20th June – From La Paz we travelled to Tiwanaku to celebrate the Aymara new year and winter solstice. The site of Tiwanaku is near the south-eastern shore of Lake Titicaca and contains Pre-Columbian ruins which are still very important to the the indigenous people of today, thousands of which had travelled here to celebrate their new year.
We stayed in a hostel in the small village right next to the site, so after looking round the food and drink stalls which were being set up around the village, and testing their many wares – which includedtoffee apples, Api, a hot berry drink with a tasty fried pastry thing, cubes of fried but now cold and soft pig skin, and rum in hot frothy tip top – We were very pleased to be able to get out of the cold and get a few hours sleep before the ceremony began at 5am.
At 5am we got up to find everyone very, very drunk on rum and tip top. We then climbed up to the site to wait for the sun to rise. I have never been so pleased to see the sun, which took until 7am to get to us, and by which time we were completely frozen, any longer and I think we would still be there frozen to the spot. Just before sunrise Bolivia’s first indigenous president Evo Morales arrived in a helicopter and hoisted the Bolivian flag while the crowd sang the national anthem, he then joined the priests for the ceremony.