Tag: Illimani

Life Happens in La Paz

Life Happens in La Paz

La Paz, Bolivia – June 1, 2019

Life happens all around us.  La Paz, Bolivia is no different in that respect.

After my recent visit to Tiwanaku (see Ancient Peoples or Aliens?), I watched the Ancient Aliens episode about Puma Punku.  That episode features a unique bowl found at Tiwanaku.  The bowl is located at the Museo de Metales Preciosos (The Precious Metals Museum) on Calle Jaen.  Hearing the name of the museum while watching the episode, I recalled being on Calle Jaen with Leslie (see Mamani Mamani).  The bowl is unique because of what appears to be Samarian cuneiform writing.  I decided I had to personally see this bowl.

Saturday morning at about 09:00 I left my house for the green line of the Teleférico.  I was the only rider in my gondola for the entire length of the green line.  The same happened on the celeste line, the white line, and the orange line.  From the orange line I saw a red building that may be a cholet.  I also saw the “illegal” cemetery again.

A red building beside the orange Teleférico.
The cemetery beside the orange line.

I got off the orange line at the Armentia station and walked southeast on Avenida Armentia toward Calle Jaen.  I stopped along the way to take photographs of some of the shops.  Just as I made it to Calle Jaen, I heard some loud motorcycles.  At first, I thought they were on the main road behind me.  Suddenly, much to my surprise, I noticed two motorcycles on Calle Jaen coming quickly uphill toward me.  The motorcycles were from the Bolivian police.  A dog barked and chased the second motorcycle.  Life happens in La Paz.

The Armentia station on the orange line.
Don Justo’s shop.
A small hardware store on Avenida Armentia.
River flower and a van.
A police officer on a motorcycle being chased by a dog on Callen Jaen.

After the motorcycles passed, it was just a few more steps to the entry to the Museo de Metales Preciosos.  I did not have to pay.  I retained my ticket from our visit to the other museums this past February.  The guard simple tore off the stub for the museum.  That left one museum entry, Casa de Murillo.  More on that soon.

At the first exhibit in the Museo de Metales Preciosos (no photographs allowed!) I noticed an abundance of artifacts from Tiwanaku.  This theme repeated itself throughout the museum.  The artifacts included arrowheads and ceramics.

After looking through the first couple of rooms, one exits into the central courtyard of the museum.  Crossing the courtyard, I entered the Gold Room.  The first thing I saw was the unique bowl which prompted my journey.  Fuente Magna is the name given to the bowl.  The museum does not allow photographs; however, one can see and read about the bowl at Ancient Pages.  I am glad I got to see the bowl.  It was fascinating.  Just what was a bowl with Samarian cuneiform writing doing in Tiwanaku?  How did it get there?  Was there some sort of extra-terrestrial travel involved in millennia past?  Life happens in La Paz, but who knows what may have happened at Tiwanaku?

I found two other fascinating things in the museum, mummies and skulls.  One of the upper rooms of the museum has three mummies on display.  Two of the mummies appear just as the one at Tiwanaku did.  The mummies are only about half-height, wrapped with what seems to be a hemp rope.  The only thing exposed is the face of the mummies.  The third mummy on display is without wrappings.  Upon closer inspection, one realizes why the mummies are only about half-height; they are folded.  Instead of the arms crossing on the chest, they lay straight up toward the head, one on either side of the neck.  Folding the legs at the hips and the knees allow the legs to lay inside the chest cavity.  Yes, the knees are in the chest!  No wonder they appear half-height!

A nearby room displays five of the distended skulls I saw at the museum at Tiwanaku.  These were easier to see.  I studied them closely.  I could not decipher how the skulls were distended during the life of the individual.  Other than the odd shape of the skull, the face and teeth appeared normal.

There is some ancient gold on display in the Gold Room.  But my attention went to the items I described above.

Essentially across Calle Jaen from the Museo de Metales Preciosos is Museo Casa de Pedro D. Murillo.  Pedro Domingo Murillo is a revered patriot, freedom fighter, and martyr.  In return for plotting and fighting for Bolivia’s independence from Spain, the Spanish executed Murillo in 1810 in the plaza that today bears his name.  The museum is in the home once occupied by Murillo.  Unlike the other museum, I was able to take a couple of photographs.

