The Gateway of Huayamarca (Aymara for ‘City of Spirits’) goes by many names. Huayamarca referred originally to the sandstone outcrop, known today as Bosque de las Piedras (The Forest of Stones). Although tourists may be told that the Gateway was made by the Incas, it is far older; once standing on the edge of a Pleistocene lake that shrank to become Lake Titikaka. (© Dave Truman).
Tales from a Primordial Landscape
Some places attract fables, and even in a land of where folklore is so often garnished by the teller, this place excels in embellishment. The first time I came here a boy who sold me a piece of quartz told me that he knew of a couple of newly weds who had disappeared through the Gatewway, never to be seen again. I am just as guilty, my mind is compelled to enhance whatever may drift into my consciousness whenever I come here. I need only pass by Bosque de las Piedras on the bus for my imagination to draw me into a chthonic realm of shadowy gods.
It’s hardly surprising, the very shapes jutting from this sandstone outcrop near to the shore of Lake Titikaka declare their hoariness. The aeons have sculpted them into a phantasmagoria of forms, like the stuff of half-remembered dreams, or perhaps nightmares. I cannot help but think of Wiracocha’s first creation when I see this place; a world in which there was no sun, where its beings so angered their creator that he turned them to stone. Giants petrified in perpetuity.
Unless you have actually been here it is hard to imagine, but the Gateway of transition between worlds could not be what it is – whatever that is – if it were not part of this ancient City of Spirits. Its sandstone outcrops create a unique acoustic resonance. You can stand several hundred yards (metres) away from the Gateway and hear words spoken softly by those immediately in front of it. I am sure that those who constructed the Gateway knew this. They even may have added to the outcrops that face the Gateway so as to enhance its acoustics.
There is a curious ambiguity about the place, as if the spirits of nature, or perhaps humans, had conspired to breathe artifice into its genius loci. Most probably the entire outcrop was once considered a sacred place for reasons that we hardly understand today.
An ancient lakeside Gateway
The Gateway stands on the very edge of this arched sandstone outcrop. At some time in the distant past sediments from an ancient sea bed were compressed into stone here. Then they were up-ended by tectonic forces shifting in the Earth’s crust so that they stood upright, as the Andes rose above the South American Plate. Later, glaciers rasped at their surface, making the first icy cuts to create what became these curious formations.
Beyond the bluff in which the Gateway sits, the terrain flattens out into a hollow so shallow it is barely perceptible, until your eyes notice the waters of Titikaka glistening in the mountain sunlight more than a mile (1.6 km) away.
It does not take a great leap of the imagination to realise that the waters of a lake, or inland sea, once lapped against the very foot of the Gateway. Although the level of Lake Titikaka is known to fluctuate considerably over short periods, it has grown steadily smaller since it was formed from the dregs of the much larger stretches of water that once covered the Altiplano during the Pleistocene.
Today the Gateway now stands at least 45 feet (15 metres) above Titikaka’s present level – and that is my rather conservative estimate. Geologists have calculated that the lakes on the Altiplano during the late Ice Age were between 15 and 45 feet (5 and 15 metres) higher than Titikaka is today. This raises the interesting proposition that the Gateway could be far older than the Inca construction it so often is assumed to be. The local traditions I have been told confirm this to be so.
Fables of refugees from sunken lands across the sea?
Since the 1950s and 60s an association has grown up in South American popular culture between the Gateway and the lost continent(s) of Lemuria and/or Mu. This centres on the arrival of a priest from the aforesaid sunken continent(s) called Aramu Muru (another name for the Gateway), his founding of the Brotherhood of the Seven Rays and the loss, or hiding, of a golden solar disc.
Whilst most of this can be attributed to the writings of George Hunt Williamson, it is surprising the extent to which versions of this story have taken root amongst people living in the Andes today. Such is their prevalence, I consider that they were probably grafted on to an indigenous folk memory, rather than simply having been introduced in the last century. Indeed, I have heard the lost continent of Mu mentioned when people here speak of other megalithic sites and of their founders. Always these events take place in a past so distant that they are dismissed out of hand by the academics.
