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The Atlantis Trail



THE ATLANTIS TRAIL ISBN 0 9508293 5 8 J.M.Allen 2001

Author's Edition

J.M. Allen Cambridge England

cover drawing "Atlantis on the Altiplano" by Maj Lee Smart words: J.M.Allen


Part 1 1 The Trail Begins 2 Atlantis Revisited 3 The Petrified City of Pumiri 4 Volcan Quemado 5 On to Chipaya 6 Legend of the Desaguadero 7 Santuario de Quillacas 8 September Expedition 9 Tunnels at Oruro 10 Cochabamba and Sorata Interlude 11 Island of the Sun 12 Press Conference 13 Pampa Aullagas Part II 1 Millennium Atlantis Expedition 2 The view from Atlantis Appendix I Oruro Gateway to Atlantis Appendix II Sajama National Park

Keep your heart young and never let your dreams die.

This book is dedicated to the unknown campesino boy who, when asked directions to Santuario de Quillacas, accidentally pointed out Pampa Aullagas, thus putting us on the road to Atlantis. It is also dedicated to the people of Bolivia, a country with Heart, and always a smile

5 5


The Atlantis Trail

WHAT WE LIKE about your theory, said the director who came with me to recce sites for his forthcoming Atlantis film, is that compared to all the other theories, yours is still an ongoing theory. Not only does the region correspond to all the things that Plato described, but anyone can come here and see for themselves. Not only that, but if they continue their research the way you have done, they have an equally good chance of coming here and actually finding the lost city of Atlantis. We had turned off the new highway to Volcan Sajama at the village of Curahuara de Carangas and crossed a mountain range formed of highly eroded rocks which the weather had worked into all sorts of elaborate animal shapes so all around us we could see pumas, jaguars or the famous condors of the Andes, all as if petrified in stone or as if carved by some mysterious race which had vanished before time began. Our 4WD Toyota Landcruiser ploughed through the bed of a river with water up to the axles and very quickly we were through, crossing the floor of a vast canyon flanked by towering rocks as if waiting for a future scene from the space adventure, Startrek. In fact we were on our way to Pumiri, sometimes called the enchanted or petrified city on account of its similar stone formations. I was also checking out a future possible route for a Quest expedition and at Pumiri we found the remains of ancient

The Atlantis Trail

houses, plazas and walls in amongst the gigantic rocks forming a natural fortress 10km by 3km in size. From Pumiri we pressed on to Volcan Quemado (the Burnt Volcano) which was the objective of our trip. After a few false trails and having to camp overnight beside a beautiful mountain lake surrounded by snow-topped volcanoes we reached the foot of Volcan Quemado at around 1pm. The climb to the edge of the crater at an altitude of 13,800ft took a further 2 hours which left only 20 minutes for observation before we had to make our way back to the jeep, now merely a speck in amongst the scrub and bush in the distance. From the rim of the crater we got the view we wanted and could see in the centre the remains of an earlier crater making a ring of land and beyond that the remains of a central cone or island. So the importance of this volcano was that it proved that Platos island city, which consisted of a central island surrounded by two rings of land and three of sea, was a real possibility as a natural feature on the Altiplano and not merely, as some had previously thought, an embellishment to an otherwise fanciful story. We returned by way of Chipaya, a settlement of traditional round huts on the edge of the vast salt salar and home to the Urus, themselves considered to be the remnant of the most ancient peoples of the Americas. Even our driver and tour operator Gonzalo was suitably impressed and wanted to put the route on a future itinerary for his tour company. I would like to bring some of my people here another time, he said. What should I call the trip? Well I replied, why not call it The Atlantis Trail.

Chapter 1

The Trail Begins

I GUESS any trail must begin somewhere and the Atlantis Trail surely must begin with Plato, since Plato, the Greek philosopher who lived and wrote around 380 BC, was the one who originated the story of Atlantis and sparked off a mystery which has become one of the greatest puzzles of the ancient world from that time to this. The puzzle is simply this, Plato wrote of a great city state and continent which he said existed formerly in the Atlantic Ocean but which sank into the sea in a terrible day and night of earthquakes, floods and rain. Writers and researchers have consistently put forward possible locations for the fabled city which range from the archaeologically more acceptable places such as Crete and Thera (even though they dont fit the description Plato left) to places such as ice bound Antarctica or even Malaysia and not forgetting of course the centre of the Atlantic Ocean itself which is where Plato implied the sunken continent lay. In my previous book Atlantis: the Andes Solution, I set forth all the reasons why the missing continent was not missing at all, it was in fact the continent we presently call South America and the part which was lost and sank beneath the sea was the island capital of Atlantis, built on a volcanic site which sank into the waters of the inland sea called Lake Poopo which exists on the Bolivian Altiplano in the centre of the whole continent of South America. That much was easy to put forward as a theory. But how to prove a theory as fact, especially after a time lapse of at least three thousand years and if Plato's date were right, 11,500 years since


The Atlantis Trail

Model of Atlantis (South America), the plain can be seen midway along the longest (left-hand side)

The Trail Begins


Satellite photo of Lake Poop at the time of the 1987 floods


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the end of that great civilisation and empire. It was one thing to prove the theory with satellite photos and models which demonstrated the rectangular shaped plain Plato talked about and even to show that the mysterious orichalcum Plato mentioned was none other than a natural alloy of gold and copper which existed in this region which also abounded in the other precious metals gold, silver, copper and tin which were used to plate the walls of the city and palaces, but how to find something on the ground, short of the city itself, which would prove the truth of Platos story, and better still, how to actually find the site of the city itself? Satellite photos seemed the initial answer. From these one could see a scar running across the landscape which looked like it might be the giant canal Plato talked about which he said ran around the perimeter of the plain. It would have to be checked out on site. Was it really a giant canal, or merely a fault line which is also a typical feature of the region? And were there any circular volcanic features which might correspond to the site of the city itself?, bearing in mind that Plato said the city sank into the sea and the site was choked up by the shoal mud which the island threw up as it settled down. And there was always the possibility held out by the seventeenth century English writer and philosopher Sir Francis Bacon, that the city didnt actually sink beneath the sea, but rather was overwhelmed by the rising waters of a great inundation so that the site remained inaccessible for a long time and curiously enough as I was later to find, this also fitted in with a legend which existed on the Altiplano. Close scrutiny of the very small scale satellite photos showed some sites that held out certain similarities to the original Atlantis site. The region abounded in volcanoes and most were circular to a certain degree, but nothing showed itself as a circular central island surrounded by two rings of land and three of water as the original site had been. They were all of the correct size, about three

The Trail Begins


miles in diameter which would allow for a central island five stades wide surrounded by a ring of water one stade wide, one of land and one of sea at two stades wide and outer rings of land and sea each of three stades making a total of 27 stades which at 600ft to the stade would make a diameter of three miles. There were also other features such as vast meteorite craters with natural lakes in the centre suggesting it would only take an artificial channel from the nearby inland sea to convert into a wonderful natural harbour along the lines of how Platos island was originally converted. There were in fact four volcanic sites with similarities to Platos original island, possibly even five if we count a circular contour at elevation 12,139ft on the edge of Lake Poopo. If the lake rose, then this patch of sand would become an island, but if I went there at any other time all I would see would be a patch of sand like any other in the desert and no means of knowing what if anything might be beneath that particular stretch of sand. It really called for a high-tech space radar approach, but that was way outside my resources and connections and being British I considered myself lucky if I had the opportunity to just be on the site and experience the place for myself. I had already been there in 1995 when I hired a jeep from the nearby town of Oruro and drove out to visit the vast canal or channel to the west of Lake Poopo and had wanted others to visit this site to establish whether it was indeed artificial or as natural fault, sure enough it had a flat base and sloping sides and carried water even in the height of the dry season so at least it was something more than existed on other locations such as the previously mentioned Crete. But that was the extent of my visit to the plain and I was hoping to meet up with the Kota Mama expedition in April of 1998 to get back to the channel with an archaeologist and get another opinion.

Chapter 2

Atlantis Revisited

THE KOTA MAMA expedition was led by Col John BlashfordSnell and backed by the Explorers Club of New York (British Chapter) and the Scientific Exploration Society. Its purpose was to sail three traditional reed boats built by local natives on the shores of Lake Titicaca from Lake Titicaca down the Desaguadero River to Lake Poopo to show that this ancient waterway could have been used for purposes of travel and trade. It was also intended to visit my site to try to establish whether it was man-made or artificial and the plan was to rendezvous with them at the Hotel Sucre in Oruro then proceed to the site. I had a different travel plan since I was going along with a couple of people making an Atlantis film on behalf of the BBC/Discovery Channel. We flew in to La Paz and found to our dismay, that we were unable to leave the city. The teachers of all people were on strike and supported by the local population had set up road blocks at strategic points paralysing all possible travel arrangements. So we sat it out in La Paz for a few days which also gave time to become acclimatised to the altitude then with our little jeep we were off down the highway to Oruro. About halfway down the highway we passed heaps of stone at the side of the road and scattered across the road itself.

Atlantis Revisited


Bloqueos murmured the driver, pointing and with a wide grin on his face. Reaching Oruro, the town I like to think of as Gateway to Atlantis for from here the wide flat Altiplano opens up before you, we found the road had become a causeway since the heavy shower of rain the day before had converted the level plain into a shallow lake.

Flooded approaches to Oruro after a short rainfall

How obvious it seemed that this was indeed Platos level plain with its problems of flooding and hence the canals which he said criss-crossed the plain, it was easy to see how only a shallow excavation could lead the waters off in any direction or indeed right round the whole Altiplano. We were a day in advance of Kota Mama, so we did a bit of filming in the local museum where the ceramic which looked like an amphora was to be found and also some shrunken


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mummies preserved in glass cases. We had brought the archaeologist with us, and I presented him with some satellite images of numerous sites to investigate, the first of which was a perfectly formed circle about a mile and a half in diameter and with water in its centre, one could see beneath the water what appeared like a ring of land and in the centre even deeper water while outside the ring there appeared to be what looked like ancient workings or disturbance in the soil.

Spherical ceramic in Oruro(left) similar to ceramic from Crete(right)

Oswaldo took a good look at the pictures and couldnt figure what they might be, so we decided to drive out and take a look as it wasnt far away, perhaps only twenty miles. We were about halfway down the road to La Joya when he remembered, oh yes, now I remember, its a high-tech gold mine and that must be the slurry tank where they detoxify the water before returning it to the river.

Atlantis Revisited


Mummy in case in Oruro museum


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Mummy bundle in Oruro museum

Atlantis Revisited


Well there didnt seem much point in going after that except we were already halfway there and a gold mine sounded interesting. We passed the high wire security fence and drove into the little town of La Joya (which means the jewel) remarkable for its beautiful little church and central plaza surrounded by the usual shack-type dwellings.

View of the Altiplano from the summit at La Joya

The film people had a mini conference amongst themselves then they shot off in the jeep to return after half an hour in the company of the mine archaeologist with his own powerful jeep. He was going to take us to the top of the local hill, all property of the Company so we could have a view overlooking his circular tank and the Altiplano. Not what I really had in mind, but I discovered that film people having travelled a long way dont like to go back empty handed


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and yes the view from the top was astounding but had little to do with finding the site of Atlantis.

Jim Allen overlooking the Altiplano from La Joya.

Atlantis Revisited


Next day we met up with JBS at the hotel and after a late start shot off down the road to Toledo then on towards the channel site. We turned off the main track and hoped the GPS which I had pre-programmed was pointing us in the right direction to intercept the channel. After about only twenty minutes the driver had his doubts so it befell me the job of going ahead on foot, another thirty minute trek and there was the wide channel still with water in it, animals grazing, birds drinking the water and all under the watchful eye of one of the local women on the overlooking hillside occupying herself all the while by spinning wool in the time honoured manner with some sort of bobbin dangling at her feet.

Aymara woman spinning wool with the canal in the background

The rest of the team came straggling up, but they hadnt brought the jeeps! So accompanied by Yolima, one of JBSs assistants, I went back to wave up the jeeps until Yolima resourcefully used her lipstick mirror as a signalling device to attract their attention!.


The Atlantis Trail

The team and the archaeologist scouted around for a bit, picking up bits of broken pottery which were scattered everywhere and pronounced that they thought the channel was a fault line, Oswaldo thought that it couldnt possibly be artificial as there could not have been the population to build such a thing. I was reminded of Platos words, it seems incredible that it should be so large as the account states, but we must report what we heard, its breadth was a stade.

View looking into base of canal

I had brought with me my 100ft tape measure and it was something of a job to measure this vast feature. On my previous trip I had part measured and part estimated it at 600ft wide and this fitted in with what I had measured on the air photos. On site this time, it measured nearer to 1,000 feet, but how do you measure or establish the edges on ridges of loosely blown sand?

Atlantis Revisited

Panoramic view across canal section



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It was soon time to return to Oruro and I was disappointed that we had not had time to drive all along the route of the channel which extended another nine miles or so away to the south, particularly since on the air photos I could see numerous abandoned plots all along the edge of the channel It was soon time to return to Oruro and I was disappointed that we had not had time to drive all along the route of the channel which extended another nine miles or so away to the south, particularly since on the air photos I could see numerous abandoned plots all along the edge of the channel at its southern end suggesting that at some time there had actually been a large population there which was not even hinted at today. The following day, instead of driving out to the other sites I had earmarked, the film team flew off to the Beni region where they had had reports of a previously unknown civilisation extending right throughout Amazonia. When they eventually returned, they were still excited about it. That civilisation they told me, dated back to perhaps 6,000BC, had lived on circular mounds in a region which flooded periodically and had great engineering achievements like the building of vast canals which had previously been thought to have been fault lines and had even diverted whole rivers to suit their purpose. Could not that have been Atlantis? they asked? Perhaps people of Atlantis, I replied, but surely not the site with the circular city since that was on the level rectangular plain and that was where we were, the level rectangular plain adjoining the inland sea of Lake Poopo. One of the film team flew off to Thor Heyerdahls site at Tucum in Peru to look for evidence of reported carving of seagoing ships there, the other came with me for another late drive into the desert to look at one of the circular rings I had found. A late start meant a late arrival and by about four in the afternoon we could see the site about six miles away just north of the road. But how to get there? It would mean driving across the

Atlantis Revisited

View of the plain with Volcan Columna as the low flat topped mound in the distance



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bush again and with darkness soon to fall..We could see the volcanic ridge which we knew from the air photos was a volcanic ring, the one I had featured in my earlier book and indeed it was similar to the one Plato described being a low mountain or a hill which was low on all sides; should the plain flood then it would have become an island and this part of the plain had numerous channels carrying water which was used to support the local livestock. Reluctantly we turned back to Oruro and there seemed little point in trying to persuade them to visit what was to be an even more impressive site farther to the west, not far off the border with Chile. Volcan Quemado awaited me, but it would have to await my return with another expedition.

On the level plain with Volcan Columna in the background

Chapter 3

The Petrified City of Pumiri

DECEMBER 1998. I had no more expectations of returning to the Altiplano that year as it was well beyond the Altiplano season which I usually considered August and September. But I had a call from Atlantic Productions to see if I would be interested to participate in an Atlantis film and how soon could I travel? My answer was of course yes, and would tomorrow be soon enough! A couple of days later the producer and his researcher drove up from London to see me and were suitably impressed with the collection of Atlantis material and photos I had now amassed, it remained to see if they could get the go ahead for a recce in advance of filming the following year, also to check out the climate in Bolivia on the Altiplano at this late time of year which should have been the wet season. Some calls followed to Bolivia and to several tour operators who, when they heard of the proposed route around the desert declined the trip and told us we would be bogged down in the rains. Toby, the researcher, in a fit of inspiration, phoned the police station in Oruro to ask how the weather was. Fine came back the reply, no problem at all driving around that area. They made a brave decision and three days later we were off, flying through Sao Paulo to Buenos Aires then back up to Santa Cruz and landing once more at El Alto airport in Bolivia.


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We checked into the Hotel Espaa which from the front looked impressive with its old colonial charm. Clive, the producer, wanted to find some suitable hotel appropriate to the megastar he wanted to make the film with and charming although the staff in the Espaa were, the place wasnt quite up to it with its collection of little cabins out the back. Besides, after only the first day Clive himself took a turn towards the seriously ill, no doubt due to the severity of the altitude and our sudden immersion in it. He chose another more upmarket hotel from the guide book and soon were being whisked off in a taxi to the Paris Hotel on Plaza Murillo. This was more like it, even I was impressed even though it was supposedly for the benefit of Patrick Stewart whom they wanted to bring to Bolivia to present the film. Yes, I could see the connection with his part as Jean-Luc Picard and French aspirations in the series Startrek. and I liked the style of these film people more and more each minute. After a couple more days in the lap of luxury Clive had recovered sufficiently for us to make a move on Oruro. We scouted round the tour operators and found Gonzalo who had recently started up Sarai Tours. Gonzalo was ever so helpful and more than enthusiastic, he could even provide tents and sleeping bags if required. Toby had the good sense to hire a jeep in the oversize department which was more than up to the job, one of the larger Toyota Landcruisers. So early next morning Golzalo turned up with the jeep in front of the Paris hotel, we packed our gear on board and very soon we were on our way out of town. We had told Gonzalo to buy a selection of food suitable for our requirements not forgetting several giant bottles of mineral water particularly Fanta which was more to my own particular liking. This time we headed down the Oruro highway as before, but I had a new route mapped out. Since Volcan Quemado was on

The Petrified City of Pumiri


the west of the Altiplano near the border with Chile, I proposed we turn off the Oruro road and take the newly constructed metalled highway which heads down towards Volcan Sajama and continues on into Chile. We whizzed along, passing some ancient Chulpas or burial towers which had been brought to the public view by the construction of this new road and had we continued it would have taken us all the way to Volcan Sajama. However I had selected another route over the mountains which led to the level Altiplano. I knew that moviemen like old ruins to put in their films, especially if in the quest for lost civilisations, so I wanted to call on the way at the Enchanted or Petrified city as it is sometimes called, of Pumiri. I had heard of this place on my previous trip from Oswaldo, but he couldnt then remember where it was, until he picked up and presented me with a tiny locally produced guide book in the hotel in Oruro. Pumiri was on the northern edge of the Altiplano, overlooking the plain and a few miles west of the little town called Turco. I also wanted to find out if there were any suitable hotels or pensiones in Turco, since I had heard there were. We turned off the new highway at Curahuara de Carangas, famous in olden times for its silver mines, passing through the village and seeking the road over the mountains. We could see formidable rocky mountain tops all around us, and it was easy to imagine lost ancient hilltop fortifications on all of them, such as JBS and Oswaldo had found a few miles north of here and which they had dubbed Cities of the Eaglemen The rocks began to take on more fantastic formations, we could see eagles, pumas, bears, condors, all as if petrified in stone or as if some ancient unknown race had carved them out of the natural rock which in turn had been dissolved by the ravages of time, or even some unknown nuclear blast which had dissolved and melted the rock.


The Atlantis Trail

We descended into a deep ravine flanked by towering cliffs and approached a shallow stream which at other times might be a raging torrent. Thats why we needed four-wheel drive and even better with two jeeps rather than one. If only we had the time, we said to ourselves, we would love to stop and explore. I could imagine the starship Enterprise landing here as if on some alien world, or at least bringing Startrek itself here as one of its future blockbuster movie sets. And what a benefit that might be also for the people of Bolivia, something more for the future tourists to think about. We forded the stream and soon the landscape changed to rolling hills, everywhere was the sign of long abandoned cultivation even on the most remote peaks, something we were to notice all around the Altiplano. We rolled into Turco and pulled up in the main square. The headmen and elders came out to greet us wearing their traditional garb and seemed right friendly. Pumiri was nearby, they told us, and in the morning the guide who happened to be in the village would take us there and show us around. Dont go on your own, they advised, as once you enter, you will never find the way out. Two or three children had collected around the jeep. The corner shop was just opposite so I bought a few sweets for them. Word got around fast and soon every child in the village was there with outstretched hands. and with so many smiling eager faces I had to dive back into the shop to clear out their stock so that every child got a sweet, lesson learned! Notwithstanding the sound advice, we couldnt resist a sneak preview that evening so after briefly registering at the local guest lodge which turned out to be an enclosed square with four or five electric-free cabins, that is not with free electricity but devoid of any electricity (glad I brought along my torch), we headed out to Pumiri.

