the whole fleet, flying the prestigious flags of the Explorer's Club, the Scientific Exploration Society and Brixham Community College set off on the next stretch of river.

On Thursday 25th May a party went to the top of a MESA near Calacota. A Mesa is a flat-topped tableland with sloping sides at first and then vertical cliffs surrounding the top of a perfect defensive site. On either side were two bigger Mesas of the same height, 13,100ft above sea level.


The Mesas from a distance

In 1997 John and Oswaldo, through their binoculars, saw what looked like little houses on the next Mesa. This time they went to find out what was really there. It was along slog to the top and when we got there we found the defences were as secure as they had been when built - 1200 to 1420 AD. Where there was a gap in the stone cliffs the people - called PAKAJES, who dominated the Altiplano between the Tiwanaku and the Incas, had filled it with massive stone walls built with mortar and only five tiny entrances through some of which you had to crawl in a mile and a half of defence works.

When we managed to get in through a hole we saw 30 or 40 "houses" rising among the natural rock outcrops on the top. Most were almost conical - shaped like beehives, a few were rectangular. Each had a small doorway facing east, but no windows. A surprise awaited us: the doorways and houses were too small for human use and each one was full of human bones - mainly femurs, but radii, ribs, fragments of spine as well. Oddly there were no skulls.


The Buildings


The Bones

We examined the whole area and found little evidence of dwellings. This was a city of the dead. The houses were charnel houses. Was each one perhaps a family mausoleum?

Further investigation will take place over the next few days.


View from the top of the Mesas

Whilst preparing the boats for the next trip our resident artist, Lee Smart, has been at it again.



Reed Boats or Balsas

Indian Boat Builder

The Head of the Small Balsa