A bust of Pedro Domingo Murillo at the Museo de Casa de Murillo.
The courtyard of Casa de Murillo.
A painting at Casa de Murillo as seen from the courtyard.
The Templo de la Compañía de Jesús (Temple of the Society of Jesus) as seen from Casa de Murillo.
The entry portico to Casa de Murillo.

After the second museum, I decided I should have a coffee.  Music drew me into the Hanaq Pacha Restaurant.  Like so many of the old structures on Calle Jaen, there is a central courtyard.  That is the seating area for the restaurant.  While drinking my coffee I noticed the upper floor had a lot of art for sale.  Finished with my coffee, I went upstairs to explore.  In addition to the art, some of my favorites appear below, I found a unique view of Calle Jaen.  Life happens in La Paz.

A timeout for coffee at the Hanaq Pacha Restaurant.
Paintings at the Hanaq Pacha Restaurant.
Casa de Murillo as seen from the terrace at the Hanaq Pacha Restaurant.
Calle Jaen as seen from the terrace at the Hanaq Pacha Restaurant.
A painting at the Hanaq Pacha Restaurant.
A painting at the Hanaq Pacha Restaurant.
A painting at the Hanaq Pacha Restaurant.
The courtyard of the Hanaq Pacha Restaurant.

I departed the restaurant and almost immediately walked into the Kullama Gallery.  During our February visit, Leslie and I bought some gifts and a magnet in the gallery.  One of the items was a llama leather coin purse.  The coin purse has a painted accent.  Today, I met the accent painter, Inti!  He proudly proclaimed his name is Aymaran.  I bought a couple more gifts, took his photograph, and departed.  Life happens in La Paz.

The artist Inti.

As soon as I stepped back onto Calle Jaen, I noticed a director and photographer working with a model.  I remember seeing something similar on my last visit.  I took a few of my own photographs and continued toward the Mamani Mamani Gallery.  I was happy that the sky was so blue today.  I ended up with a much better photograph of the gallery building.

Turning the corner, I saw more models and more photography in full swing.  I immediately sat on a nearby bench to watch all the activity.  Not only did I see what was happening with the models, I also watched all the people walking past.  Some of the pedestrians included one of my favorite subjects, cholitas.  Life happens in La Paz, so I just watched life unfold for a while.

The woman in the green jacket directing a model on Calle Jaen.
Preparing for the next shot.
The building housing the Mamani Mamani Gallery.
One model standing at the door while another five are preparing for their shot.
Some cholitas walk past a man sitting on a bench.
Another cholita coming by.
The modeling troupe took over the benches on Calle Indaburo.
The models waiting for their shot while the old men wait for their lunch.
A man waiting for his lunch.

From my previous visit, I thought I remembered seeing a large church a block or two away.  I left the company of models to search for the church.  While I walked, I took photographs of the neighborhood and the people I saw.  I did not locate the church.  Instead, I headed back to the photoshoot.  Life happens in La Paz.

A colorful building on Calle Indaburo.
A two-tone building on Calle Indaburo.
People at the corner of Calle Indaburo and Calle Pichincha.
Chubis Burger on Calle Pichincha.
Looking downhill on Calle Pichincha.
Another view of Chubis Burger.
A young girl walks by Cesy Hairstyles on Calle Indaburo.

As I neared the area, I recalled the photoshoot troupe often walked farther west on Calle Indaburo.  I decided to go that way to see what was there.  There is essentially a set of stairs down to the next street.  The walls did have a lot of color and graffiti, so I understood why the photographer chose to shoot in that area.  I saw a uniquely painted metal door.  I am not sure if it led to a shop or a home.  I opted to not find out, just to enjoy the art.  Across from the door is a sign for what I assume is a nightclub, Bocaisapo (mouth and toad).  Near the door advertised; coca, art, and culture.  Life happens in La Paz; however, I do not think I will return to experience the club.