The Petrified City of Pumiri


Arriving at Pumiri at dusk

The entrance to Pumiri flanked by chulpas


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The entrance was via the dried up bed of a former river, guarded on either side by two ancient Chulpas then we were inside just as dusk was falling. A time-frozen condor and puma looked down on us from the petrified stone as we parked the jeep and gazed out dumbstruck at this most awesome of landscapes. Well, no, we werent really thinking of spending the night there, in a place haunted through aeons of time so we set off back to Turco wondering if there really was a city there at all, or did they just mean the stone rocks themselves were the city? Pumiri extends over several kilometres of countryside and consists of naturally weathered rock formations which had been occupied by at least three different civilisations about which nothing is known, since no archaeology has been done there and even in La Paz no-one has even heard of the place. We arrived early in the morning with two of the local guides. They assured us that there were in fact buildings and very old walls, and we soon found ourselves in amidst these old walls, the remains of rectangular houses grouped around little plazas at any convenient spot in amongst the rocks and cliff tops. We went on, ever upward and signs of former habitation were all around. We could imagine the estate agent of the day offering a particular hollow in the rocks as a most desirable residence which indeed it was, with elevated views over the surrounding landscape which were literally breathtaking and in amongst the rocks themselves were circular holes like windows gazing out on the surroundings, probably naturally formed, or were they the work of man? A stone carved basin set in the ground suggested a former grinding place for some substance and one of the guides picked up the remains of a stone bowl in his hands. Broken pottery was everywhere and fragments were collected to be taken back to Oruro for presentation to the archaeologists. Alas the carefully collected treasure had an unhappy fate. Days later in Oruro Clive and Toby spread the pottery out on

The Petrified City of Pumiri


Arriving at Pumiri

The girls take in the view of the valley


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Ruined walls at Pumiri

Ruins at Pumiri with the level plain in the background

The Petrified City of Pumiri


Weathered shape in the form of a bison

The present inhabitants of Pumiri


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The guide holds up a piece of shattered stone bowl

The Petrified City of Pumiri


The guide holds up a piece of shattered stone

One of the entrances to Pumiri through the entrance cut in the rock face.


The Atlantis Trail

One of the entrances to Pumiri through the opening cut in the rock face

View of the valley from the heights of Pumiri

The Petrified City of Pumiri


View from the heights of Pumiri with the level plain behind

View from the heights of Pumiri with the level

The guide and his adobe hut


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the floor of their hotel for further study then popped off to the bar for a drink. On their return they found the fragments gone the maid had serviced the room and swept them up, throwing them into the dustbin. A frantic search of all the dustbins proved to be of no avail, personally I found it hilarious! By midday we had seen Pumiri and been dragged up and down all those giant rocks and peaks or at least those of the short tour which we thought was enough.

Toby with the jeep in front of the Payachatas Guardians of Sajama

We could head off directly to Volcan Quemado from here, but as Sajama was so close by it seemed worth a detour especially having come all this way and not wishing to miss anything. Sajama was the revered Pacha Mama (mother Earth) of the Urus and also part of the triangle of three volcanoes in which the secret

The Petrified City of Pumiri 41

The Payachatas Guardians of Sajama


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Volcan Sajama with thermal pool in the foreground; favourite haunt of climbers and spiritual home of the Uru

The Petrified City of Pumiri


entrance to the fabled Inca treasure tunnels might be located, that is in accordance with the description given by Madame Blavatsky of the secret tunnel system said to run right through the Andes from as far away as Lima and Cusco right down as far as Chile. Sajama is also the centre of a national park and the new La PazChile highway means that anyone from La Paz can drive down to Sajama in only a few hours, which they do when they wish to participate in some spectacular mountain climbing or witness some of the hot and cold springs for which the area is also famous. This area is also the heartland of the former Uru territory. The Urus were the original inhabitants of the Altiplano and inhabited all the watery environments stretching from Lake Titicaca down the Desaguadero River to Lake Poopo. They lived on the banks of the river and on islands of floating reeds and also occupied a corridor which stretched on down past Sajama and into Chile. Oruro itself takes its name from them, being the city or capital of the Urus, who nowadays are found mostly only at the villages of Chipaya in the centre of the desert at Salar de Coipasa and also on floating islands on Lake Titicaca.. Chipaya was to be our next port of call after Volcan Quemado.

Chapter Four

Volcan Quemado

WITH A map in one hand and a GPS in the other it should have been a straightforward business to drive to Volcan Quemado. There had not been so much to see at Sajama, since we didnt have time to visit the village itself and settled for a stop at a refilling station just in front of the Chile border. But getting to Volcan Quemado was not so easy as had been hoped. There were trails on the map, but finding them on the ground was nigh impossible. I picked one route and insisted that if they follow it up towards the Chile border it would double back and descend right towards Volcan Quemado. We went on and on. Gonzalo began to get a bit nervous. I dont think we can go any further he said. Why not? I asked. Its too near the border, he said, maybe there are landmines to stop people crossing. That seemed that. I was sure we had only to cross the stream and there would be a route back on the other side. But understandably no one wanted to take chances so back it was in the direction of Lake Macaya. It would soon be dark, so like it or not we would have to use the tents and set up camp on the edge of the lake. It was a beautiful and inspiring site, the lake strewn with flamingos and with snow-topped volcanoes in the distance as the backdrop, but we had no time to admire the view as the wind was getting up and unfortunately it befell Gonzalo, being the expert,

Volcan Quemado


the job of masterminding the erection of the tents and also the cooking of the dinner! We agreed he could bring a helper on the next trip!

Lake Macaya

A cheery fellow on a bicycle rode up to us. He was from the village of Sacabaya on the other side of the lake, the village we were heading for at the base of the volcano. We asked about the road. Oh, he said, you just follow this track up towards the border, cross the stream and head back down the other side. You cant miss it! Next day we decided to back up the way we had come giving the border route a miss and fortunately picked up a guy on a bike who encouraged by a small donation of Bolivianos (the local currency) rode ahead like an express rider until just a few miles from the village with a cheery wave he pointed to a road and shot off in the other direction.


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A few more minutes and we had doubts about the route again, GPS or no GPS. One sand track is much like another, but then we found ourselves entering Sacabaya by the back door, or so it seemed. And of all the places I have seen, Sacabaya in the shadow of Volcan Quemado and with Volcan Sajama glinting like the navigation beacon it is in the far distance, is surely one of the most beautiful locations in the world. The whole place had an almost Mediterranean feel to it and I could imaging the locals growing grapes just around the corner. The at other times harsh climate meant there were no grapes around the corner and very little of anything else. The village had virtually no food, not even eggs and it was as much as they could do to scrape up a few of the tiny frozen potatoes which were their staple diet. After a night camped on the floor of the village hall, which suddenly become infinitely more attractive than camping on the open windswept and at times frozen Altiplano, we were off to the volcano. I had earmarked a route on the southern side which would hopefully give us an easy access into the volcano itself and we drove as close as possible to the base of the volcano. Close as it seemed it wasnt close enough and the climb to the rim of the volcano took a good 2 hours with the jeep receding into the distance until it was only a tiny speck no bigger than the bush and scrub which surrounded it. Toby asked if I had marked it with the GPS, no I hadnt, it didnt occur to me as I thought it would always be in sight and had not imagined this sort of distance. But we marked it as best we could against some distant peak and hoped it would be easier to find on the way down. We arrived at the southern rim to find one of the most outstanding views anywhere on the planet. Deep inside the core of the volcano was the remnant of some shattered rocks which looked like an island enclosed by a former rim facing

Volcan Quemado 47

Volcan Quemado The new cone is visible inside the crater.


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Satellite image from Google Earth shows the nesting craters inside volcan Quemado

Volcan Quemado

Panoramic view inside Volcan Quemado showing a central island within an inner ring



The Atlantis Trail

Diagram showing how inner cone is formed inside crater

Volcan Quemado 51

View inside Volcan Quemado with Volcan Sajama in the distance


The Atlantis Trail

towards us. A good illustration I thought of the ring complex Plato talked about and proving that if it were a natural feature, then Volcan Quemado with its central volcanic cone contained within two nesting craters was the ideal illustration of the feasibility of Platos story. I had with me an explanation of how the volcano had originally been formed, together with a sketch drawing kindly provided by the vulcanologist Dr Ken Reed of the Geological Society. First there had been a volcanic cone. The centre of this had blown out to make a large crater then at a subsequent time another cone had emerged in the centre of the crater. This in turn had blown out making a crater within the outer crater and after a time another cone had emerged in the centre of the inner crater making a sort of island within two rings of land. Finally as recently as perhaps two thousand years ago well within the time scale we are looking at another cone had emerged, grafting itself onto the northern face of the existing cone. I certainly wouldnt have liked to have been resident in the volcano at the time and all around the outer rims were sharp pieces of ejected rock while inside the volcano was a mass of rubble, the large blocks of stones which looked on aerial photos to be the size of ruined buildings, the vulcanologists said, were typical of the sort of giant stones the volcano throws out. It proved extremely difficult to relate the rubble strewn interior of the volcano to the aerial photos I had brought with me and purchased on my former trip, despite the fact of having studied them inside out in stereo into the small hours of the morning back at my base in England. Had we come up the north face of the volcano then the nesting craters would have been apparent, but as it was we only had about twenty minutes which we could allow ourselves before making the descent, otherwise we might loose the jeep and be stranded for the night.

Volcan Quemado


Providence smiled on us and on the way back down, the setting sun shone like a beacon from the front windscreen of the jeep, guiding us back to safety and a night in the village.

Head man, wife and child at Sacabaya

The film crew were keen to press on as they wanted to call at Chipaya and also to be back in Oruro to find some characters for their film.


The Atlantis Trail

Chulpa on the road to Bella Vista

Volcan Quemado


They had found the three sites they wanted for their film, Pumiri, Volcan Quemado and Chipaya, so we wound our way once more around the edge of the Altiplano, passing through the deserted village of Bella Vista many of the local people had been hit badly by the drought and taken themselves off to La Paz and other places leaving their totally beautiful villages deserted and barred up under lock and key.- towards the village of Sabaya on the northern edge of the Salar de Coipasa. It was an area rich in Chulpas, these enigmatic funerary towers with their tiny entrances said to represent the path back to the womb when the dead spirit returns to its place of origin.

Chulpa near Sajama

Sabaya was a good place to stop for a break, and here we encountered two cyclists, Kate & Eric who were cycling around the world and about to set off across the salt salar directly towards the south of the Altiplano.


The Atlantis Trail

I found that fascinating, as they were bound to pass through a place call Llica on a spur of land between the Salar de Coipasa and the Salar de Uyuni. I had figured that if Platos canal did indeed formerly run around the whole rectangular Altiplano, then on the western side it would have had to pass through Llica as east and west of here were barriers of rocks which would otherwise prevent the continuation of the canal. I asked them if they could keep a lookout for anything which might look like an ancient canal, or even a fault line which might have connected the two salt salars and handed them a card with my address in England. Six weeks back in England, their letter arrived. Yes, there had been a canal or cut, although according to them not at Llica but at another spot about five miles further east until that cut had been broken by volcanic upheaval!
3:1:99. Potos, Bolivia Dear Jim, Happy New Year from those 2 cyclists you met briefly in Sabaya. Hope you had a productive trip we thought it was bad riding to Sabaya.. it got worse! Well: we crossed the Salar de Coipasa from the island to a place called Tres Cruces. This was moreor-less deserted like most of the villages in west + South-west Bolivia due to drought. We headed west along the salar coast towards a place called Ventillas, on the way to the pass thru Llica. We werent really looking for anything resembling your canal here, but noticed that the valley to the south looked deliberately cutaway

Volcan Quemado


Map drawn by the cyclists at the side. It was about 6km from Tres Cruces, i.e. way to Ventilla. It wasnt possible to get a decent photo of it without climbing a mountain, but when I went to get water from the village, I asked about it there. Ventilla is VERY small only 5 or 6 houses + had a population of 5. I asked a 40ish year old man if he knew nything about an old canal


The Atlantis Trail

The salt flats stretch endlessly making it an absolutely level plain

Volcan Quemado


connecting the 2 salars. At first he squinted at me + repeated the question as if I was mad to ask, then said Yes, its over there + pointed back to the valley wed seen La KATA, its called (QUATA, CATA, CUTA.) I asked if it was manmade + he said no, its natural. (The cleft looked far too steep to be natural fault line?: looked manmade to us). The way to Llica went up to 103 metres above Salar level + didnt look as if there had ever been a cut thru. I asked plenty of people if they knew anything about an ancient canal but only found one man in Llica (big village of about 5,000 people) who said the Salars used to be connected and were naturally cut off by volcanic upheavals. He indicated that the ancient connection was thru the La Kata cleft, not thru Llica. Hope this helps. It may take a while to get thru as were sending it in a package from Bolivia to be posted in the UK. All the best, Kate + Eric.

After Sabaya our next destination was intended to be the village of Chipaya on the northern edge of the Salar de Coipasa. Finding a route out of town was a problem and after asking directions we soon found ourselves heading up into the hills and the Chile border once again. Once more the GPS came to our rescue and we pointed ourselves south towards the salar, then branched off east towards Chipaya.


The Atlantis Trail

View of one of the great salt salars

Chapter 5

On to Chipaya

WE DROVE across an absolutely flat plain on the edge of the salt flats and here and there one of the traditional round houses of the Uru began to appear on the horizon until we approached the village where we found our way barred by one of the old canals still in use and carrying enough water to make us wonder if we would be able to drive through at all. Fortunately it proved to be quite shallow and soon we rolled up in the centre of the village where Toby jumped out and introduced himself to the headman.

Approaching Chipaya 61


The Atlantis Trail

The head man at Chipaya put on his regalia for us

On to Chipaya


Our way barred by a canal at Chipaya

Uru child


The Atlantis Trail

The Uru live amongst the waters..

On to Chipaya


The Uru Chipaya in their habitat.


The Atlantis Trail

The Uru in their habitat

Aerial photo of one of many canals at Chipaya

On to Chipaya


It seemed the Chipaya had been short on visitors ever since a bad press appeared in the Lonely Planet guidebook saying visitors were unwelcome, but we found our reception friendly enough and the headman even put on his special regalia for our photo-opportunity benefit. The canals surrounding the village were the source of the problem of flooding which had forced some of the villagers to live in refugee tents the previous year. Although some of the canals were still in use, many had been abandoned and no doubt forgotten about by the village people. It was to be one of the tasks of Kota Mama II to try and locate the source of the problem and do something about it and when presented later by the aerial photos JBS had purchased for that purpose, I found that the whole region was littered with abandoned canals so even if my massive channel should have turned out to be more fault line than canal at least the area around Chipaya proved that canals were in fact a feature of the plain, quite contrary to an official RAF opinion which had stated on examination of satellite photos that there is no sign of canalisation - this is not good country to initiate an integrated canalised drainage system and no such undertaking could be found. Perhaps they should tell that to the flooded out Chipaya! In order to give Clive and Toby time to locate the necessary characters they wanted so much for the film, we decided to crack on and return the same day to Oruro; it proved almost as difficult to get out of Chipaya as it had been to get in and when we forded another section of the River Lauca we found ourselves unable to pick up the trail again thereby losing another two hours and contemplating another night in tents on the Altiplano. Gonzalo had suspicions about an overfriendly fellow who laughingly pointed us in the right direction, so we made an extra detour but finally arrived back in Oruro about 11pm, checking


The Atlantis Trail

into the Hotel Onassis only with difficulty, since seeing our dusty condition and that of the jeep they were sure they were full up until they saw the expedition logo on the side of the vehicle, then Oruro being what it is, we discovered the bath and shower water cut off until a certain time in the morning all adding in my opinion to the fun of the thing but to the consternation of those who had not been there before!

Huts of the Uru/Chipaya

Chapter 6

Legend of the Desaguadero

BACK IN La Paz Toby set off to track down the owner of the site at Pumiri and found the tale that it had been discovered by an old man who had lived there all his life without telling anyone and only passed on the secret of its location to his son on his deathbed. Meanwhile I had been doing a tour of the second-hand bookstalls in La Paz and found hanging up on a thread a comic magazine which was an illustrated history published by the University and called The legend of the Desaguadero. What had caught my eye was the cover with an ancient God paddling a reed boat off down the river. Remembering JBS reed boat expedition of the previous year I couldnt resist picking it up, and turning the page found an illustration of an old city on the edge of a lake with the following legend Riches were so plentiful that there were not any poor people. Life was a continual happiness, and as there were neither punishments nor illnesses, the hearts of everyone had become hardened. Then followed a dialogue between the gods just as to how the people had lost their way and resorted to evil doings. One of the gods decided to go amongst the people to try and convert them, but the people rejected him and cast him adrift on a reed boat which eventually forced its way through the banks of Lake Titicaca forming and following the Desaguadero River to Lake Poopo where the rejected god drowned himself in Lake Poopo.


The Atlantis Trail

The city on the edge of the laketheir riches had hardened their hearts

The gods hold a conference to decide what to do about the city

Legend of the Desaguadero


The gods decide to punish the city and send lightning, storms and torrents of water against the city.

Finally the city is drowned by the rising waters of the lake and disappears out of sight. Drawings courtesy of La Leyenda del Desaguadero


The Atlantis Trail

As a consequence, the all powerful god, Kjunu decided to punish the people of the wicked city, The clouds pregnant with storms furiously discharged their waters, followed by thunders and lightnings upon the evil city. The winds and the snows fell down from the high mountains, throwing themselves in tremendous avalanches upon its buildings. And the waters of the lake whipped up by the hurricane rose up from their level drowning the last living people who had not already fallen. Kjunu bagan to vent his anger in violent whiplashes against the land. The city illustrated in the magazine is Tiahuanaco on the southern shore of Lake Titicaca (although archaeologists say it has never been under water) yet how remarkable the legend, almost word for word identical to that of Plato, even beginning with the tale about the greed of the people who needed to be punished and ending with the city being drowned or submerged in the rising waters of the lake. Another version I similarly located two years later in the same row of book kiosks told how the god after forcing the opening of the Rio Desaguadero as far as Lake Poopo, subsequently drowned himself not in Lake Poopo, but in Pampa Aullagas (at the southern end of Lake Poopo, but the lake was also formerly called lake Aullagas).

Chapter Seven

Santuario de Quillacas

SO FAR I had visited two out of three sites which showed similarities to the low mountain Plato described as the original site of Atlantis. The ring in the north centre definitely had all the aspects of a low mountain and was in a manner of speaking in the centre of the plain, always a difficult point to interpret. The mining engineer at La Joya explained how it had been formed by an explosion of gas and what remained, he said, was what fell back to earth afterwards. He had actually visited the site himself and although I had only got as close as six miles myself, aerial photos didnt seem to show anything in the centre, except for a small lake. Volcan Quemado demonstrated how Platos ring island could have existed as a natural feature on the Altiplano. However it was too far from the sea and at too high an elevation (13,000ft rising to 13,829ft at the summit) for canals to connect it with the level plain. which itself lay at an elevation of some 12,000ft with Lake Poopo slightly higher at 12,125ft. The third site which had yet to be visited was on the southern edge of the lake, a location in itself interesting because Tiahuanaco was similarly built on the southern edge of its lake. The new site was Santuario de Quillacas which the satellite photo showed as a volcanic mound about two miles in diameter. Its location fitted exactly Platos description that it



The Atlantis Trail

Satellite photo of Quillacas at the time of the 1987 floods, surrounded by a ring of water from the nearby lake.

Santuario de Quillacas


Location of Santuario de Quillacas and Pampa Aullagas at southern end of lake.


The Atlantis Trail

was near the plain, over against its centre, at a distance of fifty stades. It was indeed in the centre of the rectangular plain, ie half way down the side and it was at the correct distance of fifty stades from the sea. The 12,139ft contour ran from the adjacent level plain right across the site so it was only a few feet higher than the level of the lake. It could be seen both from the map and the satellite photo, that the area around the mound flooded when the lake rose so therefore if a wall were to be built at the edge of the lake and continue around in a circle at a distance of fifty stades from the mound, the area enclosed would be protected from flooding and this was the purpose of Platos sea wall. The mound itself measured 21 stades of 600ft in diameter and if one adds up the width of Platos centre island of five stades plus the two inner rings of water and two of land, it comes to 21 stades. The outer ring, which measured three stades in width would therefore be excavated on the outside of the mound and it shows how, (remembering how Plato said that the rings were carved by the God out of the centre of the island) the soil excavated from around the mound would be heaped up as the first ring of land of three stades on the edge of the mound itself, the next inner ring of two stades diameter would similarly have the excavated material heaped up on the inside as the inner ring of land two stades wide whereas the innermost ring of water being only one stade wide probably had the material dispersed onto the central island. So Sanctuario de Quillacas had all the aspects and location that Plato had described including the possibility of an outer ring of water, but no inner rings could be detected on the satellite photos. Having said that, there was the possibility of a part ring of water about one stade wide to the south of what looked like a volcanic cone just south of where the central island ought to have

Santuario de Quillacas


been. It was coloured black on the photo and appeared to be the shadow of the cone itself, but even more laser enlargements began to suggest that it might in fact not be a shadow, but a part ring of deep water since shallow water and sediment were coloured blue on these photos but deep water would show up as black, just like a shadow form the cone. In order to try and resolve this situation before making a site visit, I ordered yet another satellite print from the satellite agency I usually dealt with, at the same time asking if all water could be coloured blue instead of black. At the same time, as a result of the various transparent overlays showing the proposed location of the missing rings, it seemed the cone to the south of the central island might at one time have been part of a ring linking up with a peak to the north of the central island, until destroyed either by some colossal eruption or the earthquakes which Plato mentioned. I could imagine the rising waters of the lake breaching the outer sea walls and flooding into the subterranean lava chambers setting off a devastating explosion culminating in the total destruction of the inner island and surrounding rings so that only the two shattered peaks remained On my previous trip, Clive had asked me why anyone would want to build a city on a volcano, such as Atlantis had been. I could only point to examples such as Pompeii which had been buried by Vesuvius or even the city on Thera which had also been buried by ash. But here at Santuario de Quillacas was an actual village of at least two thousand people, in the centre of a volcano, on the edge of the sea. I hoped Clive would come back with me, so that he could ask them himself! A new satellite photo arrived two days later and dated to the period at the end of January 1987 when Lake Titicaca and the region generally had been flooded. Lake Poopo itself had arisen and ad vanced a couple more miles towards the mound. This time the mound was surrounded by a ring of turquoise


The Atlantis Trail

blue showing the presence of water on or in the soil, so the mound had indeed become an island! It also reminded me of the lost Aztec homeland, said to be an island surrounded by a ring of turquoise water April had dragged into June, both promised dates for the shooting of the film and by August the Altiplano Season was about to burst upon us with still no concrete date for shooting. It seemed Patrick Stewart had pulled out and another name was mentioned, Christopher Reeve as the proposed host for presenting the film, since without a big name star they were unlikely to get the money from the BBC to go ahead. I sent Clive a copy of my newly acquired turquoise coloured satellite photo hoping that might stimulate them into action and pointing out that 12 Sept would be a good date to be over there, as we could rendezvous with Kota Mama II down in Asuncion in Paraguay and they could film JBS and his reed boats coming down the Paraguay River on their way from Puerto Suarez in Bolivia to Buenos Aires in Argentina. Asuncion was also where I believed the legendary city of Tarshish to be located, on an island at the entrance to the Pilcomayo River just opposite the modern city of Asuncion. An old legend told how the city had been built at the entrance to a river where it branched into two arms, and the city stood between the arms as if on an island. If one followed this river upstream, one came to the Silver Mountain, and this mountain I believed was none other than Potosi, the mountain of solid silver for which Bolivia was famous. The river itself, previously called The River of Silver was also the route to the Altiplano and once past Potosi its upper reaches became the Rio de Aquas Calientes meaning the river of hot waters. This region was also the closest mountain range to the new mound site, and boded well for the possibility of hot springs being found there, just as Plato had said the God originally caused hot and cold springs to issue from the earth in the centre of the island.