Folk memory may have a way of adapting to the times in order to preserve its essence. Instead of Mu, we might think of another sunken landmass called Sundaland, where the population fled as sea levels rose sharply at the very end of the Pleistocene, inundating its savannah. Is it so ridiculous to suppose that some of these people took to the oceans and reached the Pacific coast of South America? At least some of the inhabitants of this now submerged landmass were probably capable of crossing water in boats long before the end of the Ice Age. Others – the Denisovans and their hybrid descendants – seem to have possessed highly sophisticated technologies, including high-speed drilling.
Geometry in the landscape
When the Peruvian researcher Ricardo González visited the Gateway, equipped with map and compass, he made a surprising discovery. The Gateway’s threshold pointed directly towards the Island of the Sun on Lake Titikaka.
Intrigued by González’s discovery, I decided to investigate further using Marble® mapping software. I found that the Gateway does not just point to anywhere on the Island of the Sun, which is nearly 6 miles (9,6 km) long. Rather, it points to what is arguably the most important sacred site in the whole of the Andes: the Foundation Stone, or Sacred Rock, known as Titi Q’ala. TheTiti Q’ala is the Pacarina, or point from which the whole of Andean civilisation unfolded. This is the place where Wiracocha is said to have created the Sun and Moon after the frozen age of darkness. The Titi Qala was also where the progenitors of the Incas, Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo, arose from the waters of Titikaka to restore civilisation to an Andes that had been reduced to barbarism.
I began to look for other ancient and sacred sites on and around this part of Lake Titikaka. There is, to be sure, no shortage of such places here, but one location on the map seemed to draw my attention more than any other.
In the centre of the peninsula that divides Titikaka’s Great Lake from its Little Lake, there sits an enormous volcano called Khapia. It is considered an apu (tutelary deity) by local people. Modern day shamans visit Khapia’s plateau to seek advice on the future and it is home a number of huacas, or sacred objects. One of these is a stone representation of a toad, which almost certainly dates back to the time when the Uru people occupied this part of the Altiplano.
When I joined these three sacred places together on the map using a spherical map projection, the result was an equilateral triangle:
This is not the only example of triangles that can be plotted between sacred mountains and other such places in the Andes. Perhaps the best known is the Pythagorean triangle that joins the peaks of Illimani, Illampu (both considered to be apus) and Tiwanaku in Bolivia. Anyone familiar with the work of British researcher Mark Vidler will know that triangles formed between the highest peaks of mountain ranges are surprisingly common throughout the world.
It seems that early people possessed an ability to recognise these geometries, which in the above example included an innate appreciation of spherical trigonometry. What was more, they incorporated this innate understanding within their sense of the sacred. There may be rather more to the concept of the apu, or the spirit teacher who is the mountain, than our modern world-view recognises.
The human factor
The Gateway goes by many names, including Wilka Uta, Aramu Muru, Amaru Muru and Amaru Punku amongst others. This alone is testimony to its great antiquity. One thing has struck me about the Gateway, having witnessed two shamanistic ceremonies there. It is the extent to which it interacts with the human presence. In particular, it seems to be energised by the human will and emotions. I have come to this conclusion with the help of photographs I have taken with an Oldfield Filter®. There is a marked difference between pictures taken before and after such ceremonies have occurred.
Admittedly, the sun was shining brightly when I took the second picture after a ceremony, but the camera was recording more here than simply glare of sunlight. The full spectrum has been captured through the lens. This is something I have found happens often when human emotions and intentions are being expressed at the time the shutter opens. What is different in this case though, is that I took this picture about half an hour after a ceremony had finished. It is as if a three dimensional arc of some sort surrounds the area immediately in front of the Gateway. Contrast this with the previous picture in which the orientation of the colours simply seems to mirror the diagonal strata of the sandstone in the bluff.
In far-off times, Huayamarca stood on the edge of a vast inland sea. Its Gateway welcomed visitors from across the water; from the Lion Cliff of Titi Q’ala, which itself had risen from those same waters. It welcomed the Wise Ones (amautas) who consulted the Apu of the volcano Khapia. More than all of this, the Gateway beckoned those who came to its shore to traverse its rocky portal and journey onwards and inwards – toward the innermost sanctum of the City of Spirits.
© Dave Truman 2018