Report 3 - August 1st 1999
Activities since 20th July.
The two reed boats, Kota Mama II and Viracocha, transported by low loader and truck of the Bolivian Defensa Civil organisation reached the city of Santa Cruz on 19th July. Captain Jim Masters, the former Royal Engineer, who commanded the convoy, will not forget their epic 600-mile journey from Lake Titicaca. At Santa Cruz the flat cars of Empresa Ferroviavia Oriental railway awaited them. Two mobile cranes made short work of lifting the boats onto the train and next day with Lieutenant Chris Brogan, Royal Engineers and two of the team riding 'Shotgun' they travelled East, 450 miles through the wild country to the town of Puerto Saurez near the Bolivian - Brazilian border, where the Bolivian Navy had cranes and low loaders ready to move them to their base at Puerto Quijarro, 25 Kilometres away. Here Jim Masters has launched the boats and is now engaged on sailing trials on the Canal Tamengo that links Bolivia to the Rio Paraguay in Brazil.
Meanwhile Colonel John Blashford - Snell has deployed exploration and community aid teams. 'A' group under Captain Toby Marriner, Royal Engineers, has just completed a two-week project with the Chipaya Indians, who live in a remote corner of Bolivian high desert, the Altiplano. Working at 13000 feet with the temperatures plummeting to minus 20oC at night, this team designed a flood prevention scheme and bridge, gave medical assistance and studied this unique tribe, who are quite unlike other South American Indians. Captain Graham McElhinney of the Royal Army Dental Corps helped the people by extracting 166 teeth! Anthropologist Shaun Linsley examined the history and lifestyle of the Chipaya.
South and West of the Santa Cruz British and Bolivian archaeologists have been seeking the ruins of lost civilizations. British archaeologist Andy Miller located what is believed to be the site of the fortress of Inca Huasi de Caraparicito. First seen in 1913 by Dutch explorer Erland Nordenskiold their remarkable settlement had disappeared and although Nordenskiold made a plan of the major buildings he did not give a location. The Kota Mama team searched a range of mountains rising to 6000 feet, 200 miles south west of Santa Cruz and on a high pass they found pottery, walls and water cisterns, but there was no sign of the magnificent buildings reported by old people and said to be populated by vampires, scorpions, tarantula and rattlesnakes. However the only casualty was expedition photographer, Charles Sturge who was bitten by a spider. Alas Inca Huasi has been almost completely destroyed by a prospecting oil company and road builder 36 years ago. Thus an important part of Bolivian national heritage has been lost forever.
Inca Huasi is known as the last refuge of the Inca and it was here that they were driven by the Gurani, a fierce warrior tribe who swept up from the plains to drive the Inca westward around 1400 AD. The expedition will be carrying out further investigations into the origin of the Gurani and other tribes in the dense Chaco forest of Northern Paraguay in the next 6 weeks. 50 miles west of Santa Cruz near the legendary ritual site of Samaipata, Captain Stewart Seymour of the Queens Dragoons Guards, working with Bolivian archaeologist Alvaro Fernholz have identified fascinating twin fortresses built by Amazon Indians that penetrated the highlands around 900 AD. Excavating the jungle covered fortifications they discovered significant buildings and a paved Inca road built later in its development when the Inca expanded the site. "The discovery of pottery enables us to date the period of occupation and by finding the Inca road a link between the mountains and the plains has been established. This is a most important discovery." Said Alvaro Fernholz who works for DINAAR, The Bolivian Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology.
Now all the exploration teams are regrouping in Santa Cruz and in the period 2-6 August, will move by train from this pleasant temperate region to the baking heat and high humidity of Puerto Quijarro at the eastern edge of the Matto Grosso where the boat team reports clouds of biting insects and piranha infested rivers.
Note on Samaipata.
Only discovered in 1992 the mysterious carved mountains top of Samaipata is believed to have been used as a site of sacred rituals and ceremonies for 2000 years. Accordingly to Dr Albert Meyers, the German archaeologist who discovered it, the first occupants were Amazon jungle tribes who carved figures of animals in the soft sandstone. Other cultures, including the Inca developed the 12000 square meter site. Today the 5000-foot summit ridge is covered in strange gigantic grooves, channels, walls and alters. The outline of jaguars, puma and rhea (an ostrich like bird) and rattlesnakes are clearly visible. Many interpretations have been put forward ranging from the plausible to the unlikely - the twin grooves hewn from the living rock that point almost due East towards the highest point have even been described as spaceship launching rails! Efforts are being made to protect this, the largest monument in the Americas but funds are urgently needed, if the soft rock and the carvings are to be saved from erosion. The Kota Mama expedition is assisting in the further exploration of this area and attended a ceremony on 20th July when UNESCO declared Samaipata a World Heritage site.
More On Team B & HQ
More On the Chipaya