Santuario de Quillacas


Potosi itself lay only some 80 miles (130km) to the south-east, so its famous mountains both of silver and of tin would have provided a ready source for two of the rare metals which were used to plate the city walls. The other rare metals, gold and the mysterious alloy Orichalcum (copper and gold) were also abundant in the nearby mountains and the location of the site at the southern end of the lake suggested it was ideally located as a route centre for goods arriving by land or by sea via Lakes Titicaca and Poopo in former times.

Antique map showing island at the entrance to the Pilcomayo River opposite Asuncion.

Chapter Eight

September Expedition

SEPTEMBER duly arrived and no word from Clive or Atlantic Productions about the proposed film. I gave Clive a ring, and although personally impressed by the new photo and wishing he could join me, he had now moved on to another company. Thoughts began to turn towards buying an airline ticket. At that time I live in Torquay in a flat belonging to the Theosophical Society having been induced to move there by a low rent and proximity to the town centre. It was in their library that I had come across Mme Blavatskys Isis Unveiled with its story of the Inca tunnels beneath the Andes and the supposed entrance in a triangle of mountains near the old border between Bolivia and Peru at the River Loa. Mme Blavatsy had called this river the river Puquina, but since no such river existed in the area, it seemed to me more probable that the priest who recounted to her the story (in Spanish) probably meant a river pequea, meaning small river. Just beyond this area which is now in modern Chile, lay a Cordilleria de los Cuevas, meaning mountains of the caves, so who knows, perhaps one of those caves did hold the entrance to the system of tunnels although no triangle of mountains such as she mentioned as containing the entrance could be seen on the maps there. The only triangle of mountains which I could see was at Sajama, due east of Arica which is where she claimed the mysterious stone known as Tomb of the Inca stood on the foreshore, and Sajama seemed a much more likely candidate since it was like a landmark beacon to all travellers on the level Altiplano as it could

September Expedition


be seen for miles around, also to an ancient race of surveyors and canal builders, it would be irresistible as a starting point for an overall survey of the rectangular plain. However, the day came when the committee of the Theosophical Society decided that in order to be in keeping with the modern times, they ought to increase the rent by some 60% at a stroke and gave me notice to quit the flat. I had previously been under the impression that they were supposed to sponsor the arts and philosophy, however it seemed to me that they ought to change their motto which was there is no religion higher then truth to a more appropriate one such as there is no religion higher than profit. At that time I had been in correspondence with a Bolivian fan of my Atlantis: the Andes Solution book, Carlos Aliaga Uria, Acamedician of the International Informatizational Acamedy and resident of Cochabamba. Carlos had most generously written to suggest that if I came to Bolivia I would have both accommodation and transportation at my disposal for as long as I wished and he would also show me around some properties he owned both in the valley of Sorata which he considered to be the original Garden of Eden and on the Island of the Sun, legendary birthplace of the Incas. So once more it was a situation of personal belongings back into the storage box, abandonment of everything else and a ticket to La Paz, via Frankfurt and Rio de Janeiro. I had been hoping to get a flight via Asuncion, but the sales assistant quoted a fare that was almost double the direct flight and which for some reason after Asuncion would have diverted a long way around through Buenos Aires so the direct flight seemed the simplest option and Asuncion would have to wait for another time. I stepped off the VARIG jumbo jet onto the tarmac at El Alto, la Paz, unaware that I was being filmed from the observation arrivals


The Atlantis Trail

window. Clearing through Customs and with a one-month tourist visa, I was met by an enthusiastic Carlos with a further ticket to fly directly to Cochabamba. That evening I was shown to my quarters, a room in the big hacienda which was the former German Consulate and which Carlos and his wife used as an office. They gave me a set of keys to the big metal gate which was locked with a padlock. That night I pondered about kidnappings in South America. After all I had come here purely on trust, a gate to keep people out could also be used to keep me in! Of course that was purely a facet of my imagination and it turned out I had the most perfect and considerate hosts imaginable. Then passed a couple of days acclimatisation at the lower altitude of 8,000ft (the higher Altiplano is at an altitude of 12,000ft) and preparation of the jeep, a 25yrs old Toyota Landcruiser, colour, Explorer Red. Carloss Wife Anna had taken it to be fixed, but it seemed each time they fixed one item, they broke something else. We rode around town and I looked at the speedometer. Not working. (I wondered if it was a standard feature of jeeps here that speedometers didnt work!) Carlos remembered reading about an identical situation on one of my previous trips and said he would have it fixed. The mechanic said we needed Antifreeze, so flushed out the radiator and added antifreeze, replacing also the glass in the mirror which they had accidentally broken when fixing something else. Next day we were all stocked up and ready to roll. Based on previous expedition experiences, we also had a large container for gasoline strapped to the roof, which really made us look the part. First it was up and over the Andes, since Cochabamba was on the eastern slopes, which was what gave it its famous Mediterranean climate and Oruro our first stop was on the level Altiplano in the flat basin formed by the two Cordillerias of the eastern and western Andes.

September Expedition


We cruised along on the upward leg of our journey. Stray dogs lined the road like sentinels hoping for a crust of bread to be thrown from passing vehicles and campesino children similarly sat by the roadside with caps in hand hoping for a spare coin to be tossed their way. We came to one of the many toll points where a barrier forces you to stop until you have contributed the requisite number of Bolivianos to continue your journey. I could hear a hissing from the front of the vehicle. No water in the radiator. Must be the altitude, I thought, after all, water boils quicker at a higher altitude, or some such theory. Fortunately the campesinos were selling snacks and refreshments along the route. We put in four litres of Aquamineral. Soon we reached La Cumbre (the summit), altitude 4,496 metres. I took a swig from the giant bottle of Fanta I usually had riding beside me. Now it was a downhill ride to the foothills. Always I was amazed how every inch of the highest peaks seemed to have been cultivated at some time in the past, and how little it was occupied today. Soon we were back amongst the foothills on the Altiplano side of the Andes. The level plain began to stretch out before us and we caught sight of our first chullpas (ancient burial chambers) strung out along the horizon. We were back in what my Chinese girlfriend called Allens Kingdom. We arrived in Oruro around 5pm and stocked up with gas ready for next day and more water for the radiator this time another three litres. It was obvious it had a leak and needed to be repaired before setting off to the far ends of Lake Poopo. Fortunately Oruro is one of those place where people can still make or repair anything you can think of. We soon found a little workshop specialising in radiators and a couple of hours later


The Atlantis Trail

called back to find they had diagnosed and fixed the cause of the problem the radiator had been so full of old gunge, in fact the drain tap had been missing and it was only the old gunge which had prevented the total loss of the water! Meanwhile I had shown Carlos around the town and he was now an aficionado of Oruro. A total convert in fact, especially after he had seen the beautiful main square and been taken for a mechado or roast lamb dinner in the local Nayama restaurant. That night proved colder than expected and I wished I had not taken my big woolly jumper out of my travel bag at the last moment. We were ready to leave fairly early next morning, then Carlos discovered he had left his battery charger behind and the video camera was nearly flat. It turned out that the owner of the hotel also owned an electronic store opposite so up came the shutters and after a quick half-hours charge we were ready. Like I said, in Oruro you can fix anything and the people are so friendly, which is a bigger bonus. The route out of town was not so easy. I figured on following a track alongside the old railway line, but the correct road was a metalled highway in the opposite direction heading up into the hills. I began to become severely worried that we were heading away from the plain instead of heading towards Poopo which was to be our first stop to look for hot and cold springs. This time I had no GPS, the two previous film crews having retrieved the ones they had provided specially. They have to be handed in, you know. It was a considerable relief when the road turned back once more in the direction of the rectangular plain and Lake Poop, and we found a turning from the highway into Poop village, having heard that the springs were located in the hillside just behind the village.

September Expedition


Hot or cold water comes gurgling out of the ground

Looking for hot and cold springs at Poopo village


The Atlantis Trail

Indeed they were, and we were glad we had taken the jeep instead of a more modern car since once off the tarmac road we encountered the usual potholes and gullies which make a jeep indispensable in these parts. There was considerable mining activity and corresponding slag heaps all around us, but a hot spring gurgled happily out of the mountainside accompanied by a cold spring just a few feet away. I felt Plato had been vindicated.

Hot pool at Pazna used to supply swimming baths

The next town en route was Pazna and here was an old stone bath with a modern swimming pool alongside. Hot water filled a thermal pool dug from the earth and little mud channels conducted the hot water into the modern pool. Some women sat idly on the side of the old bath and once more Platos words sprang to mind and they put aside baths for the women..... Another toll barrier looked like a problem, since the road under repair was closed for a further three hours but quickly Carlos had

September Expedition


smoothed the way and it was Tar Macadam all the way to Challapata. Here was a modern petrol station, a barrier and ...... no more highway. It seemed the roadbuilders had run out of steam, or money and the usual dirt track was the route henceforth. It didnt seem quite believable as this was the Pan-American Highway, the road to Potosi silver capital of the Spanish Empire. We had to find a turn-off to Quillacas and without the GPS again it was easy to feel we had lost our way one more time. Frequent directions were asked of any nearby campesinos and we had great delight when one young lad on a bicycle pointed out Quillacas in the distance. We stopped the jeep and took some photos and film of this great rock shimmering in the distance besides the lake. It was only later when we approached the real Quillacas we discovered we had been pointed out the wrong site which the map named as Pampa Aullagas.

View of Quillacas, the sloping mound with two peaks and the village in the centre

With the benefit of two previous film trips (great learning experiences) behind me, I decided it was time for what the movie people usually call an establishing shot.


The Atlantis Trail

This time we were doing it ourselves, so I briefed Carlos what to do, backed up the jeep and he shot a few feet of the jeep hurtling along the road towards Quillacas in the distance. Later I reviewed the film. Carlos, you were not supposed to film the jeep reversing only the shot driving towards the volcano! From the distance we could see that the volcano was a gently sloping cone, with two protruding peaks and a mound in the middle which supported the village presently known as Santuario de Quillacas. We arrived in town to find a full-blown fiesta under way. People had travelled from miles around in honour of El Seor de Quillacas. The village was filled with stalls selling goods and food on the square in front of the church, there was music, drinking and dancing with girls in shiny blue costumes accompanied by flutes and drums. Carlos emerged from the church elated with his new find. Come and see this, he blurted out, grabbing me by the arm, red and black stones, just like in Atlantis. Sure enough, the pillars of the church had been constructed in red and black stones with white mortar, just as Plato had said the buildings of Atlantis had been constructed in red black and white stones for variety. Behind the church, we almost tripped over a low wall made of loosely placed red and black stones and numerous pebble sized examples lay everywhere prompting one to gather a couple of specimens as evidence we had been to Atlantis. The day of el Seor de Quillacas was the day of a pilgrimage by the faithful, some climbing in bare feet to the top of the southern peak. I made the climb with several stops for breath while Carlos disappeared up into the distance. At the top was a little chapel, several little stalls selling odds and ends and a large concrete plinth.

September Expedition


Red and black stones at Quillacas

The church piers had Red and black stones at red and black stones Quillacas mixed, just like in the buildings of Atlantis


The Atlantis Trail

View of interior of church at Santuario de Quillacas

September Expedition


I sat down gratefully on the plinth and gasped for breath. For some reason, people were crawling around me on their hands and knees. I looked up and saw the large cross atop the plinth. I decided to move in case the faithful decided to throw me over the edge which was a sheer drop to the ground several hundreds of feet below. From this vantage point, one could see the level plain all around, just as Plato described it although it was improbable that most people would realise that they were actually on a circular-shaped mound, only the satellite images revealed that. In the distance one could see the blue waters of Lake Poopo and it was easy to imagine how a canal could be dug from the sea to the site, connecting with a circular canal three stades in breadth surrounding the site just like the ring of water seen on the satellite photo or again a wall could be constructed at the sea to encircle the site at a radius of fifty stades to prevent flooding in times when the lake rises. Of the three volcanoes visited so far, this had to be the most promising site, given the proximity to the lake and with all the characteristics of Atlantis, missing only the rings of land or ruined buildings which could have been vaporised in some great volcanic blast or shattered by earthquakes as Plato said. The location was also ideal for a route centre, especially for boats arriving via the lake from as far away as Lake Titicaca via the Desaguadero River and had there been water both in the Desaguadero and Lake Poopo at the time of the previous Kota Mama expedition, then the reed boats could have sailed all the way from Tiahuanaco on the southern shore of Lake Titicaca right up to Quillacas on the southern shore of Lake Poopo. From here it was only a short distance by land to the headwaters of the Pilcomayo and the route to Tarshish on the island at the entrance to the Pilcomayo, opposite Asuncion, this being the natural port for seagoing vessels to the Atlantic via the estuary of the Rio de la Plata.

The Atlantis Trail

View from the southern peak showing the village of Quillacas in the centre of the volcano with the level plain and the sea in the distance


September Expedition

View from the northern peak looking into the centre of Quillacas



The Atlantis Trail

The chapel and fiesta on the highest peak of the volcano

September Expedition


The fiesta proceeds on top of the peak while the circular rim of the volcano can be seen on the level plain below

The fiesta on the highest point of the volcano


The Atlantis Trail

Aymara woman selling goods on top of Quillacas

Large boulders ejected by volcanic activity lie all around Quillacas

September Expedition


Of course, it should be mentioned that any goods would need to be trans-shipped overland from the high level of the Altiplano to the foothills of the Andes mountains before encountering a navigable section of the Pilcomayo, alas in these days of changing climate no longer navigable due to the persisting drought in the area.

Sunset at Quillacas

I discovered later, that Quillacas was also capital of the former Aymara kingdom of Quillacas whose territory included all of Lake Poopo itself, a promising aspect for a site which may also have been Atlantis, capital of the island continent of the same name and now called South America. The Aymara kingdoms existed in pairs, one of the pairs being in Umasuyo, the kingdom of water or the eastern side of the Andes and the other of the pair being in Urcusuyo, the kingdom of the mountains or the western side of the Andes, just as Plato had said the first inhabitants of Atlantis had been born in pairs, in any case it was obvious that Quillacas had been one of the Umasuyo or water kingdoms.

Chapter Nine

Tunnels at Oruro

THE TOYOTA made it back to Oruro without problems, stopping only once to fill up the tank from the spare container on the roof and arriving in the hours of darkness. Next day before returning to Cochabamba we made a tour of a few of the back streets surrounding the main square as Carlos had the idea of looking for a property which might make a suitable residence combined with museum. He stopped to pick up a small round object glinting in the morning sun. Look at this, he exclaimed, a nugget of tin! Stopping one of the passers-by for more information, we discovered that the nugget was a piece of trash from the nearby mine just up on the hill. Also there was a mine museum in the church called Santuario de Socavon only a few streets away. We couldnt resist a visit. The church was easy to find, but I was a bit puzzled when Carlos said come inside and lets look at the old tunnels. The mine museum and tunnels were actually inside the church, the tunnel entrance was on one of the faces of the interior church wall. We descended into the tunnel passing down a steep flight of steps until we came to a level gallery lined with old cases displaying relics from former mining days including several samples of the many minerals to be found in the region. At the end of the tunnel the route was blocked by an iron grill and behind the grill sat the devil, brightly illuminated,

Tunnels at Oruro


Entrance to the mine is inside the church

One of the tunnel galleries, now converted to a museum


The Atlantis Trail

The Tio or Devil, patron of the miners

Tunnels at Oruro


this was the tio or patron of the mines to whom the miners prayed! The young guide who was with us told us that the galleries ran for many miles beneath the mountain. In fact, that one just over there, he said, pointing to a large map of Bolivia about three feet square, runs for fifty kilometres to the mine of St. Jos. We looked, where on the map was he pointing to? Is it here?, we said, pointing to the map, can you show us? The guide came over and grabbed the big map frame by the edges and lifted it to one side. Here it is, would you like to come inside? He switched on the electric light and led us quite a way inside the tunnel. These tunnels were here before the conquistadors, he explained. Another one on the other side comes out on the opposite side of the mountains on the other side of Oruro. Any doubts I may have had about the existence of Blavatsky's tunnels were now gone for ever and I remembered the tale of someone exploring the tunnels in the vicinity of Lima to finally emerge days later from a flagstone directly behind the altar of one of the churches. I wondered how many other churches including the one at Quillacas might have been built over some former sacred site which may have included a secret tunnel entrance under the flagstones. Oruro is the folklore capital of Bolivia and people come from all over the country at carnival time. The production of Devil masks and costumes is one of its major industries and Carlos couldnt resist buying a devil mask to take back home to impress Anna and the boys. It is not unusual also to see a few devils in costume walking up and down the street at any time,


The Atlantis Trail

Carnival time!

Tunnels at Oruro


Carnival time!


The Atlantis Trail

practising for the next carnival or getting ready to represent Oruro in some carnival in another part of the country. The carnivals are great spectacles and last all day, each different village has a different costume, the girls in short twirly skirts showing off their legs and those from Amazonas in feathered getups and witch doctor costumes complete with shrunken heads hopefully not the real thing!

The most amazing costumes.

Each village has its own band leader, sometimes the boys wear giant spur-like contraptions which clash like symbols as they beat out the rhythm on their slow march around town Boring it isnt and it is well worth staying into the dark hours as the costumes get more fantastic and elaborate towards the end, including even wild Indians on horseback!

Tunnels at Oruro


Carnival time

Carnival time


The Atlantis Trail

Later that afternoon it was back to Cochabamba, climbing over the high Andes one more time before Carlos deposited me at the office which was my base. About half an hour afterwards I had a call from Carlos. Guess what? he said, as soon as we left the office, the shock absorbers went. We decided the jeep should be donated to any future Atlantis museum we might open in Oruro, at least it had been a vehicle of character and had served well on the day itself but any future expeditions would only be with a hired modern version of the Landcruiser.

Chapter Ten

Cochabamba and Sorata Interlude

IN COCHABAMBA Carlos decided to look up an old friend from his engineering days, Engineer Carlos Velasco Abecia, a renowned geologist and general secretary of the Society of Geologists of Cochabamba. It was he, Carlos informed me, who had made the geological maps of the region and he apparently knew Oruro and its territory quite well. Carlos the second welcomed us and showed us into his study. After a quick brief of the situation he turned to the desk behind him and produced several boxes, all filled with geological maps of the region. It was to me like Aladdins cave. The 1:100,000 map of Quillacas was procured and from the brightly coloured portions in the centre representing the peaks we had visited, Carlos the geologist was able to pronounce that it was a very very old volcano dating back to the Tertiary period, way before our timescale of interest. The peaks belonged to the Tertiary as did a cone forming part of the southern peak while the interior was formed of sand also dating to the Tertiary. The circular cone surrounding the site dated to the Quaternary which was the period we were interested in, dating up to modern times. I asked whether the two peaks could have at one time formed part of a continuous ring or crater. Si, seguro came the reply (Yes, certainly). Could there have been a mound or cone in the centre which was destroyed in an explosion, and could the explosion have destroyed everything else on the site?


The Atlantis Trail

Si, seguro. But it seemed that such an explosion in the opinion of Carlos belonged to the Tertiary period when the volcano had also been under the waters of the ancient lake for a considerable period. That seemed disappointing and it was explained that the outer quaternary cone was the material washed down over the centuries from the original volcano. If that were so, it seemed to me later, then there ought to have been two quaternary cones, one for each peak, otherwise the circular crater must have also existed right up into the quaternary. The interview lasted a full four and a half hours, until finally we asked the relevant question we should have asked in the first place. Could the site instead have been destroyed by earthquakes, and why is there nothing left? Si, seguro came the now standard reply, it seemed that in this volcanic region any scenario was possible. In Mexico there was a similar site with buildings which was destroyed by earthquakes and today there is nothing to be seen at all. Carlos number one breathed a sigh of relief, why hadnt we asked that question in the first place. As there was such a large supply of geological maps at hand, I asked about the site at Tres Cruces where the cyclists had reported evidence of an ancient channel connecting the two salars. The map showed nothing but rocks. I asked for the sheet next door showing Llica which is where I thought it ought to have been in the first place. Sure enough here was the passage which had formerly connected the two salars, coloured up and distinguished by little black dots which showed the presence of water-borne deposits. I knew it was now about 300 feet about the level of the adjacent salars. I asked if it would be possible that the land could have risen afterwards.

Cochabamba and Sorata Interlude


Of course said the geologist. It was obvious, it must have at one time been at the same level, otherwise there would be no water-borne deposits and the colour scheme showed it belonged to the correct Quaternary period. One final question. I dragged out of the bag my now battered string of photos joined together showing the canal, alignment or feature to the north-west of Lake Poopo and which the team of the Kota Mama expedition had pronounced as a fault line (perhaps disastrously influencing the BBC film crew to jet off next day to the Beni region) I asked the million dollar question, did he think it was a fault line, or canal. Well, its obviously a canal, I dont think it looks anything like a fault line came Carlos reply. That alone made my day and made the whole present expedition worthwhile. Because if it could be proved that it was a canal, then that in itself was proof that Platos whole story would be true. Carlos my host had promised to show me some land he owned up in Sorata and also on the Island of the Sun where he had a little museum. This time we were to go in the Ford Aerostar, a large van-like vehicle and infinitely more comfortable with its armchair-like seats than the old Toyota. It was a good five hours from Cochabamba to La Paz in the Aerostar (the journey by bus takes seven hours plus, and costs a mere 15 Bolivianos about one pound eighty pence English money or $2.70 US). Next day It was up towards Lake Titicaca and then the turn off to Sorata. I was promised spectacular scenery. In the distance we got a glimpse of the volcano called Illampu which is pronounced yampu or as Carlos put it That's yampus, same as Olympus. He had a theory that


The Atlantis Trail

this was the original home of the Greek gods and looking at Illampu in the distance it was easy to see why. Only the top of the volcano was visible above a ring of surrounding clouds, it did indeed look like the original Heaven.

Illampu or as Carlos calls it Olympus

I wondered also about the Garden of Eden and the Deluge, how the waters flooded up from below when the great chains of the deep were broken off; on the level Altiplano there were so many natural wells where the water came up from below and an increase of water on the surrounding mountains would result in an increase in pressure of water issuing from these wells onto the Altiplano. Also when the Earth dried up and the waters parted to one side, that sounded also like the waters being divided from the level plain and ending up to one side in the present day Lake Poopo. But on the road to Sorata all I saw was clouds. We were driving in amongst the clouds. This was the Cloud Forest as

Cochabamba and Sorata Interlude


Carlos called it. He seemed to love this climate and altitude. It seemed to me more like Scotch Mist and I suggested that if he liked it so much, he ought to try a sojourn back in Scotland, certainly the water pouring off the mountains also reminded me of a highland burn. Maybe they should start a whisky industry here and instead of twin villages or towns as some countries do, why not twin countries.? Carlos had mentioned that some people couldnt take the journey to Sorata. The clouds cleared and I found myself surrounded by the most breathtaking scenery. Mountains rising to sheer heights. And mountains descending in sheer drops. Only inches from the edge of the Aerostars wheels. Maybe I preferred the cloud forest after all. The worst part was yet to come. The road narrowed to a mud track little wider than the vehicle. Carlos explained. The only problem is if you get half-way across this section and you find a vehicle coming the other way. Thats why I usually take the jeep. We stopped only a short while for Carlos to lay out one of his large gold foil collages on one of the rocks beside one of the swift flowing streams and take a quick photo then we were in the village of Sorata. Carlos could tell that I was not impressed. He understood that I was a man of the sea and lakes, not highland mountain resorts. So he said that after a quick look at his property, we would be black on our way to the Island of the Sun which would be more to my liking. On the far side of Sorata was the 10 hectare hacienda he had bought in memory of his father. We opened the large metal gates and there it was, Esmeralda, filled with lush greenery watered by fresh water trickling down the mountain slopes and several different varieties of trees and bushes making this into the Garden of Eden which Carlos intended it to be.


The Atlantis Trail

The old hacienda, a lovely mature lemon yellow colour building stood further up the slope and behind that Carlos was having a little house built. His idea was that one day the site might be used as a University for the further study of the Aymara language although that hardly seemed practical given the current state of the roads. A new road was promised for five years time and that might transform the whole village. Carlos sped rapidly up the hill leaving me way behind but I could hear pure outbursts of real anger directed at the guy whose job it had been to build the house. After a full year, the house was still only half completed. Instead the worker had moved his family onto the site and was living in part of the old hacienda. The grounds had been converted into a smallholding with pigs running loose, ducks, two horses tethered at the front and worst of all, he had engaged another local who at the time of our timely arrival was busy ploughing up the land with two draught animals and an old fashioned plough! No wonder Carlos had been angry. His intention to plant a Garden of Eden full of wild species for the benefit of future generations had been totally frustrated and as he explained, the whole crop which could be gathered from the piece of land put under the plough was worth only a few Bolivianos in local terms. All this had been explained previously to the fellow in charge of the finca, but he had decided to ignore Carlos intention and each time Carlos had previously visited, all the family and animals had been carefully hidden away in advance! So now he was given his marching orders as the house had to be completed before the winter rains otherwise the adobe walls would reduced to a heap of mud! We descended from the mountains back on the road towards the turning which led to Copacabana and the Island

Cochabamba and Sorata Interlude


of the Sun. Alongside the road and illuminated by the setting sun was a field full of canals and old heaped up plots of land. I stopped for some photos and noticed two campesinos walking towards us, husband and wife, Good photo material but Carlos, who was now shivering from the cold, had his eye on the richly coloured poncho the campesino was wearing.

Campesinos on the road back to Titicaca

He decided to make him an offer. Name what ever price you like for the poncho and I will pay it. I also promise to treat it respectfully and to take good care of it in future. A deal was struck for what I later considered to be a fair price, part of the deal being also that we would turn about and take the couple to the village where they lived, several miles back. They seemed happy and Carlos was rightly proud of his new poncho, an extremely fine piece of workmanship much more finely woven than those you usually see in the tourist market. We made the crossing by ferry in the dark over the channel of water which separates Copacabana from the mainland and checked into a hotel for the night. Next day it was to be Island of the Sun.

Chapter Eleven

Island of the Sun

A big boat with a small motor took us just over an hour to travel from Copacabana to the Island of the Sun. We tied up at the small jetty which fronted onto the original Inca landing site and straight ahead of us was the stone Inca stairway flanked by a well from which issued three different types of natural water. One of the tourist companies (Crillon Tours) had made an excellent job of replanting some of the terraces to the side of the stairway and, combined with the presence of some trees this felt as much like a part of the Garden of Eden as Carlos place in Sorata had been. The whole of the hillside surrounding the landing site formed a natural amphitheatre which had been cultivated in the past but now suffered from a barren aspect with the exception of the aforementioned terraces immediately on either side of the stairway. Carlos sprinted ahead like some type of Andean mountain goat while I lumbered up the hillside trying to fight off the effects of the altitude. I could see above me a towering dressed-stone wall but no sign of the museum Carlos had spoken of. Reaching the end of the wall, a small sign to one side of a metal door announced that this was indeed the museum or proto museum. Inside lay a pleasant sheltered garden, with a few artefacts laid out by the full-time caretaker, Porfirio. To one side was a large steel cage and beyond that the stone wall reaching some eight feet high.

Island of the Sun


I could see now the purpose of the wall and the cage. It was the pen of the famous pumas of the Island of the Sun which had also been the subject of some controversy some while back. One visiting tourist had heard the early morning screeching of the pumas at some time or other. She then come up with the story that they were being imprisoned by a local hotel owner for his personal financial gain and had written up this account and sent it to a well known travel guide book on Bolivia. The true situation was that the pumas, of which there were originally three, were rescued by Carlos from the back of a truck in some outlying village after their mother had been killed by hunters. Carlos had originally nursed them and even rented an apartment in Cochabamba to keep them in, but when they outgrew that location he heard of a plot of land on the Island of the Sun for sale which he subsequently purchased and built the three large cages, one for each puma, as being the only way to keep them alive, since they could not be returned to the wild. The whole project had cost himself and Anna personally around fifty thousand dollars, including the circular, fortress-like museum which housed some of the artefacts brought to him by the islanders. Each artefact purchased by the museum was recorded in a log book with the name of the seller, description and price paid so that if the finder wished to reclaim it at some future date, then he could do so at the original price, allowing for inflation. Entrance was also free to the villagers who were encouraged to take an interest in the project which was non-profit making, the salary of the caretaker being guaranteed personally by Carlos. This was to be the lightning of lightning tours, and we had no time to see the Mediterranean-like beach I had heard of on the other side of the island, instead Carlos found himself busy giving a lecture to a group of villagers about a whole heap of indestructible


The Atlantis Trail

plastic trash which had accumulated on another site he owned to one side of the Inca landing place, intended possibly for the construction of a circular Uru type dwelling for the benefit of visitors.

The Inca stairway at the Island of the sun

In the days of natural products it had been no problem for the whole of the native Indian population to jettison their garbage just about everywhere. But in these days of high technology and universal plastic products, particularly those of the drinks companies such as Fanta and CocaCola, there was no way for the outlying peasant villages to get rid of the indestructible plastic trash which was in effect turning the whole countryside of Bolivia into a vast garbage receptacle.

Island of the Sun

View from the Island of the Sun



The Atlantis Trail

Aymara woman spinning wool

Aymara women with llama happy to pose for the tourists!

Aymara woman with llama happy to pose for the tourists!

Island of the Sun


The slow boat trudged back to Copacabana then we were speeding off to an appointment in La Paz. We had one more stop to make en-route, and that was to look up the Catari brothers, famous for the building of reed boats, at their base at Huatajata on the southern shore of Lake Titicaca.

The Cataris building a reed boat

This was one of the most beautiful locations around the whole lake, a small village with green trees and plots of cultivated land on the waters edge, it was also here that the totora reeds grew in abundance and which were used for the building of the traditional craft used on the lake itself. The Cataris had built the reed boats for Kota Mama I and II which at the time of the visit were busy sailing down the Paraguay River, and Bolivian boatbuilders were more famous for building the reed ship of Thor Heyerdahl which sailed from West Africa to the Caribbean also the Tigris which had sailed from the Persian Gulf as far as Somalia.


The Atlantis Trail

In recent times, the Mata Rangi II, a reed ship some 100 feet long had sailed from Arica in northern Chile as far as the Marquesas before encountering problems due to the ropes which bind the reed cylinders together being eaten by worms.

Ploughing the land at Huatajata

Eric Catari, the youngest of the family was at the time away with the Kota Mama expedition but I met Maximo Catari, the father who was busy supervising the construction of a 55ft reed boat which was intended to sail from Peru to Easter Island. Of course he had never heard of me but when I mentioned a set of plans which had been forwarded to him for a reed ship to include a timber core and two large drop dagger boards, he took an even greater interest in our conversation. I mentioned the fate of Mata Rangi II being eaten by the worms and this made the eyes of these lakeside boatbuilders open even wider with disbelief, I also suggested building sailing models of any giant reed ship before hbuilding the real thing, as well as considering the possibility of

Island of the Sun


coating the hull in some type of bitumen compound as the ancients had done. I for one, would have liked to have seen the construction of a giant reed ship which was capable of sailing around the world, not just a giant reed raft drifting on the ocean currents but a ship for the ocean which was a quite different proposition to a scaled-up version of a lakeside craft.

Chapter Twelve

Press Conference

I HAD asked Carlos if he could arrange perhaps a paragraph through Reuters to acknowledge the fact that we had gone to the new site at Quillacas and that this was to-date the most promising site in Bolivia. I suggested it should not be compared to Thera but offered rather more as Bolivias challenge to Thera. After all Thera was nothing more than a few volcanic peaks, remnant of the former volcanic island before its eruption (recently carbon dated to 1628BC) whereas Quillacas had not only the remaining volcanic peaks on a circular cone, but the level rectangular plain all round about it and the inland sea of Lake Poopo just a few short miles away. The idea was that perhaps this might be spotted by Discovery Channel whom I understood were keen to make a film by the year 2,000, and given the rainy season on the Altiplano, this would be their last chance if they wanted to film anything this year, or if we were to go back on the trail to film it for them. I got a late night phone call from Carlos. We were flying up to La Paz from Cochabamba next day. We had a couple of appointments to fulfil, but most important of all, he had arranged a press conference in the National Congress. We arrived at nine in the morning. After a quick Desayuno Americano at the Wall Street Caf, we made our way to the first appointment, Gonzalo, the tour operator whom I wanted to present with a poster of The Atlantis Trail since he had provided the jeep and been our driver on the trip the previous year. Alas, he was not there.

Press Conference


Next, Crillon Tours whom we wanted to introduce to The Atlantis Trail. But the director was somewhat late and Carlos lacking patience decided it was not worth waiting. We found ourselves walking downtown on the Avenida Arce and standing just outside the Ministry of Government. Carlos began talking to the security guard. Next moment we were talking to the inner court of secretaries. Then it was the turn of the press secretary to the secretary of State. The Secretary of State couldnt see us just at that moment, but if we could come back later.... Carlos decided we were too busy to come back later so we made our escape back to the street corner. A large black car was sitting at the traffic lights. Quick jump in, signalled Carlos, I wondered what was going on, some sort of Latin abduction? Meanwhile the irate drivers in the queue of cars behind were busy blasting their horns for us to get a move on. It turned out to be the Political Secretary of the Cuban Embassy, an old friend of Carlos. The car sped off around some back streets while the moustachioed Cuban eagerly took in all the details of Atlantis on the Altiplano relayed by an ever more enthusiastic Carlos. Carlos was confident the Cubans would have all the details far in advance of the Bolivian Press whom we were due to meet at five oclock. It was time for a break and a coffee at the renowned Caf Ciudad. I explained to Carlos that press conferences were not exactly my cup of tea, on a par with discotheques which I would rather walk a hundred miles in the desert than attend. Fortunately when we turned up at the National Congress, some of the press were there before us, particularly the man from Reuters and we found ourselves having a mini conference on the steps of the building and handing out a few photos which they decided to pool and rushed off to put onto electronic disk.


The Atlantis Trail

This served to break the ice somewhat and when the time came we were presented to the press by Diputado Jos Luis Paredes who quickly analysed all the Atlantis information and decided it was good for science in Bolivia and good for Tourism. Although Carlos presented it as the end of phase I, it was in fact the end of a twenty year struggle to identify a specific site which conformed to the location of the Atlantis city on the Altiplano, as well as a twenty year effort to bring this site to the attention of scientists or those who ought to concern themselves more about studying this area in the future to see what geological and climatological changes brought about the demise of this ancient city and culture. In my previous book Atlantis: The Andes Solution I listed 50 of the comparisons with Platos text which showed that the Altiplano was the site of Atlantis. The new location on the edge of the lake listed a further 20 points in favour listed as follows: 1 The location is in the centre of the Altiplano about five miles or fifty Greek stades from the sea i.e. from Lake Poopo. The site matches Platos description of a hill of no great size, or mountain that is low on all sides, having a low profile circular base. The circular base of the gently sloping cone is the required 21 stades (the stade here being 600ft) in diameter. The mound in the centre is the required diameter of five stades. The site is the required distance of fifty stades from the sea (lake). A sea-wall could be built at a radius of fifty stades from the site to prevent flooding. When the sea floods, the site becomes an island surrounded by a ring of water.

4 5 6 7

Press Conference 8


A canal could be dug from the sea to a ring of water around the volcano. 9 As Plato said, the part about the site is all a perfectly level plain. 10 The location is ideal for transhipment of metals and goods arriving both by sea and land. 11 Red and black stones exist on the site. 12 The church has pillars in red and black stones with white mortar just as Plato said the original buildings of Atlantis were set in red and black stones for variety. 13 The site supports a substantial village on a flattened mound in the centre. 14 It has an underground spring. 15 The site is already a sacred place. 16 A terrible volcanic explosion or cataclysm due to earthquakes has taken place here, destroying most of the original crater ring. 17 The name of the site in Aymara means broken ash and in Quechua, the volcano with something missing. 18 Legend of the Desaguadero tells of a city punished by the gods and destroyed by earthquakes and floods, subsequently being submerged by the rising waters of a lake, exactly parallel to Platos story. 19 The location on the eastern side of the Altiplano is more suitable to support a city since the site belongs to the Tertiary period whereas the volcanoes on the western side of the Altiplano belong to the present, Quaternary period and are in consequence, still active. 20 The site is the former capital of the ancient Aymara kingdom which included all of Lake Poopo and was known as Quillacas. The single main point against the site is that no rings of land and water can be seen within the site, although we must bear in mind Platos words that the site was unsearcheable, due to the shoal


The Atlantis Trail

mud which the island threw up as it settled down. This is slightly offset by the presence of the ring of water around the site when the lake floods and a perhaps neutral point is that there remain two peaks, one north and one south, which may have been part of an original circular crater ring. Certainly the site is worth further study as we dont know to what degree every single word of Platos description may be true, and at the very least we ought to know what was the earliest stage of occupation. Does the original city lie beneath the ashes of Quillacas, or beneath the waters of the nearby lake or perhaps was it vaporised in some cataclysmic event which reduced everything to atomic dust? Here at least in modern times is a site which demonstrates that every aspect of the city Plato described could be recreated here, and it is well worth the climb to the highest peak to see the inland sea of Lake Poopo shimmering in the distance and the level plain surrounding the volcano exactly as in the words of Platos text. I had formerly decided not to reveal the name of the site we had visited and been studying. However the press reporters were keen to learn the name and pressed several times this question. I nodded Carlos permission to give the name of the location. Santuario de Quillacas. The reporters breathed a sigh of relief. It was as if they had known all along.

Press Conference


Chapter Thirteen

Pampa Aullagas

DRIVING out to Santuario de Quillacas we were reaching the end of the lake and soon it would be time to branch off the main route which carried on up to Potosi. In the distance, to the right should be the site we were looking for. Without a GPS, a brief stop was called for to ask one of the locals if we were in the right direction, how far to the turn and could we see the volcano from here?

Pampa Aullagas in the distance

The young lad cheerfully stopped his bike and pointed out the sought-after site in the distance. With great enthusiasm we got the cameras out, it really looked something and the only way to describe it was like a three-tiered wedding cake

Pampa Aullagas


shimmering in the haze, with a little island surrounded with a band of white and perched on top of a larger island, right on the edge of the lake. Later we discovered that instead of Quillacas, he had accidentally pointed out another more fascinating site called Pampa Aullagas. Time was brief enough just to visit Quillacas on the day, since it was only a one day trip out from Oruro and really to do the subject justice one has to have all the camping gear or somewhere to stay on site in order to have a really good look around. So back in England once more, something was nagging me about the unseen site at Pampa Aullagas. Frequent exchange of emails with Carlos revealed that he had a good feeling about the place as well. A colleague of his had a maid who came from Pampa Aullagas and she said that part of the site had been sunk by earthquakes. His uncle, Hugo Lanza (president of the academy of the Aymara Language) pointed out that Aullagas meant Desaguadero in other words a drain and thus was reminiscent of the Legend of the Desaguadero with its tale of a city submerged by the gods as a punishment. Another interpretation of Aullagas was that it meant Ullada or hoyada meaning sunk pampa or again the combination of auga and -lla meaning no more. He had a jeep. He was the man on the spot. So it befell him to jump in his jeep and go back out to Pampa Aullagas to have a look. The day chosen was the 13th of May, 2000. With wife Anna, and two young boys, Eduardo and Elahdio, and in a rented vehicle with local driver Carlos made the journey out to Pampa Aullagas, not without some difficulty due to late rainfall and also problems with the vehicle which eventually meant returning by bus. And his arrival on site was also untimely. Unfortunately, unknown to him, someone had broken into the village church only a few days before, so when he asked to see inside the church, hoping to


The Atlantis Trail

befriend the locals and see if there were any black and red stones as at Quillacas he met with a frosty and hostile reception!

Being a good talker, Carlos was able to smooth things out, climbing all over the mound and winning the locals to his side. This site. it seemed was even better than Quillacas. First of all, it is also in the correct location, being only seven miles to the northwest of Quillacas. It is also in the centre of the north-south alignment of the plain and on the edge of the sea. It has red, black and white stones built into a wall surrounding the mound. The site contains three circular depressions two stories high, called by the locals canales. On the west side the river Laca Jahuira discharges into the lake, or when the lake is high, the river flows in the other direction, discharging into the Salar de Coipasa. On the other side of the Salar de Coipasa is the Rio Lauca which runs past Chipaya and has its origins way up near Volcan Quemado in the north-west corner of the plain near the border with Chile, collecting from here the

Pampa Aullagas


Drawing showing how Platos grid of canals fits the Altiplano, with Pampa Aullagas in the centre where the city should have been.


The Atlantis Trail

waters of the rivers Sajama, Cosapa, Turco and Lakes Macaya, Julo and others. On the east side the Rio Marquez brings down the waters from the mountain streams to the south so Pampa Aullagas stands at the confluence of two rivers which between them traverse almost the entire length of the rectangular Altiplano. If only Plato had said two rivers approached the city on either side and discharged thereabouts into the sea instead of using that word canal! It is remarkable to think that in the wet season, this river which springs up in the mountains near Sajama and Volcan Quemado, could connect all the way to Pampa Aullagas and then via Lake Poopo and the Desaguadero river right up to the far end of Lake Titicaca, an incredible distance of 164 miles (264km) from Sajama to Pampa Aullagas and 350 miles (563km) from Pampa Aullagas to the far end of Lake Titicaca! So ships arriving by sea here could certainly be bringing produce from all quarters as Plato said. But there is something further that makes this site more attractive as the site of the sought after city. Part of the site has been sunk in what the locals call el gran diluvio - the Great Flood and the name "Aullagas" is Aymara meaning the same as "Desaguadero" or "drain" being where the two rivers discharge into Lake Poopo. The lake which is today called Lake Poopo was also at on time called Lago Aullagas. Now remember the legend of the sunken city in Bolivia was called the Legend of the Desaguadero, today, Desaguadero is the river which drains from Lake Titicaca into Lake Poopo and everyone has forgotten or is unaware of the original Desaguadero at Aullagas. So with Aullagas meaning Desaguadero, the legend could equally have been called the Legend of Aullagas and here is a site which really sank into the sea.

Pampa Aullagas


Quillacas may be considered Bolivias challenge to Thera on account of it's similarity with two protruding peaks and outstanding views over the level plain whereas Aullagas perhaps lives up even more closely to Platos legend since it bears the name of a local legend of a lost city and is also a site which actually sank into the sea. Now we can certainly dismiss the notion that Atlantis was ever in Thera or underneath the Atlantic Ocean when all the features Plato described are found here on the rectangular Altiplano and nowhere else in the world. As a Newcastle professor once put it on a radio interview, "if a site is to be considered as Atlantis, then it must at least correspond to the things that Plato said." Here then is Bolivias challenge not only to Thera but to the world, if you want to see what Atlantis really was like then come and see for yourselves. Follow The Atlantis Trail.

Satellite photo showing Pampa Aullagas centre left and Santuario de Quillacas centre right.

Part II

Millennium Atlantis Expedition

Chapter I

Some Preliminaries.
It was a long flight via New York and Miami. At Miami the pilot never showed up so we had a delay of one hour in order to find a substitute. Then after take off, we were one hour into our route (this must have put us somewhere over the Bermuda Triangle?) when the new pilot decided to turn back to Miami due to an engine warning light coming on in the cockpit. We eventually arrived in La Paz three hours late, but it was good to be back again. This time I was here courtesy of Of Like Mind Productions who were making an Atlantis film for the Learning Channel and Discovery. I checked into the Paris Hotel on Plaza Murillo. In the late evening a squad of soldiers marched out of the palace opposite, I thought it was in preparation to put down some sort of riot or demonstration but next moment a band struck up. A parked jeep decided to join in with flashing lights and anti-theft siren blaring. When the band stopped, the jeep stopped. When the band started, the jeep joined in again. Interesting musical score these Bolivian bands! I met the film team that evening and was introduced to Lisa Hutchison the director, a lady of great charm, beauty and personality. She was accompanied by George Villegas of Zingara Tours who were to handle the jeeps and food requirements. I was surprised to learn that a van was supposed to follow us around to bring food supplies and had also been

Millenium Atlantis Expedition


considerably annoyed to learn that George had changed the route of the Trail. After all that was our purpose in being here. But it

The island brought forth all kinds of fruits in plenty...

seemed that with the approaching wet season they had considerable reservations about driving out across the salt flats to Chipaya. However when George produced four large 250,000 scale maps taped together and with the areas of interest marked up in yellow, he seemed like a person we could work with and who had taken the expedition seriously. We had some time to spare for acclimatisation and for the film team to take care of some preliminary details. I wandered around the market area, buying a new bright-yellow storm-proof jacket and ended up on the plaza in front of the cathedral where a large number of stalls had also been set up. Right in the centre of this square there was a reed boat-building demonstration.


The Atlantis Trail

The boat builder was grinning at me profusely, perhaps in expectation that I might buy one of the many model reed boats on display. But he also beckoned me into the centre so I went over and we introduced ourselves. His name was Porfirio Limachi, son of Demetrio Limachi and he proudly brought out some books showing how his father and family had built the reed ships Ra II and Tigris for Thor Heyerdahl. I fished into my bag and brought out a large plan I had for a giant reed ship based on the lines of the petrified Noahs Ark formation found on a mountain near Mt Ararat in Turkey. He was surprised, astonished and delighted, it seemed he had also been drawing up plans or ideas for giant reed ships, so we went back to my hotel for a couple of hours yarn about giant ships and sailing the Ocean seas. Before leaving me, he had taken me off to one of the photo copy shops so that he could have a copy of the plan in order to build a model and I also promised him a copy of the disks I had with the relevant cross-sections. Porfirio was keen for us to meet Darius Morgan, head of Crillon Tours, particularly since Porfirio, his father and uncle were working on reed ships up at the complex belonging to Crillon Tours at Huatajata on the southern shore of Lake Titicaca. Darius was out at that time, but his deputy, Tony Riviero Ovieda immediately welcomed us in, said how he understood the problems of film companies being hard pressed for time and offered us the use of the company hydrofoil and hotels free of charge should we decide to go up to the Island of the Sun. He also arranged an appointment for us to meet Darius later who in turn reconfirmed the offer and was keen to help us in any way he could. I was also keen to find out any more information regarding the history and origins of the Urus, so Porfirio introduced me to another interesting friend of his, Manuel Rojas Boyan, a Bolivian journalist with Danish contacts who had prepared a 250 page draft book on the Urus to show that the Urus were the people of Atlantis. Manuel began by telling me how the Urus had originated

Millenium Atlantis Expedition


in Oruro which had formerly been called UruUru until the Spanish had found that difficult to pronounce so had changed it to Oruro. They had lived on floating artificial islands on Lake UruUru until 40 years ago when the earth had opened up and all the water disappeared. These Urus were called by the Aymara, Uru Murato, they had dark skins and wore nothing except feathers around the genitals. Another branch of the Urus was the Uru Chipayas found today in the village of Chipaya in the middle of the Salar de Coipasa. Then there were the Uru Irihitos who lived in the River Desaguadero up by Lake Titicaca. They followed the traditional life of fishing and being good navigators. Then further north in Puno there were the Urus who lived on the floating islands of totora reeds. There were apparently some 45 different kinds of totora reeds but everything had started in Oruro then because of the scarcity of the correct type of reed, the Urus had moved further away following this circuit as far as Puno. Until 1952 the Urus had carried dead persons by boat to be buried at sea in Puno, but the authorities when they heard of this put a stop to it and prevented the Urus from following their traditional circuit and made them stay in their fixed locations. Tiahuanacu had originally been on the shores of the lake and when the Aymara first came there they found the ruins of the city and all those big stones which had originally been transported on boats by the Urus. In Puma Punka was found the red sandstone which came from 250km away, also the basalt which came as far away as from Oruro. The Uru had been one nation during the last 509 years they had refused to come to agriculture, they were masters in building reed boats and didnt want to mix with other people. A meeting was proposed for June/July of 2001 to reunite all the Uru people and make them one nation again. I asked Manuel if he could give an explanation as to what the name Uru meant. Well in the early 1500s a Jesuit priest asked


The Atlantis Trail

a man What are you he answered I am Uru what does it mean? We dont know, we are not human beings, we dont have red blood we have black blood. Are you Andes people? - No, I am Uru. The Urus had their own language called Uchumataka in this language Uru means perhaps man. Sometimes they are said to be People of the Light or people who were here before light came. Documentary films always require lots of interviews with interesting characters and Lisa had fixed it for us to meet the Vice Minister of Culture, Antonio Eguino, a former film maker himself. He in turn fixed it for us to have a superb reception at the Tiahuanacu Institute where we met the head of DINAAR (the Bolivian Archaeological Institute) Lic Jose Teijero, who not only loaned us his personal office to film in, but also some archaeologists to show us around the Institute and talk on camera, Javier Escalante Moscoso and Freddie Arce. It seemed that the areas we were interested in, namely Quillacas and Pampa Aullagas had in fact been the centre of very early settlement by formative, primitive people, stone tools had been found at Aullagas and there were many myths and legends in that area, particularly also in connection with the nearby volcano known as Tunapa named after one of the most important gods of the Andean folklore. It was thought that from here, ancient man might have migrated to the Tiahuanacu area. What was also surprising was that there was an apparent gap in knowledge for this area dating from 30,000BC to 4,000BC, also talk of pottery dating from 12,000BC to 20,000BC and on the border with Brasil dating to 12,000 BC. Of Quillacas, it was known to have been once a large and important ceremonial and religious centre, but the climate had

Millenium Atlantis Expedition


changed to a dry climate and it was assumed that it had previously had a large population. Another interview we later conducted with another member of the Institute, Eduardo Pareja was of particular interest since he had made many dives on the sunken city of Marcacampata in the centre of Lake Titicaca just north of the Island of the Sun. I found it of particular interest when he told us that the ancient peoples of this area had constructed and located their

Gold mask from precious metals museum

cities on principles of triangulation, the city in the lake being aligned between Sajama, Illimani and Illampu. Other triangles might include two points on the ground and one in the cosmos. He had found a sunken temple on one of his dives, and was very keen to point out to us that in the Andean tradition, a temple was not a place with four walls, but rather a place with


The Atlantis Trail

a sacred landscape, in other words in ancient times a temple was nature. As well as offering boxes containing gold sacrificial objects, he had also found a ceramic in the shape of a sea horse. Eduardo was also keen on the area around Volcan Tunapa and told us there was a legend of a city under the salt flats of Uyuni. At the precious metals museum we were told how the city of Tiahuanacu had been plated in gold making it a golden city. Lisa was keen to find out if the curator knew anything about Orichalcum, the alloy of gold and copper, it appeared the curator had not heard much about this one, but turning to the case full of gold artefacts behind us, she noticed that the arm bracelet because of its reddish tinge was in fact made of an alloy of copper and gold orichalcum! Another interesting character we had lined up for the film was Oscar Corvison, a 300 years old archaeo-astronomer we were told. He had done a lot of studies at Tiahuanacu and concluded that the western wall of the enclosure known as the Kalasasaya should contain 11 pillars, not ten as found as at present since there was clearly one missing in the restoration of the wall, and the full compliment of 11 pillars meant that the year had formerly been divided into 20 parts. I liked this idea since it linked Tiahuanacu to the numerical system of the Incas and Mayans who also counted in twenties. Remembering also that the Stadium of Atlantis as found on the level plain was a 1/20th of a minute of degree of latitude instead of the 1/10th of a minute of degree of latitude as found in Greece. We went out to the site at Tiahuanacu with him, and he pointed out the missing stone from the wall, some 229 metres further west from the wall and which he said had been put there by Dark Forces. It had first been noticed by Artur Posnansky and Oscar was convinced it was the duty of the

Millenium Atlantis Expedition


authorities to restore it to its proper place so that the calendar might function correctly once more. There was some debate as to whether Tiahuanacu had been a port or not. The giant stones at Puma Punka were tossed sideways as if by earthquakes and a set of steps there looked like it might have been the waterfront which it was supposed to have been. There we found some stones with sculptures continuing the frieze we had seen on the Gateway to the Sun at the Kalasasaya and noted the minutely drilled holes which originally supported the gold overlay making this indeed the "city of gold" Controversy also surrounded the age of the site, conventional dating put it to 1580BC at the earliest until 1200AD, but astroastronomers favoured a much earlier date such as the 15,000BC quoted by Posnansky based on the alignments of the buildings. From Tiahuanacu we went on up to Huatajata, checking into the Inca Utama Hotel and Spa belonging to Crillon Tours and shot some film of the reed boats there including a replica of the Ra II just before sunset. I was considerably impressed by the whole complex, the Eco Village as it was called where you could find not only the traditional reed boat building but also llamas, copies of the round Uru huts, a floating island of reeds and even an example of the raised field farming method with two little plots of land enclosed by miniature canals, the original purpose had been that the water surrounding the raised fields raised the temperature creating a micro-climate so that more produce could be grown, also the canals themselves were formerly filled with fish and ducks thus contributing more to the natural environment. Porfirio had been working day and night to make the model of the reed ship for me, and although he had incorporated two of the dagger boards known as orzas, the shape had come out more in the traditional barge shape of the lake boats rather than the tear shape vessel I was proposing. Still, we rigged it up with the new sail plan based on the ancient Egyptian rectangular sails which when tilted up became perfectly balanced around the


The Atlantis Trail

Demetrio Limachi weaving rope from totora reeds.

Millenium Atlantis Expedition


Demetrio Limachi weaving rope from totora reeds

Floating island

Demitrio Limachi on the floating island

Demetrio Limachi on the floating island


The Atlantis Trail

Limachi brothers Demetrio (left) and Jose checking the rigging on replica of Ra II

Sunset over Lake Titicaca

Millenium Atlantis Expedition 145

Sunset at the Limachi boatbuilders yard


The Atlantis Trail

masts and would surely give a better windward performance than the previous square sails and Porfirio undeterred was keen to get on with the construction of another model in the correct proportions. Such projects however, for we had dubbed this one reconstructing Noahs Ark, need funding and sponsorship to become reality. It was back to Oruro once more as our staging post for the Millennium Atlantis Expedition, due to leave Oruro on the 7th December. We filmed the hot springs at Pazna which supplied the modern covered baths there and revisited the giant canal out in the desert to the west of Lake Poopo, George had not come with us but sent instead his younger brother John, who quickly pointed out some cold pools in the centre of the route of the canal. This was the explanation of how the canal always had water even in the height of summer even though it was also now several feet in elevation above the rest of the level plain the underground springs fed it throughout the year. We were as usual late in arriving which meant driving up towards Turco in the dark and also by that time, in the rain. George had booked us into a new hotel which had just opened, the Hotel Pumiri, supposedly at Pumiri but in fact 15 kilometres to the south-east of Turco. He told us that the hotel was being opened specially for us and the best I could figure out for its location was that it must be somewhere near the Turco/La Joya /Toledo crossroads. I had pre-programmed this co-ordinate into the GPS so when we arrived at this spot said to John, over to you, where is the hotel? In the dark and rain we had driven past the entrance which was nothing more or less than a track into the bush but at this point we were unexpectedly blessed by Providence in the shape of a man with a flashlight leaping out in front of the jeep. He was accompanied by a few others and it turned out to be the Aduanas or customs police. It was an unbelievable stroke of good fortune

Millenium Atlantis Expedition


for they directed us a few yards back the way we had come to the hotel turn off. Even then we still had doubts about it, driving along this rough track with puddles of water everywhere and when we came to a fork in the road we had serious doubts, especially when shortly later we came to a gully with a stream flowing down it and the heavy Chevrolet Suburban jeep laden with extra gasoline tanks and all the baggage on the roof lurched to the side and came to a stop in the mud. John, ever keen to please, went on afoot, and confirmed that the hotel was right up ahead. The owner came up with his jeep and took us back to the hotel, leaving the drivers to figure out a way to get across, which they could not until he went back to help them. When we finally arrived on the hotel doorstep, we were warmly greeted by the owner Adolfo Biggemann and George Senior, George Villegas father. They were both delighted to see us and keen to tell us all the stories about pyramids, mysterious stairs into the underground where the invisibles entered the earth and all the mysteries of the region around Pumiri. Best of all there was a blazing log fire crackling away in the hearth of the lounge so after all it seemed the off-road trek to the hotel had been worth it. The hotel had formerly belonged to the mining camp just there which worked copper out of the hills and thus explained its countryside location. Adolfo now had a vein of a semi-precious blue and white speckled stone which he cut and polished and had christened Pumirite, saying it would open up the third eye and kindly donated me a sample. Since the hotel was just in the process of opening up for the public they had not yet had time to fix up the road properly or put up bigger signs to be easily seen at night, something which was now on the agenda to be done pretty quickly! The hotel is ideally located for tourism and adventure in this fascinating region in the future, so here are the co-ordinates for the benefit of future visitors!


The Atlantis Trail

Location, 18 15.100 South, 06804.603 West Entrance off Oruro (Toledo) road to Turco at 1813.527South, 06804.456 West On the way to the Pumiri Hotel we had passed by the entrance to the valley of Corque and in the glim light thought we could see the outline of three pyramids. So when Adolpho told us that his brother Max Biggemann had found a Mexican-style pyramid at Estancia St Bartolome which was in the upper Corque valley we were keen to investigate. Leaving the Hotel Pumiri, we could see clearly in the distance what looked like a version of the Great Pyramid of Egypt. When the jeep traversed past the other side, it was apparent that the rest of the structure was a natural feature, in other words a mountain! A guide was provided from the nearby village of Turco to take us to the pyramids, but it seemed he had different pyramids in mind, for in the entrance to another valley he took us to three pyramidal-like geysers. We should have met up with a Bolivian acquaintance, Jorge Asin the night before as I had promised him the opportunity to climb Volcan Quemado with us, which I was keen to do. But due to the rains and the difficulty of locating the hotel at that time, I was not surprised that he did not show up and Lisa decided that since the hotel was too far from the volcano, we should press on and try to return to the three pyramids we had seen the day before and try and locate the Mexican pyramid if it were not too far away. We arrived at the entrance to the valley of Corque once more, but in daylight it seemed the pyramids were in fact large lumps of rock. However the Estancia St Bartolome was not too far away so we decided to give it a try and see if there were in fact a pyramid there. Entering the village of Corque, we stopped at the local police station where we found another guide who knew of the pyramid at St Bartolome.

Millenium Atlantis Expedition


It was supposedly 20 minutes away over the ridge, but took considerably longer than that, perhaps an hour, by jeep crawling painfully slowly over the rocky track, a journey which would be four hours on foot.

Mysterious wall at St Bartolome

Entering the valley of St Bartolome, we were astonished to find in front of us, leaning up against the cliff face what appeared to be the remains of a gigantic stone wall composed of blocks of stone cut in the same cyclopean manner as at Sacsayhuaman in Peru. The stones most definitely looked cut with right-angled corners in places, but it also seemed that the whole cliff face had been fractured into parallel layers and worn smooth by time. If not a man-made wall, the other explanation must be that it was a natural feature, and perhaps it was this type of fragmentation which led the ancients to cut their blocks of stone in this earthquake-proof manner, or even in the beginning, to dismantle these natural walls and re-assemble them as walls


The Atlantis Trail

elsewhere, thus explaining how they had mysteriously cut and fitted the stones together.

Close-up of wall, man-made or natural?

The pyramid lay just in front of us. Again, it was difficult to say whether it was natural or man-made. It seemed to have lost many of its facing stones, which were also built up in layers. The front of the pyramid measured some 270ft approximately and the height was considerable, especially when one climbed the steep steps leading to the chapel on the top . It certainly reminded me of the Castillo of Kukulcan in Mexico, except that it was half a pyramid, not being a free standing structure but instead leaning up against the cliff face. Bearing in mind Eduardo Parejas story about the sacred locations being related to triangulations of the sacred mountains peaks, I later checked out the location of the pyramid of St Bartolome. Using the GPS, it worked out at 113 miles from the

Millenium Atlantis Expedition


The pyramid leans up against the cliff face

Front view of pyramid


The Atlantis Trail

peak of Illimani in the north near La Paz, and 106 miles from the volcano of Tunupa in the south. So one could fairly well say that it was in the centre of the alignment between these two sacred sites.

Some llamas pose for the camera in front of the pyramid

Chapter II

The view from Atlantis

Our base for Pampa Aullagas was to be an alohamiento or little hostal in the village of Challapata on the north edge of the lake. It took some difficulty to find, and there was nothing remarkable about Challapata itself except that there was also a gold mine here, and also a wonderful little store which sold some wonderful Andean blankets and every other type of hardware you could think of. The route to Quillacas and Pampa Aullagas was via Huari, famous for its beer said to be especially good due to the purity of the water there. Leaving Challapata, we stopped on the roadside with a view of the lake, at exactly the same spot we had stopped just over a year earlier. Now it was apparent why Quillacas could not be seen from here, it was absorbed in the foreground of a much larger mountain range behind, and it was from this point that Pampa Aullagas stood out with an otherworld fascination, drawing us magnetically towards it. The road from Huari went on and on, and still no turn yet towards Aullagas. The reason was that when eventually we did find the turning, it was a new road not shown on my map and as soon as we turned to the right, there directly in front of us like some mirage at the end of the road was Pampa Aullagas. The road however led first of all to Santuario de Quillacas, so we made the climb up that mound once more and took the fork to the right in the direction of Aullagas.


The Atlantis Trail

Facing us now was the elusive site in the distance, it seemed to be shielded by a mound which at first looked like part of the site, but when we had crossed this point there was the mound of Pampa Aullagas itself or to give it its correct name, Cerro Santos Villca since Pampa Aullagas was the name of the village at the side of the peak.

Approaching Pampa Aullagas

We rolled into the main square of Pampa Aullagas late in the afternoon and found it completely deserted except for a handful of schoolchildren, It seemed the village was occupied in some graduation party somewhere out the back. Lisa grabbed the Polaroid and amused the children with a few happy snaps, then we were climbing the outer wall of the mound, and indeed it did seem like a wall for it appeared to be cased in a conglomeration of facing stones, many of which had tumbled away and fallen to the ground or disappeared. And the colours were correct, black red and white. The construction itself was similar to that construction itself was similar to that of the Chulpas or burial

The view from Atlantis


tombs found all over the Altiplano. These are said to have been built by los gentiles gente antes de Aymara people before the Aymara. The Aymara language itself is thought to have interesting origins, some say it is the original first language (the language of Adan or Adam) and some have adapted it as a computer programming language in the form

The wall of the outer ring dwarfs Pampa Aullagas

of a universal translator. Climbing this first wall, we found ourselves on a level platform on a ring of land from the top of which we could clearly see what looked like the remains of a sandy bottomed canal circling away to the right where it disappeared into thin air, and to the left continuing round in a circle, interrupted by a wide gap where one could easily imagine ancient boats sailing through into this inner channel. Next day we were back again, hoping this time to make the climb to the peak. There was a pilgrims route via the centre of


The Atlantis Trail

Remains of the sea wall

Close up of sea wall construction

The view from Atlantis


this first canal. We hoped to find an easy way inside via the broken-off entry to the canal but instead the team laboriously sought out another route until we encountered the pilgrims path once more and at the base of the central cone itself found there another sandy bottomed canal-like depression, but at a much higher elevation than the earlier one. Had the central cone been pushed up when the outer parts sunk?

View inside outer channel on the northwest looking left

Or had Plato embellished the canal factor, making all the canals interconnected and perfectly circular when they were indeed natural and somewhat irregular creations of nature? The central cone was a steep climb, notable for its rocks and cactus and on the summit there was the chapel to St Michael with further over an even higher peak with outstanding views over the level plain, the sea in the distance, the canal-like river Laca Jahuira to the west. There was time for a few photos and a bit of an interview on camera then a group photo using the self-timer and the


The Atlantis Trail

Sandy bottomed canal or former zone of sea circles to the right and disappears.....

The view from Atlantis


From the summit the sandy depressions mark the former inner and next zones of sea

The canal-like Rio Laca Jahuira passes by the site and discharges into the sea.


The Atlantis Trail

camera perched on a rock. But a big storm could be seen in the distance and with ominous clouds and the roar of thunder and lightning flashes, the descent was a lot quicker and more enthusiastic than the climb! We took another route down, exiting by the broken-off end of the inner canal, and just here we found a continuation of the sea wall which seemed to surround the site, covered in white coral-like deposits. On the way back from Pampa Aullagas we paused to take a GPS reading of the mound we had crossed, from this side it looked more like an artificial embankment or sea-wall. The driver called it a rompa-ollas a breakwater! It plotted exactly at the distance of 50 stades (of 300ft) and fell on my map exactly where the perimeter wall which Plato said enclosed the city at a distance of 50 stades should have been! It was the next morning before we could come back again. This mound sure did look like a breakwater. We climbed it and measured it. It was perfectly flat on top and 1200ft wide. Quite suitable to have supported the numerous houses which Plato said had been built upon it. It was also at the same elevation as the sea wall surrounding the site itself. If this could be proven as the perimeter wall, this would surely confirm this as the site of Atlantis! At the far end we found tumbled down stones once more suggesting it had been part of a greater wall which had broken off and disappeared. Pieces of coral lay everywhere so we collected some samples for dating and also returned to the main site to scrape some samples off the stone wall there which could be similarly dated and proved that at one time the site had been under water. Back in La Paz I returned once more to the Military Institute and obtained a 1/50,000 scale map and also an air photo of the site. The reception area inside the guardroom had been rebuilt and seemed a whole lot friendlier than on my first visit five years ago. I handed in my student card and was given a

The view from Atlantis


The view from Atlantis, the level plain with the sea and mountains in the distance


The Atlantis Trail

Panorama of Atlantis. The original sea level was just below the rim of the flat, ring of land seen on the right.

The view from Atlantis


Turning the corner onto the square in front of the Instituto Militario Geographico I came to an abrupt halt lined up on the parade square was a detachment of soldiers with machine guns on parade accompanied by a military band which struck up at that precise moment not in my honour but to present arms to the Officer of the Day. Once inside the Institute I quickly located a 1/50,000 scale map unfortunately they had no geological maps but I was told these were held in another mining/geology institute which turned out to be near the Tiahuanacu museum. I ordered an enlargement of the air photo and this was delivered at 2pm, a clear crisp copy on which one could see every detail though the details were still difficult to relate to what was on site and also on the contour map. The overall site had the appearance of a four leaf clover that is if one can imagine the southern leaf of the clover broken off and sunk. This is very similar to the Andean Cross, which is a sort of square cross and part of the Andean folklore. The circular canal and its outer ring of land sat on the inner rim of the western leaf with a little bay separating it from its counterpart on the northern leaf and so on making it also similar to a Celtic Cross which is a cross with a circle surrounding its centre. Consulting the contours and distances, it seemed that the river Laca Jahuira itself might have been part of the outer channel, also the canal we had seen on site could well fill with water if the level of the lake were high enough remembering that according to Plato the lips of the land circles were raised just sufficiently above the level of the sea and the plain surrounding the site had sunk considerably. In fact the water level must have been higher because the sea wall was covered with coral up to a certain level, and if the water were returned to that level then there would actually be rings of land and rings of sea just as Plato described. But the site itself seemed to have a configuration more in keeping with nature than Platos perfectly circular concentric rings. It has also been one of the problems of Platos story as to


The Atlantis Trail

The summit of the central hill with an electrical storm coming in

The view from Atlantis


whether he made it up or whether it had a basis in truth. He himself states three times that it is based upon a true story and that this story is to form the root of the one which they will recount at the Festival. Thus we have fixed in our minds this image of perfectly circular canals and rings of land adorned with Greekstyle temples plated in gold and other metals but we must always remember Platos words that he used Greek names to make the account more agreeable to his readers and we are searching for the very kernel of truth behind the legend. In fact Plato himself never actually said circular canals. He said that Poseidon "to make the hill impregnable broke it off all round about; and he made circular belts (or zones) of sea and land enclosing one another alternately, some greater, some smaller, two being of land and three of sea which he carved as it were out of the centre of the island. And that is what we found, except that the level of the water had dropped so much that the "belts of sea" were now exposed as sandy bottomed depressions. And the site certainly would have been impregnable. For us, it was no easy task climbing up the outer ring wall then down into the sandy depression, up another ring wall then another depression before making the ascent of the central hill. Standing on the very summit of the central hill with the level plain all around, the sea in the distance and the Rio Laca Jahuira (formerly called the Rio Desaguadero - just like the name in the Bolivian legend of the sunken city) passing by the site to discharge into the sea, the magnificence and splendour of the place was such that it was easy to imagine that here indeed was the sacred mountain where according to Plato the kings of Atlantis assembled every 5 and every 6 years. Now it remains for some serious archaeology to be done on the site. All the required factors exist here, most obvious of all the occurrence of some natural calamity which has destroyed half the location so that indeed both Plato was correct when he said that it


The Atlantis Trail

had disappeared so that the site was unsearcheable and also Sir Francis Bacon who said that something remained but cut off by water. The day before leaving I met one of the local archaeologists at dinner. He told me he had some red-haired mummies to investigate on the Bolivia/Chile border. He also brought along a magnificent axehead made of Orichalcum to show us. He didnt seem to want to talk much about Aullagas, but he did say that it was the home of the Water God. It was only later on the plane going home that it occurred to me, the water god is the same as the sea god and the Greek name for the sea god is Poseidon, and the home of Poseidon is Atlantis. In the Greek story, Poseidon, God of the Sea, marries a woman who lived on a hill and "broke the ground off all round about to make it impregnable to man." In the Bolivian legend, Tunupa, God of the Sea, marries someone who lived on a hill and created the formation at Pampa Aullagas. There is no doubt therefore that Plato's legend had its origins in Bolivian legend, perhaps brought to Egypt by those trading in coca. Future science will tell the truth, but I leave the last words to Eduardo Pareja who at the end of his interview particularly impressed me with his final words, We should not misuse our technology to destroy nature but instead find a way of living in harmony with nature.


The view from Atlantis


Millennium Atlantis Expedition top row, Seven, Jennifer, Jim Allen, Lisa, Pride


Resum Having identified the rectangular plain called the Altiplano next to Lake Poopo as the plain corresponding to that which Plato described as the site of Atlantis, evidence has been sought on the ground which might lead to the location of the city itself, also evidence has been sought of an extensive canal system which was said to have existed on the plain. Plato said the city was submerged beneath the sea and the site was in consequence unsearcheable due to the shoal mud which the island threw up as it settled down, however a seventeenth century book by the English philosopher Sir Francis Bacon suggested that the original site had not completely sank beneath the sea, but been overwhelmed by the rising waters of the sea, which in Bolivia would correspond to the large inland sea called Lake Poopo, formerly called Lago de Panza or Lago Aullagas. In fact, Bacon specifically says that the site was not destroyed by an earthquake as Plato had said, but sunk in a great Deluge or Flood. So far a total of four sites with similar features to the missing site have been identified, as well as two possible sections of the massive 600ft wide canal which is said to have run around the whole plain. Numerous other canals exist in the region of Chipaya as well as nearer to Oruro where they are plotted on local maps, often running along natural watercourses which have been improved upon by excavation. The original site of the missing city was said to be a low hill near the plain, about five miles inland from its centre and five miles from the sea. This hill was surrounded by two concentric



rings of land and three concentric rings of water and a channel lead from this site to the nearby sea or lake. The present sea is Lake Poopo, but when the Salars de Coipasa and Salar de Uyuni flood, they also become inland seas. Sites with features similar to the missing city. Site 1 Volcan Columna Location: 68 degrees, 4 minutes west, 18 degrees, 30 minutes south. Description: a circular ring of land in the north centre of the plain. Site Report: seen in the distance by Jim Allen on 1999 April expedition. Looks like low flat plateau but air photos show a ring of land with a lake in the centre. Interview with local mining engineer suggested that it had originated as a gaseous bubble which had exploded and what existed now was the material which fell back to earth. The surrounding plain is suitable for it to be approached by a canal and many natural canal-like features often carrying water exist nearby. Relatively far from lake Poopo or Salar de Coipasa. Site 2 Volcan Quemado Location: 68 degrees, 45 minutes west, 18 degrees 37 minutes south. Description: Quaternary period volcano, still active, located on the far west side of the plain not far from the border with Chile. The volcano rises to a height of 13829ft, putting it at its highest point 1,829ft above the level of the flat rectangular plain. The volcano consists of a central cone about half mile in diameter located within a crater which in turn is located within an outer crater thus making it similar to the physical description of the ringed island location of Atlantis. The central


The Atlantis Trail cone has a later cone grafted onto its northern face due to an eruption perhaps two or three thousand years ago. Site report: The centre is covered in large shattered rocks similar to those ejected due to volcanic processes. It has a fortress-like aspect and was visited by Jim Allen in December of 1998 but due to constraints of time it was only possible to view it from the summit of the southern crater rim. The site is too far from Lake Poopo and too high to have been the site of the sought after city, but worth another visit to explore inside the volcano, particularly as legend tells of another city veiled by a lake hidden in the Andes, and should the craters become filled with water, the central cone would become an island in a lake

Site 3 Santuario de Quillacas. Location: 66 degrees, 57 minutes west, 19 degrees, 14 minutes south. Description: Perfectly circular gently sloping volcano dating from the Tertiary period and situated on the southern shore of Lake Poopo about five miles from the edge of the lake and in the centre of the rectangular plain. Site report Visited by Jim Allen and Carlos Aliaga in September 1999. The centre of the volcano has a raised mound which supports the village of Santuario de Quillacas supplied with water from an underground spring. The village is flanked to the north and also to the south by two peaks, remnants of a circular crater ring which was destroyed in ancient times. Material washed down by rainwater forms the gently sloping cone dating to the Quaternary period. Red and black stones exist on site and are built into the walls of the church forming a colourful pattern similar to the ancient buildings of Atlantis as described by Plato.



Site 4 San Martin Location: 67 degrees, 35 minutes west, 19 degrees, 16 minutes south. Description: Volcano on the east of the Salar de Coipasa and to the west of Lake Poopo. Reported to have stone built terraces in circular formations. Site 5 Pampa Aullagas Location: 67 degrees, 4 minutes west, 19 degrees, 11 minutes south. Description: Site on the south-west edge of the lake and flanked by two rivers, one on the north-west and one on the east side. Seen in the distance on the Sept 1999 expedition, It had the appearance of a "three-tiered wedding cake" with a little island surrounded by a white band perched upon the top of a lower island. Corresponds well to the description of being in the centre of the plain five miles from the sea. When the lake rises, the site becomes an island, suggesting why it would be necessary to build a circular wall such as Plato described to keep back the sea from the original city. Site Report: First visited by Carlos Aliaga in the company of his wife, Anna and two young boys, Eduardo and Elahdio, Carlos reported Pampa Aullagas had all three of the required types of stone, i.e. black, red and white with sandy rings "two stories high running around it like an ascending sine wave. It also has the canal-like river Laca Jahuira discharging into the sea on its north-west side (the river that appears and disappears on aerial photos it can be seen to be supplied by an underground well which explains why it has water even in the height of the dry season) and the Rio Marquez discharging into the sea on its east side. The Rio Marquez brings water down from the mountains to the south whereas the Rio Laca Jahuira


The Atlantis Trail connects first with the Salar de Coipasa and thus the Rio Lauca whose origins are in far away Volcan Sajama in the north-west corner of the plain. Apparently in Aymara, the word "Aullagas" means the same as "Desaguadero" or "drain", which is a good pointer since the Bolivian legend of the missing city sunk by earthquakes and floods is called The Legend of the Desaguadero. The locals report that part of the original site was destroyed in "el gran diluvio" - the Great Flood. Geysers and underground wells are found on the plain all around the site which contribute to it flooding easily. The lake was also formerly called Lake Aullagas and according to a report by Oswaldo Rivera the River Desaguadero once flowed north into Lake Titicaca instead of the reverse as at present. Visited on the December expedition by Jim Allen and Lisa Hutchison, the site was awesomely impressive, the circular harbour-like canal looked like it could have held water when the lake was higher and the lower parts of the wall surrounding the site had broken off and disappeared. The stones on the sea wall were covered in coral deposits proving that the site was at one time under water.

Sites with features similar to the giant canal Site 6 Canal section "Laguna Jankho Kkota" Location: 67 degrees, 35 minutes west, 18 degrees, 31 minutes south. Description: Canal-like feature 15 miles north-west of Lake Poopo Site Report: Visited by Jim Allen in July of 1995 and Jim Allen and John Blashford-Snell of the Kota Mama Expedition in April of 1998. The site has a flat bottom and gently sloping highly embanked sides with a width of about 600 to 1,000ft. In the height of the dry season it



still carried water and local people pastured their flocks there. The northern section was examined for a distance of about three miles. Beyond this it continues to the south, possibly without the embankments and at one point is crossed by the outwash of Laguna Jayu Kkota which has carried away all traces of the canal itself. The opinion of archaeologist Oswaldo Rivera who accompanied the Kota Mama expedition is that it was not a canal but a natural feature. The opinion of Carlos Velasco Abecia, general secretary of the Institute of Geologists who examined aerial photos of the feature is that it is definitely a canal and not a fault line. It would be worth examining the southern section in the area which extends as far as Estancia Rosa Pata. Site 7 Canal section "Llica" Location: 68 degrees, 15 minutes west, 19 degrees, 51 minutes south. Description: In theory, the perimeter canal should also have passed on the west side of the plain thus connecting the Salar de Coipasa and the Salar de Uyuni. A barrier of rocks extends from Llica in the west as far as Salinas Garcia Mendoza on the east however a suitable place for the salars to have been connected exists at Llica. Site Report: Two cyclists who visited Llica reported a former channel connecting the two salars not at Llica, but at nearby Tres Cruces. The locals said the connection was subsequently broken due to earthquake upheaval. The geology map however shows no sign of a connection at Tres Cruces, but instead a channel, now uplifted in elevation, passing through Llica. Needs further investigation. Site 8 Canal section "Salinas Garcia Mendoza"


The Atlantis Trail

Location: 67 degrees, 2 minutes west, 19 degrees, 30 minutes south. Description: About 10 miles north-east of Salinas Garcia Mendoza, this is a possible route of the giant canal on the eastern side of the plain. In modern times, when the Salars flood, they are connected by a channel here. At this location, satellite imagery shows a section of what appears to be a canal feature similar to the one originally found at site 6. Needs on-site investigation. Evidence of canalisation on the Altiplano. Site 9 Chipaya village. Location: 68 degrees, 8 minutes west, 19 degrees, 2 minutes south Description: All around the village of Chipaya is evidence of ancient canals fallen into disuse. Easily seen on air photos, these canals are the source of flooding problems which recently hit the village. Site Report: Remedial work to prevent flooding was undertaken by the Kota Mama Expedition as many of these canals are still in use. Site 10 Lago UruUru Location: 67 degrees, 13 minutes west, 18 degrees, 9 minutes south, Description: In this area on the west banks of Lago UruUru and Lago Poopo, are many existing canals marked on modern maps. Many of these follow natural watercourses which have been excavated and improved upon. Evidence of former cultivation on the Altiplano. Resume: Evidence of former cultivation exists all around the Altiplano, particularly on mountain top sites where former field patterns are easily seen in presently abandoned locations. In



the region of Lake Titicaca, a previous system of "raised fields" surrounded by small water channels increased the local temperature and gave increased production as has been found by recreation of long abandoned plots. A similar system of narrow plots with surrounding water channels also existed in ancient Mesopotamia, now modern Iraq. Site 11 Lago Poopo Location: 67 degrees, 12 minutes west, 19 degrees, 9 minutes south. Description: Satellite images show numerous parallel string-like "tufts" or tiny canals, possible feeding abandoned plots similar to former raised fields in an area 15 miles west of Pampa Aullagas. These are fed from the river Laca Jahuira via parallel channels which at first glance appear to be natural watercourses, however enlargement suggests they are dug channels since some of them run into and are fed from their neighbouring channels. From these the myriad little canals run off at right angles, making a virtual grid of canals covering the entire area. Site Report: None available, worth investigating. Conclusion Plato said the city was located near the plain, over against its centre at a distance of 50 stades and Pampa Aullagas fits the textbook picture of an island city midway along the eastern side of the rectangular plain and 50 stades from the sea. The location explains the need for a sea wall at a distance of 50 stades to enclose the city and protect it from flooding at times when the lake level rose. It is a logical location for a commercial route centre offering a natural harbour at the junction of Lake Poopo, rivers Laca Jahuira


The Atlantis Trail

and Marquez. Like Quillacas, it has easy access to the silver mines at Potosi, tin at Catavi, silver at Oruro, gold at la Joya and copper at nearby Salinas Garcia Mendoza. Thermal springs also exist in this region, with a good route to the lower country via the Pilcomayo river (after transhipment) whose headwaters are nearby. Sufficient factors exist here for this to have been the site of the missing city namely location, natural harbour, red, black and white stone, underground water supply, circular canal, distance from sea (lake), subject to floods, part destroyed by earthquakes = Atlantis. It can be said with certainty that canals do exist on the plain, connected by numerous lateral channels as Plato said, but it is the plain itself which is rectangular and measures the required 3,000 x 2,000 stades (of 300ft), and any perimeter canal going around the plain would have to adapt to the natural features, for example going around natural obstacles like volcanic outcrops. There are also numerous natural watercourses and even today these could be joined up with linking canals to control the flow of water around the entire plain, with Pampa Aullagas (or Atlantis) at its centre where the main rivers meet Lake Poopo.

Atlantis on the Altiplano by Major Lee Smart

Appendix I
Oruro Gateway to Atlantis
Adapted from "Oruro Inmortal"; Volume two Original text by Ramiro Condarco Morales translated from the Spanish by J.M.Allen

Part I
Touching the Sky Location, boundaries and extent. The department of Oruro occupies a central-western location situated between 17 and 20 degrees south latitude, and between 66 and 70 degrees of west longitude. It is limited to the north by the department of La Paz, to the north-east by the department of Cochabamba, to the east and south by that of Potosi, and to the west by Chile. The territorial area of Oruro occupies approximately 20,000 square miles. Sajama, in western Oruro territory, is the highest mountain in Bolivia (21,463ft), seventh in the world, and third in America, after Aconcagua and Tupungato (22,831ft and 22,309ft above sea level, respectively). The Countryside The Western Mountains The western mountains of Oruro are not a mountain chain like the great chain of the east, but rather a high plain suspended


The Atlantis Trail

between 1300ft and 2600ft above the level of the "Altiplano" immediately to the east, and more than 16,400ft above the western coast to which it descends abruptly forming a type of escarpment. There stand the guardians of Sajama, to the west, the Payachatas (twins): Pomarapi and Parinacota 20,472ft and 20,767ft respectively, the latter higher than Chimborazo (20,702ft) and MacKinley (20,669ft); further south rises Alcoranco with 19,849ft, and further south still, three extinct volcanoes, Tata Sabaya with 17,667ft, Iruputuncu with 16,929ft and Tunupa further towards the east with 17,457ft above sea level The Great Mountain Chain of Oruro. The eastern mountains are no more than an extension of the two chains which, on separating from the chain of Quimsa Cruz, detaches itself, south of Santa Cruz, from that which faces east, towards Cochabamba, and converts itself into the marginal chain of the high Oruro plateau, known by the name of the Cordilleria de los Frailes.

Hydrography Lakes, rivers and salars In the south-eastern region of the aforementioned plain, extends from north to south and at an altitude between 11,942ft (Raimondi) and 12,119ft (Neveu Lemaire) above sea level, an elevation obviously less than Lake Titicaca (12,506ft: Neveu Lemaire, and 12,583ft: Raimondi) the now diminished Lake Poop, normally known also by the names of Lake of Panza or Pampa Aullaga, at least until the first half of the present century. With traditionally renowned islands like the island of Panza and Filomena, is found (or used to be found) a grand

Appendix I


vegetative marsh, part of the traditional habitat of the UruMuratos, like a grand entry into the abundant waters of legend, tradition and history, which extended to around 1042 square miles according to Jos Domingo Corts and 1081 square miles according to Eliseo Reclus. Lake Poops waters are of little depth and cover a virtually flat bottom. The depth varies between 2 inches on its wide banks and 9.6ft at its deepest point; so much has changed since the beginning of the century when it was studied by the French expedition of Crqui Montfort. Its degree of salinity is twenty times greater than Lake Titicaca. In the southwestern sector of Oruro territory is to be found another lake, equally or even more salty than the preceding one, Lake Coipasa. These lakes are, at present the two greatest remains of the ancient Lake Minchin, and if they carry waters more salty than Lake Titicaca, they are however richer in flora and fauna. Amongst the rivers of greatest importance, next to those already mentioned, is to be found, from west to east, those of the basin of Coipasa, Sajama, Todos-Santos, Lauca, Cosapa, Turco, Barras, Laka or Lakajahuira coming from Pampa Aullagas; those of the basin of Poop, Caqeusa, Corque, Luchuy-Jahuira, and the principal river of all the Oruro hydrography, Aullagas or Desaguadero, and others less significant draining towards the southeast, like Sevaruyu and Mrquez. A third lake, although transitory, is the UruUru, to the south of the city of Oruro, which has to the west, a right lateral confluent, the Desaguadero and a stream of importance, the River of Paria. These three systems are basins, that is to say closed or inward draining, since they do not carry their waters outside of the territory, towards the seas and oceans. Therefore, in long periods of scanty rain, first of all there are droughts, then, afterwards lakes


The Atlantis Trail

and lagoons dry up forming large salars or salt pans, and there you find the salars of Coipasa and Garci Mendoza, as far as the southwestern part of Oruro territory. Periferal zones of settlement and dispersal The territory of the department of Oruro shows yet a fourth gravitation orientated primarily towards its ancient pre-historic littoral governed by the proto-Uru population, particularly towards Arica, which is found in a latitude very similar to Oruro. Both cities are located around 18 degrees of meridional latitude. Arica was the main port to which the Uru population was tied in remote times; continuing in the Hispanic-colonial period with the Hispanic-Criolla population of Oruro; and in republican days until our own times, serving the Oruro population of the past century and the present. But we mustnt forget that, on this route towards the west, the Antofagasta-Oruro railway must now submit itself. Another orientation is towards the regions of La Plata. We mustnt forget that the origins of the Pilcomayo are found around Culta, in southeastern Oruro territory, and the ArgentineBolivia railway runs also across the wide eastern sector of the department from Challapata as far as the city capital proper. A third orientation of importance is that of all the south-western sector of the Department of Cochabamba, a territory tied to Oruro, because the mountainous branch of Los Frailes is nothing more than the twin of that which opens out from the mountains of Santa Vera Cruz, to the south of Quinsa Cruz (the Pass of Tres Cruces) heading, in a east-southeast direction, towards Tunari (Cochabamba). The Oruro-Cochabamba railway and the Oruro-Ayopaya road, give access to this orientation in the direction east-northeast as far as the Oruro capital. Finally, the fourth axis of gravitation is that of the north-east, along the Caracolla -El Alto road, heading towards La Paz first of

Appendix I


all, and south-Peruvian territory, then, by the railway La Paz Guaqui. The importance of all that already mentioned in respect of the location, area and frontiers in relation to zones of settlement and dispersal, is that the relief geography of the department of Oruro renders easy access to its paths, trails and roads. Thus the geographers of the French school of Paul Vidal de la Blanche, have said that the Altiplano is a "continental link" and a "stage", without which the two most important vice-royalties of America (Lima Buenos Aires), would not have been able to communicate as rapidly as they did since the beginnings of the Hispanic-colonial period. Climate The climate of the territory comprising the department of Oruro, has been considered as corresponding to the sub type climatological Dw, which signifies a microthermal climate of dry winter, or low temperature and lacking in rainfall and atmospheric humidity in winter. In such an extensive territory no range of contrasts predominate, according to the climatologists of the school of Koeppen, at least two climates: the EH, or climate of high snow produced by the currents of cold generated by the high snowy peaks of the western mountains, on one side, and the BS, belonging to the salty steps. Also there exist microclimates, or climates of local extension, prevailing in high valleys or ravines of the eastern chain. Such is the case of Urmiri. In Sajama there are places where, at 13,779ft above sea level, the temperature does not fall below 15 centigrade below zero, but more to the south in Lipez (Potosi) there are lower zones in which the temperature falls to 30 centigrade below zero.


The Atlantis Trail

The Soil The soil is the product of the relief, climate, surrounding life and the generating rocks. In that which belongs to the first three, (climate, relief and life) we would think that the dryness of the soil makes a workable soil in Oruro non-existent, but thats not so. Only in the extremely high regions, of very low temperature, of very dry climate and scarce animal and vegetable life, as in the zones of the Salar de Uyuni, the cold and the drought impede the humus, the workable mantle or layer The rare and less dense air favours evaporation and consequently drought. These soils belong to the high mountains or the wild moors. But in the less high areas, which vary between 12,467ft and 11,811ft where the cold is less dry and the evaporation less, with the advantage of even a little rainfall, the ground there carries an adequate covering of fertile soil. On the banks of the three great lakes and the great number of lagoons of the old Oruro provinces of Paria and Carangas, is found the presence of a great quantity of silicates by the side of volatile materials and small amounts of nitrogen and phosphoric acid. But there the spring and summer rains bring along with their precipitation great amounts of vital elements, compensating, for a while the natural deficiencies in such a manner that the soil is only in autumn and winter deficient of everything, and repeatedly, in spring and summer, very fertile and productive. The supposed dryness of the Oruro Altiplano is not a myth, and the main cause of its condition has been man destroying the vegetative cover. And more so in the republican period than in the Hispanic-colonial; the chronicler P. Ramirez del Aguila, points out that Oruro exported in the XVIIth century to Peru and Spain "the best cheeses in the world", a fact which reveals the natural aptitude of the soil for this task. The soils of Oruro are then suitable as much for agriculture as for cattle rearing and its derived industries, even in the

Appendix I


grounds near the salars of Salinas de Garcia Mendoza or the Salar de Coipasa. Plants flourish there called halfilas, or those adapted to this zone, like varieties of quinoa. Plant, animal and mineral riches The potential of the Oruro soil for agriculture, arboriculture or fruit and flower growing, just like cattle rearing, awaits only the enterprising hand of man. Flora In contrast to that which one might vulgarly believe, the flora of Oruro is considerably rich. This is demonstrated by the agreement existing between the flora of the distinct regional locations; the mountains, the saltflats, the lakes and the pampas. But in the description of each one of the species we must consider the habitat in which it normally flourishes. In their distinctive habitats we find grasses, herbs, shrubs and trees. We can mention a few of the most characteristic beginning with that which the current language calls agrico, technically "Boletus igniarus", renowned for its combustibility and popularly called in the native language, Kallampa or Kanchayuyu. In reality, we are dealing with edible mushrooms used in other times as tinder or inflammable material to obtain primitive fire. In marshes and lakes, watercress thrives: the Nasturtium officinale of the old botanists is the uqururu or willkuyuyu of our own people, a plant of stalks and leaves edible in salads. The famous kantuta, our national flower, is the Peryphragnus dependens of the botanists, the kantut or kantui of our native language, and the herb which brightens our gardens and has a thin stick-like woody stalk. The "cortadera" of the present Castillian language (Typa angustifolia), is the siwinqa or the sij-sij of our original, whose


The Atlantis Trail

stalks are used in basketwork. The siwinjka thrives in the mountain gorges, or in the high banks of the mountain streams. The rushes of the Spanish are represented here by the Scirpus riparius of some botanists, it is our own totora, the tutura or the matara in the original tongues. It is a plant of edible rhizomes and stalks used in basketwork and the construction of boats. Straw abounds in the steppes or uncultivated lands for which the scientific name is Stipa ichu or straw of the steppes, it is the ichu, the jichu, the iru or the chapiujsa of our original tongue. There are various firewoods. Amongst them the tola of the local language is notable, of which there are several varieties according to their subspecies, also the tula in the original tongue. We mustnt forget the yareta known and differentiated by the botanists as Azorella biloba, Azorella diapensoides or Axorella glabra. It is the yarita or the timillu in our original. It is a plant which thrives at ground level and good for covered domes. There are numerous Mantur or airampu which is the orchilla of the Spanish, with bittersweet fruit, and the qiwayllu, a cactus which grows at considerable heights. Finally, and the most important, the pair of trees represented by the two Spanish olivillos, the kiswara (Polylepis e incana) and the qeua (Budleya incana or longifolia); two trees of wood and with burnable trunks. They are found in ravines or plains at the foot of mountains forming groves and small woods, like those of the ancient region of Sajama. Fauna There is a considerable amount of original fauna, some endangered. Amongst the mammals are found species such as the alpaca (Auchenia pacos and Lama pacos), the guanaco (Aucheniaguanaco and Lama guanaco), the llama (Auchenia lama or lama glama) and the vicua (Auchenia vicunha or Vicugna vicugna).

Appendix I


The guanaco has disappeared after a process of extinction due to unknown causes. Perhaps it was a victim of intensive hunting. The vicua is also in the throes of extinction; the llama is no longer used as a beast of burden, cared for and pampered, like sheep, according to a description by the chroniclers of the XVIth century. Amongst the rodents of socio-economic importance, are found the achulla (Dipodomys nelsoni), the chinchilla (Eyromis lanigera), the vizcacha (Lagidium cuscus) and the wanku ( Cavia aparea) or cui de la pampa (pampa wanku). We must add to these mammals the armadillo or quirquincho, an animal almost symbolic of Oruro, which sadly is also becoming extinct. Amongst the birds, there are web footed and long legged species. Amongst the first are found wild ducks (serdionis carunculata) , the pariwuana (Phoenicopterus andinus), and the wallata, (Bernicia melanoptera). Amongst the second group are found the pisaka (Notoproeta Pentlandi). There is also a transitory bird which is the suri, an ostrich technically known as Rhea macrorhyncha, a variety of the American Rhea. Around the middle of the century it was very usual to see eggs of the suri for sale in the markets of Oruro, but today, sadly, this beautiful bird is also on the road to extinction, or perhaps, has already disappeared. Amongst the fish of the lakes and rivers, it is the same. The ispi (Crestias Agassizi) is, at present, the object of a commerce completely unconcerned with the survival of the species. The socalled bream: the qisintu (Orestias Pentlandi) and the umantu (Orestias Tschudi) have vanished, just like the mawri (Trichomycterus rivoulatus) and the suchI (Trichomycterus dispar). Minerals The ancient natural processes forming the Earths crust (movement, sedimentation, stratification, emergence, rainfall,


The Atlantis Trail

evaporation etc) leave in the depths of the subsoil and on the surface all sorts of formations, seams, veins, pockets, deposits of differing natural minerals of varying value, important as much for the human geography as for their commercial value. To begin with, we must take note of the deposits of the Salar de Coipasa which, at different times of the year gives rise to an intense traffic in precious salt coming from the pocket south of Oruro, a commerce orientated to the area surrounding the city capital and towards the markets of the high valleys and valleys of Cochabamba and La Paz. Original inhabitants of the aforementioned salar, popularly known by the vernacular designation of "llameros" (llama-men), are in the habit of transporting on the backs of the pack-animals, this product along with others from these lands, such as potatoes, chuo and charki or chalona. But the mining riches of Oruro stem from and still rest in, the abundance of different natural minerals , chiefly silver and tin. Silver in its natural form was very common, said Federico Ahlfeld, in the area surrounding Oruro, Carangas, Potos, Porco and other locations and deposits of the south and centre of Bolivian territory, but now it is only found in minuscule crystals, or in the showpieces preserved in collections and museums. Silver is also found in Oruro in the form of sulphuric minerals such as the common cochizo or so-called silver-grey copper, tetraedrita, which was, according to the Hispano-colonial documents, the predominating mineral of silver as much in Oruro as in Potos. There were minerals with yields of 8, 10 and 12% of silver in Potos, and of 14% in Oruro according to references by the mineralogist J.Domeyko (1879) for oruro and Colquechaca (Potosi).

Appendix I


Another silver sulphide was the renowned rosicler of silver which was very common in Carangas (Oruro), as much as in Colquechaca and Porco (Potos). Another silver sulphide is andorita, found in Itos and very common in other mines of Oruro, contrary to its scarcity in the mines of Potos. Amongst the mineral of tin found in Oruro, we must mention casiterite, an oxide of tin present in former times in the hill of Pozokoni de Huanuni, one of the old mineral production centres of the Patio firm. As to gold there are important deposits in Oruro, those of Iroco, La Joya and Corihuiri in Poop. The first, near to the city capital, with veins of quartz which gives its name to the type; the second, of deposits of pirita aurifera, which also gives its name to the corresponding type, and the third, that of Poop, which appears in the form of thin films of gold over wolfram, a variety of wolfram with iron.

Geography Political Administration Historical Geography The most remote precedents are those of the local geohistory, and go back to the times when the first pockets of human population appeared here. As far as we know up to now, the first inhabitants of our lands were the ancestors of the Urus, who extended first of all from the adjacent western coast, today belonging to Chile, and then, along all the inter-Andean corridor between Lake Titicaca (la Paz), in the north, and the village of Eskala (Sud Lipez, Potosi), in the south, crossing the mountain chain towards the east. Therefore, all the actual territory of Oruro constituted a crucially interposed centre, from west to east,


The Atlantis Trail

between coast, mountains and eastern sub-Andean zone, and between the remote Altiplanos from north to south. In this way, our remote ancestral homeland remained at the centre of a vast stage populated by nomadic hordes who moved along the course of the mountains. From that time, our actual State remained divided into two great lateral strips separated by the attractive forces of the sheltering rocks of both mountain chains. In those days were predestined the great divisions of the State, afterwards known as Carangas, in the west, and Paria, in the east, but which, in those times, were known by the names of Uracharqu and Warsicharqu. Or, to put it in another fashion, the road of the peaks, to the west, and that of the rivers and lakes to the east, or that of the hunting grounds and gathering of suri eggs, in the middle of lagoons, peaks and sandbanks to the west; and the fishing places and collection of molluscs, roots and totora stalks, in the great lakes and rivers of the eastern strip, from where flow the great volumes of water fed by the rains, rivers and mountain torrents from nearly half of all the State. The proto-uru division of that which is today our State lasted for many centuries retaining the denominations of Usu and Waruchaqu for the nearby north and the distant south, respectively Here in Oruro, appeared meanwhile, flourishing prehistoric megalithic cultures from which were created the villages of origin Uru or proto-Uru, already divided into distinct groups known as ethnic groups belonging to the first wave of population of long face and skull (dolichocephalic): Urus and Uru-Chipayas. Much later, about the time of the decline of Tiwanaku, there appeared in our territory new populations of short face and skull, known today as Aymaras, bearers of the qulla or colla civilisation, constructing buildings with stone or mud with circular or quadrangular bases, which with time were called chullpas, chullperios, gentilares or casa-tumbas, (house

Appendix I


tombs) of the Gentile peoples, those without knowledge of the Christian faith. At that period our territory remained subdivided, from north to south as before, in the two same divisions: the western and the eastern, with the previous names given by the surviving Urus, and with those of Urqusuyo (peaks) and Umasuyo (waters) by the recently arrived proto-Aymaras. The division lasted into Inca times, with a greater bipartite accentuation between Paria (east) of Parina (flamenco), on one side and for the other, Karanga (perhaps of "Kara" indicating "peaks and plains" says L.Bertonio). After the Spanish Conquest, the two territorial divisions consolidated the denomination qulla or Colla, outlining subdivisions of the peoples recently arrived and mixed with their predecessors, such as the sora-uma of Paria in the north; the Charka and Karakara of the centre-west; the Killaka from around lake Poop towards the parts centre-west, and the Qaranqa of the vast zone of Qarana or Carangas, to the west of the actual territory already described. In the midst of all this, there existed minority groups of more or less pure ancestral origin such as the Uru-Chipayas, Uruquillas, Urumurus, Urumiris, Uru Urus, etc. Without doubt the Hispanic colonisation accentuated the bipartition referred to between western Karanga (Chuqilla) and western Paria (Uru), then the chroniclers praised the rich province of Paria. Pedro Cieza de Len (1518 1560) praised the "great province of Paria" as "something greatly appreciated by the ingas" (Inca) whose inhabitants must be more Uru than Aymara, because according to the chronicler they wore "tiny hats made of wool" , that is to say the chucos of Uru origin mentioned by Juan de Matienzo (1520 1579). Because of this Cieza as well as Matienzo each said independently that the "Collas" or Aymaras only reached as far as Caracollo.


The Atlantis Trail

There cant be any doubt that only the governing families of Oruro in Inca and Hispanic-colonial times were of qulla (Colla) or Aymara origin. The Uru population was particularly based in Paria. We must take into account that this province extended from the zone south of Caracolla towards the southern extremity of the western part of our State, including the river Pampa Aullagas and Lake Poop. Finally, in republican times, Oruro was formed on the 23rd of January 1826, although dependant on La Plata (Charcas), with the two traditional divisions: Carangas and Paria. The 5th of September 1826 Cercado was added. On the 16th of October 1903, Poop was added with its capital of the same name. The same day and month, the province of Avaroa. On the 13th of October 1941, the province of Ladislao Cabrera. The 26th of November 1941, the province of Dalence. The 11th of November 1950, the province of Sabaya and the 26th of December 1959, the province of Atahuallpa. Thus was dissolved the traditional contrast between the western Carangas and the eastern Paria, with the disappearance of this latter which extended on the east from the north to the south and having governed up to Hispanic-colonial times , the zones of Arque and Capinota (today Cochabamba), known as Jatun Paria. Today Oruro accounts for six provinces of the old Paria: Barrn, Cercado, Dalence, Poop, Sebastin Pagador and Avaroa, and nine of the old Carangas, with North Carangas, Saucari, South Carangas, Ladislao Cabrera, Totora, Sajama, Litoral, Mejillones and Atahuallpa. An archaic division and subdivision imposed by tiny zonal interests which break up the two great geotectonic divisions of the State.

Part II Origin of a Millennium City

Important pre-Columbian cultures are found in Oruro, converting it into the oldest centre in Bolivia where the remote ancestors of the Urus, Chipayas and Siriono lived.. Thus "Origin of a Millennium City" recognises that Oruro has a prehistoric antiquity two centuries older than the appearance of Tiwanaku. The footprints of ancestral cultures may be seen in the Department. Their forces have transcended the centuries of Colonialism and the Republic and are part of the Oruro surroundings today. To enter into this enigmatic world presents us with a series of questions about our millennium origins. THE customary and dominant focal point in respect of the foundation of Oruro is to identify it by the calendar date of its appearance as an Hispanic city. But it has not been usual, for it is little told to the few investigators, nor suspected as a consequence, to know the millennium prehistory, just like the ups and downs of its curious destiny. Just the same, when one talks of the foundation of the city of Oruro, we cant miss out the five great cycles of its repeated moments of birth, appearance, peak, servitude, reappearance, splendour, new horizons, and revitalisation across time. These cycles were: The archaic cycle of the first prehistoric settlements up to the appearance of the preclassic civilisation.


The Atlantis Trail

The prehistoric cycle of the sacred city. The prehistory cycle of the Inca domination. The almost legendary cycle of the Holding of Paria and of Lorenzo de Aldana. The cycle of the Seat of San Miguel of Oruro, and the cycle of the town of San Felipe de Austria. That is to say, that when we talk of the founding of Oruro in 1606, we are talking properly of a re-foundation, because that was in reality, the Hispanic founding of the town. From this point of view, the city of Oruro is historically and socio-geographically a city capital unique in Bolivia, and, in contrast to its seven secular sisters of antiquity, Oruro is the only one of indisputable millennium antiquity, and perhaps twice times millennium antiquity. The Prehistoric City The science of man accepts, and no-one who was not insensitive would deny that the first inhabitants of our territory were remote ancestors of the Urus, Chipayas and Sirionos, whose remaining bones are easily identifiable by the dolichocephalic (long head) skull and other particular anthropological features, which distinguish them from the later braquiodes (short head): Aymaras and Quichuas. Some anthropologists such as Jos Imbelloni, Salvador Canals Frau and others, deny that these first inhabitants had developed forms of culture superior to the Mesolithic. However, naturalists and other scholars, have not thrown out the possibility of recognising them as bearers of a high culture. Rudolph Huathal, in 1908, assigned to the "tribe of the Urus" the "mask" of stone found by Ernest Hagemann, at a depth of 13ft, in the city of Oruro. A. Posnasky, for his part, has collected traditions according to which the Uru people lived out six periods of varied fortune: that

Appendix I


of their arrival at the inhabited territory, the flood or of prosperity as navigators, the Colla invasion, the drought, the destruction of Tiwanaku, and the retreat of the Urus to their locations of origin. Besides, Posnasky intuitively held that "the true centre of the Urus was the present region of Oruro". The Oruro archaeology, for its part, after Posnasky has succeeded in localising in each "region of Oruro" many historiccultural centres assignable to the pre-classic cultures of the mounds, such as Suqutia, Qutaa, Wilahaqi, Quriwiri, etc., centres which C.Ponce S., assigned to his so called culture of Wankarani. Finally, Dick Edgar Ibarra Grasso, without excluding the Urus from his condition of high culture, by his approximation to the historic-cultural school of Jos Imbelloni, came to hold that "Oruro is the oldest city in Bolivia", with "a culture much older than that of Tiahuanaco", with inhabitants who constituted "the first agricultural people amongst those of America.", although a little more recent than the Urus themselves. In fact there is no surviving ethnic testimony to this hypothetical agricultural people which would not be the Uru-Chipaya in their subsequent state of decultural prostration. The important thing is that that this hypothesis agrees with the historic reality witnessed as much by the Uru tradition collected since Posnasky up to Rossana Barragn Romano, which is confirmed by the toponymy (place name) of Oruro (Horuro or Jururu), and it is really positive to recognise that our city has a millennium antiquity before the urban period of Tiwanaku, whose age as an urban centre strictly speaking is of 1800 years, so that the prehistoric antiquity of Oruro goes back as far as, at least, two centuries before the appearance of Tiwanaku as a city, that is to say to an antiquity interposed between Nasca 1 and Nasca A.


The Atlantis Trail

In Bolivia there are only three centres which merit the name of prehistoric cities: Tiwanaku, Samaypata and Incallajta, but none of these is obviously a department capital such as Oruro. We must not leave off from thinking, in effect, that a mountain range of silver, surrounded by the four cardinal points of faraway centres and nearby preclassic civilisation, would not have begun to constitute a classic prehistoric city. Including in our suburbs places such as Qinturaya and Quichiraya, the sandflats of the east, the south, the north-east in which are found the remains of formative civilisation with clear signs of having practised duniculture; with the remains of ancient agricultural platforms in the northern skirts of Jampatuqullu (San Pedro); we figure ourselves in our youth, whose peak, shows an aspect of typical Uru stamp, and it is difficult to deny the idea according to which there has been in Oruro a prehistoric city before Tiwanaku. There are many archaic testimonies found in Oruro which show by themselves, the presence of a great pre-historic city, because these have all the characteristics belonging to the high megalithic cultures. There are no great megalithic structures surviving, properly speaking, because they disappeared due to the great mining works of the XVIth century, something which didnt happen at Tiwanaku. A decisive argument for this thesis is, besides, that in our departmental territory there is an ethnic group of macro-Maya language: the Chipayas, and as a fact we must record that, according to S.Linn, the Mayas were the "Greeks of the new world", the civilisers of pre-Hispanic America; and in Oruro was found, the diffusion centre for ethnic, culture and civilising languages.

Appendix I


The Cycle of Inca Domination The previous paragraph shows, in a certain fashion, the exceptional esteem which the Incas had, according to Pedro Cieza de Len, for the province of Paria to which Oruro belonged, a fact which is explicable also by its population trained since antiquity in the perfection of metallurgy in gold and silver.

The legendary cycle of Paria and of Lorenzo de Aldana After the Spanish conquest we can tell of three important facts: First: The foundation of Old Paria by Juan de Saavedra, in 1535. Second: The granting of the Holding of Paria to Pedro del Barco in 1536. Third: The arrival of Lic. De la Gasca in Peru, a governor who came with the civil war of 1548, and confirmed in the same year the granting of the Holding of Paria to Lorenzo de Aldana (1548). This last act radically changed the history of Paria, of Oruro and of the native population, that is to say the Uru population until then under the Aymara and Quichu domination. Events happened in a cryptic fashion: Lorenzo de Aldana appeared exceptionally enriched overnight, with the contradictory antecedent that the Holding of Paria had only allowed Pedro Del Barco a rent much inferior to others of New Toledo, precursor of the Audiencie de Charcas, today Bolivia. However, such a foundation had no other effect than to officialise the existence and growth of the old city adjusting it to the norms of the legislation of the Spanish Empire, a fact which most of us know in a more or less detailed manner, but always without suspecting that such a city raised itself up on the debris of an old prehistoric city, the City of the Urus, for the misfortune of those and the delight and happiness of the newcomers: Quichuas, Aymaras, Spanish and others.

Appendix II Sajama National Park

Adapted from "Oruro Inmortal"; Volume two Original text by Antonio Mario translated from the Spanish by J.M.Allen



Sajama National Park And the energy bursts forth in the heights, opening a passage between two countries, defying the climate and the altitude in order to offer us its special ecosystem. These are the conditions of the National Park of Sajama, whose inhabitants, besides, are inheritors of an important historic tradition which has its origins in pre-Columbian times. In this essay we explain the characteristics of this region, one of the principal centres of development for Oruro in the future. The National Park of Sajama is an initiative in favour of nature conservation which must be exemplary for all of Bolivia IN the extreme north-west of the department of Oruro, is located the highest mountain of Bolivia. Andean mythology has awarded it the highest rank: "Mallku" . It is the geographic link to life in the region. The inhabitants, since ages lost in time, called it "Tata Sajama" (nanny Sajama), father protector. When one invokes its presence, protection or good will, one summons the volcanic energy of "Sajama Mallku".


Appendix II


The cosmographic importance for Man and the substantial role which it plays in the fragile and unique ecosystem formed in its surroundings as well as the magnificent scenic beauty of the mountain are the factors which give value to the Sajama National Park. Its creation gave a final concrete protection to the most ancient woods situated at the highest altitude on the planet, composed of trees of Keua (Polylepis tarapacana), forming woods of notable density on the skirts of the snowy peak and registering at around 17,060ft. (Rivera 1995) Besides the traditional uses such as firewood and timber, the danger has been accentuated with the appearance of the railway. Location and geographic data The park is located in the province of Sajama of the department of Oruro, to the east of the western mountains. Its limits are 68 46 west longitude, and 18 10 south latitude, a frontier zone which adjoins the Lauca National Park of Chile and is bounded by the department of La Paz to the north. It lacks legally defined boundaries. The area outlined in the proposal of the Supreme Decree, which is still proceeding, is of 120,000 hectares (300,000acres or 463 sq miles) approximately. It embraces subdivisions of Sajama, chiefly and to a lesser degree, Cosapa, Caripe, Lagunas and Curaguara de Carangas (Operating Plan). The climate is dry, cold and windy, the average mean annual temperature is 10 C (in winter it can descend as far as -30 C) and during the day reach 22 C. The rainfall is estimated to reach 300mm (11.8 ) annually. (Surez 1986). The area in all its extent is high plateau, a zone of the planet with very high solar radiation all year round. The altitudinal variation is between 13,779ft and 21,463ft. The highest altitude corresponds to the height of the volcano Sajama, formed in the Pleistocene and whose volcanic cone is


The Atlantis Trail

seated upon a plain some 12 miles in diameter. The other snow covered peaks of the area surrounding Sajama, in the direction S-N are: Quisi Quisini (18,162ft), the Payachatas (two peaks), Parinacota (20,118ft) and Pomarape (20,413ft), Condoriri (18,904ft), Jiskha Condoriri (17,939ft) and Anallajchi (17,667ft). The mountains are "surrounded by extensive sandy plains with scarce organic material and poor vegetative cover". On the edge of the rivers and other sources of water have formed "humid pockets with a rich composition of organic material, their soils are absorbent, of slimy texture and moderately acid". These pockets constitute the most important food source for the raising of cameloids. Geologically, "the area belongs to the western mountains in the region characterised by the presence of volcanoes and plains which raise themselves in isolation in the middle of the Altiplano and mountain plateaux, formed by outpourings of lava, product of an intense igneous activity unleashed during the tertiary period (Miocene) and quaternary period (Pleistocene). The igneous surface of the Perez formation originated by volcanic extrusions, forms an extensive plain intensely eroded in part by the River Mauri and in part by agents of water and wind, giving rise to formations known as "cities of stone". In general the countryside "is made up of extrusive rocks, lavas and pyroclastics, being representative of volcanic layering." The water resources are made up of the lakes Huaa Kkota, Isla, Chiar Kkota, Inca Ingenio, along with others of lesser size and the rivers Mauri, Sajama, Sabaya, Tomarapi, Copasa, Esquillani and many others of smaller volume which disappear in the dry season. There are also geysers and thermal vents. In the Sajama National Park there are also two ecoregions: "High Andes Region, specifically high Andean floor of moor and high mountain, characterised by dry and semi-arid moor, great high lakes, salt pans and high Andean sandbanks" (Rivera 1992).

Appendix II


"The vegetation of the high Andean floor contains grasses such as Festuca dolichophylla, Stipa ichu, Calamagrostis spp, and plants such as Hipochoeris spp, Lachemilla spp, Pycnophyllum spp, Azorell spp., Aciachne pulvinata.. In pockets are found clusters of Distichia muscoides, Plan..lo tubulosa and Oxychloe andina" (Rivera 1995). Flora and Fauna Considering the characteristics such as the extreme fragility of the soil, the biological diversity which it possesses is relevant as it contains signs highly representative of the Altiplano flora and fauna Its genetic values are intrinsic, summed up in its tried and tested uses in food, medicine, rituals, clothing, housing etc. Although there have been various investigative studies on the Altiplano, the studies specifically in the zone of Sajama are very rare and the theme constitutes a scientific priority to come face to face with the question of the extent of the area. Of the preliminary studies for the working plan, the following general data is extracted. In flora, 88 species of which we note the Qeua (Polylepis tarapacana), 3 varieties of Thola (Baccharis incarum, Parastrephia lepidophylla and Fabiana densa), Iruhuichi (festuca ortophylla), Sicuya (Stipaichu), Paco (Oxichloeandina) and Yareta (Azorella compacta). In Fauna 108 species with the following distribution: fish 2 species, amphibians 3 species, reptiles 4 species, birds, 70 species, of which 24 are aquatic, native mammals 28 species. The representative species of threatened fauna are the following: mammels: quirquincho (Chaetophractus nationi), zorro (Pseudalopex culpaeus), puma (Felis concolor), vicua (Vicugna vicugna), tacuara or venado (Hippocamelus antisensis), vizcacha (Lagidium viscacia). Birds: suri (Pterocnemia pennata), cndor (Vultur gryphus), colibri (Patagona gigas) and two species of flamencos (Bolborhynchus aurifrons), Phoenicopterus chilensis).


The Atlantis Trail

Ethnohistory The zone of Sajama, according to the existing ethnographical information, was originally occupied by the Urus, after the imperial period of Tiwanaku in the XIIth century. In the period of the Aymara governors, it was occupied by the Carangas, who as well as other governors had access to the coast of the Pacific by a vertical control of the ecological floors. (Murra) Their dominion reached the valleys of Azapa, Lluta, Codpa, Timar, where they cultivated maize and coca (Hidalgo, Focacci 1986). The study for the working plan of the National Park, quoting Cobo, says that during the reign of Tupac Inca Yupanqui, the conquest of the Collas and Pacajes territories took place via the zone of Sajama. "This Inca took the road to Collao behind the sierras of Vilcanota and came out at Chungari, taking the Colla army from behind". This quotation appears to be corroborated by Gilbert, with the hypothesis of a pact between the Carangas and the Inca, to permit the passage of this latter, along Caranga territory , for the purpose of conquering the Pacajes governors. As silent witnesses to the intense social, ethnic and cultural interaction, in time and in space, in the Sajama zone there are left the archaeological sites which surround the volcano and all its area of influence: burial tombs, pottery, stone tools, inns, refuge caves, sanctuaries, ruins of circular and rectangular buildings, cave paintings, stone workshops; in total, a silent encyclopaedia which still remains to be investigated to know the inhabitant who set out the radial lines which still lead us to ancient ceremonial sites dedicated to the Huacas, at the end or beginning of each rectilinear street. In the colonial period, the evangelisation of the province of Sajama was carried out by the Order of San Agustin, which established itself in Challacollo. A witness to its presence is the powerful and beautiful church of Curahura de Carangas, (presently being restored), and those of smaller size in the

Appendix II


villages of Sajama, Lagunas, Macaya and Tomarapi (recently restored by the Park administration). Besides, inside the protected area, are found 25 renaissance-style colonial chapels in various states of preservation. Population The region has been the scene of important settlements of population which have crystallised the spirit of the actual inhabitant. The settlers in the Park preserved the pre-Columbian social organisation of the Ayllu, an institution which survived alongside those of the colonial period and the republic, with both traditional and communal authorities co-existing together. The population living within the proposed limits of the National Park are understood to be, according to the management of the protected area, 1,942 people divided into 392 families. The predominant language is Aymara followed by Spanish. The main productive activity is the raising of cameloids (llamas and pacas).The economic income mainly comes from the selling of wool fibres, meat and subproducts of meat on the hoof. The most important fairs are those of Tambo Quemado (every 15 days), Lauca (every 2 Fridays), Curaguara de Carangas (every 2 Saturdays) and Turco. The practice of agriculture is on a very small scale, chiefly quinua and papa luki (quinoa and potatoes), exclusively for self consumption. One of the strategies for generating additional income is the seasonal migration which the men make towards La Paz, Oruro on a lesser scale and the valleys of the north of Chile in search of work in which they rent out their labour. Many families register double nationality where they have parental ties both side of the border, which guarantees them work on the coast during the months of May, June and July. It is notable the continuing usage of the ancient pre-Columbian territory, in spite of the frontiers and using seasonal work which camouflages in the face of the modern world, the activities of the travelling Andeans.


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Mangement and Administration 50 years after the creation of the first National Park, the State began to give effective attention to the protected areas in its care, after the promulgation of the Environmental Law of 1992 which allowed the creation of the National System of Protected Areas. However, we mustnt forget to mention that in the interim, the Prefect of the Department and the ex-Corporation for Development in Oruro, set out a programme of infrastructure, reforestation, and cattle management. The same year of 1992, an initiative by the Institute of Ecology gave fruit in the form of the Preliminary Working Plan for the Sajama National Park. Afterwards with the aid of a consultation document they elaborated on the proposals of the Supreme Decree governing the limits and objectives of the Park. In 1993, the "Group for thought and action on the Environment" (GRAMA), a product of intense and pioneering work, elaborated the "Strategy for Implementation of the Sajama National Park". The process of administrative consolidation accelerated itself with the construction of the international road from Patacamaya Tambo Quemado. This road passes by Sajama and constitutes a gravitational factor of environmental impact on the zone, outside of the advantages which it presents in the regional and national economies as a corridor to the ocean. Precisely because of the environmental implications detected in the study of the impact of this road, the Inter American Development Bank which financed the construction of the road in parallel gave to the State the funds for the administration and fulfilment of the Operating Plan, with the object of forming a long term plan for the protection of the flora and fauna, archaeological sites and colonial buildings in the zone. At the same time it allocated budgets for the employment of a Director and basic staff as park guardians. The first Director of the area took over in October 1995.

Appendix II


The category of control proposed for Sajama is "National Park and Area Natural of Integrated Management", because it assumes the presence of human populations in its heartland and permits a variety of sustainable uses of the natural resources including the traditional projects of agro-ecologic production, control of fauna, sustainable use of natural products and the development of productive activities and services, compatible with the objectives in creating the area, such as crafts and tourism. This category allows the blending of the development demands of the local population and the commercial objectives and maximum use of the sustainable resources. As a consequence, the participation and involvement of the local population in the administration is of vital importance and is carried out by means of the Management Committee, in which participate representatives of the communities, traditional authorities, municipal and civic administrators etc; the Director of the Area presides, by means of votes, over the committee, This organisation finds itself in a period of consolidation, supported by the General Head of Biodiversity (Direccin General de Biodiversidad, DGB), with a programme of training specifically put in force by GRAMA. In the short time of the administration of the National Park, it has achieved significant objectives. It has contracted seven young people from the regions of the Park, for the Official Body of Protection. They receive special training under the charge of DGB, with special emphasis on life-saving and rescue, high-mountain techniques, paramedics, first aid, as part of an integrated training which will qualify them to receive a university academic title. They make up a new and internationally recognised force. As to the infrastructure, there is a central camp in the region of Sajama and control posts in strategic observation points. The restoration of the church of Tomarapi is a valued support for the protection of cultural values and colonial architecture.


The Atlantis Trail

The personnel is made up of a Director, a Head of Protection, seven park wardens, an administrator and a chauffeur. They are provided with basic equipment, specially for high mountaineering. The jobs of patrolling and keeping watch are carried out with the assistance of four motorcycles, seven mountain bicycles and a double traction vehicle. They also have static and mobile communications. The increasing tourist affluence has begun to define the profile which is innate to the area and influences a great part of the administrative priorities: planning how to handle the tourists. Institutional Framework The National Park of Sajama depends administratively on the Director General of Biodiversity which has as a mission the conservation and sustainable use of the biodiversity of Bolivia. It forms part of the Ministry of Sustainable Development and Planning. It is dependant on the National Secretariat of Natural Resources and Environment and the subsecretariat of Natural Resources along with the Director of Forestry Exploitation, Conservation of Basins and Conservation of Lands. For operational considerations it has divided its activities into three units: Protected Areas, Wild Life and Genetic Resources. Also it has two co-ordinating bodies: Financial and Legal Administration. The object of the management is to propose and develop policies and norms for the conservation and sustainable use of the diverse biology at national level and to watch over its application within the framework of sustainable development. National System of Protected Areas in Bolivia The Unit of Protected Areas is charged with the administration of the National Service of Protected Areas and takes charge of the organisation, consolidation and interpretation of the SNAP. This unit plans the workings of the protected areas, under the

Appendix II


capacity of the National Body for Protection Policy of the areas, promotes environmental education amongst the local populations, regulates the exploitation of the natural resources so that these are used in a sustainable form and searches for productive and economic alternatives (such as eco-tourism) in order to better the standard of living for the peoples of the protected areas. It has organised its work into four co-ordinating groups: Planning, Information and Monitoring, training; and Promotion, Environmental Education and Tourism. This unit promotes participative processes of conservation, by which it has established methodologies of co-ordination with the local populations and an institutional dialogue as much with governmental departments as with civic communities. The State had legally declared 26 Protected Areas in Bolivian territory which constitute the SNAP, of which fourteen have their own administration and wardens. These fourteen areas cover a total area of 10,731,600 hectares (26,500,000 acres or 41,434 sq. miles) which corresponds to 9.76% of all Bolivian territory. Potential The Sajama National Park potentially constitutes a unique pole of development in one of the most deprived zones of the Department of Oruro. Being on the frontier and adjacent to the Lauca national Park of Chile, it converts the zone into a binational biological corridor, which permits it to guarantee a basic ecological space in order to assure the equilibrium and development of the species, helping to stabilise the biological processes. The ethnocultural values of the society, rich in ancestral traditions and customs, provides it with a vigorously alive social element. Its geographic location is privileged, given that it is equidistant from two international airports: La Paz and Arica. From either


The Atlantis Trail

of the two cities, the distance to Sajama can be covered in four or five hours of travel by asphalt highways, an aspect which puts it as the National Park of easiest access in the country. This represents an advantage which must be made use of without more delay, in order to promote and develop tourism, with the object of linking the area to Andean touristic circuits or to the Pacific coast Andes Yungas Amazonia or vice versa. Since the opening of the international highway, the tourist affluence from the exterior and interior has increased notably. This reality constitutes a dynamite force which has begun to give an external push to which the Sajama populations are not accustomed. The other marginal populations of the frontier, today find themselves in the centre of a giant and dazzling natural middle ground, confronted by the pressure which forces the demand for better and better services, which needs the thought and planning of strategic responses which satisfy each time a more demanding tourist market, whose benefits bring the sought after regional development, in conditions harmonic with the environment and without destructively altering the culture which, in itself, is an essential part of the values which attract the visitor. The area contains everything that one could wish to see, enjoy and experience living in the Andes. The practice of sports, adventure activities, delight in recreation and nature, observation of species in danger of extinction, the possibility to submerse oneself in thermal waters, at more than 13,000ft of altitude; or the spiritual contact with the twinkling universe, as a polychromic symphony of dawn crowning the Payachatas and then of course, the opportunity to share with the Sajama inhabitants, whose stock comes from the builders of Tiwanaku, knowledge that since the beginning nature is beautiful, that harmony and balance is a philosophy and that all is part of a total totality: "Pacha" and the part of the cosmos which protects our lives is "Pacha Mama". The National Park of Sajama is Pacha Mama herself.

Credits: Appendix I Touching the Sky and Origin of a Millennium City by Ramiro Condarco Morales from Oruro Inmortal Volume Two Appendix II Sajama National Park by Antonio Mario Molina Guzman from Oruro Inmortal Volume Two, published by ECCO Publicidad Integral, La Paz, Bolivia

photos pages 63 lower, 64, 65, 68, and texts from Oruro Inmortal Volume Two, reproduced by kind permission of Maria Angelica Kirigin de Calvo, Directora, ECCO Publicidad Integral, La Paz, Bolivia

photos pages 41, 42, 55, 208 Jordans Caf, Calle Bolivar, Oruro

Cartoons pages 70 and 71 from La Leyenda del Desaguadero published by University of La Paz