The Bocaisapo (Mouth and Toad).
The stairs from Calle Jaen down to Alto de la Alianza.
Another view of the Bocaisapo.
A painted metal door at 705C Calle Indaburo.

Walking back, I found a small café with a couple of outdoor tables.  The café is in the Mamani Mamani Gallery building.  I went inside and inquired if they had beer.  With an affirmative answer, I went back outside, a smile on my face, and sat at one of the two tables.  Soon the server brought my beer and a small bowl of peanuts.  The beer was very good.  It is an artisan brew I have not seen before, Cobriza.

The table was almost directly across from a door the photographer used as a backdrop for several shots.  I took advantage of the location and took a few shots myself.  Additionally, the models walked back and forth from their staging area to the various locations on Calle Jaen and Calle Intaburo.  I am not sure how they were able to walk in those “ankle-buster” shoes.  It appeared to me to be a challenge to walk in the shoes in the best most level and even sidewalk imaginable.  Add some cobblestones to the mix and it seems nigh impossible to walk.  In fact, they often escorted each other; one in “ankle-busters” and the other steadying model in flat shoues.  Regardless, because of my location, the models walked by frequently.

Soon I saw a familiar man approach the models’ staging area.  I realized it was the artist, Mamani Mamani.  He greeted the troupe.  He ultimately ended up in front of his gallery, posing for photographs with the models.  Afterall, he is a very famous artist in Bolivia.  I was happy to just be sitting there and watching life unfold.  Life happens in La Paz.

One of the models at Calle Jaen and Calle Indaburo.
The gift shop at the Green Cross House.
The pause that refreshes. My table and beer on Calle Idaburo.
Striking a pose on Calle Indaburo.
Receiving direction for the next pose.
The model’s pose prior to direction.
Posing at a doorway.
Two models walking back to the home base benches.
A model in “ankle-busters” taking photographs of other models posing with the artist Mamani Mamani.
Another model taking photographs of models with the artist Mamani Mamani.
The daughter of one of the models striking a pose on a lamppost.

Finished with my beer, I decided I would start my journey back home.  Instead of retracing my steps to the orange line, I decided I would walk to the celeste line.  Luckily that direction is all downhill.

An old building on Calle Indaburo.
The building at Plaza Wenceslao Monrroy.
A view downhill on Calle Genaro Sanjines.

Along my route, I kept seeing a political sign.  I finally stopped to take a photograph.  The slogan in Spanish reads, “Insurrection Brigade.  Elections and the referendum are a submission to the corrupt bourgeois dictatorship and selling the homeland.”  People in Bolivia are definitely able to express their views.

A little farther along I came to a yellow building.  It is striking, not just because of the color, but because of the architectural style and details.  I am not sure what the building is, but it is eye catching.

Posters on a building on Calle Genaro Sanjines.
Posters at the corner of Calle Genaro Sanjines and Calle Ingavi.
Approaching a colorful building on Calle Genaro Sanjines.
Wall decoration on the building.
Detail of the wall decoration.

I made it to Calle Comercio, a street familiar to me from previous treks through the city.  The bustling street meant it was Saturday.  The Mega Burguer sign touts, “nobody does it like us.”  In front of the fast food restaurant is one of many vendor stands.  One can see many cardboard boxes under and near the stand.  One of the aspects of life in Bolivia is that many of the vendors set up and tear down their stands each and every day.  I am sure that is because they do not have the funding to have a brick and mortar store.  I continued southeast on Calle Comercio toward Plaza Murillo.  As I may have noted, life happens in La Paz.

The Mega Burguer on Calle Comercio.
Los Amigos on Calle Comercio.

I made it to Plaza Murillo with my newfound knowledge of the history of the plaza.  It struck me that there were a lot of people around the plaza.  At first, I thought that was because it was Saturday.  As I walked a bit farther, I noticed two reasons for the throng of people.  At the steps of the Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Peace I saw a wedding couple posing for photographs.  In addition to the wedding guests, several people were boarding a bus.  I am not sure if that was part of the wedding or something separate.  It is very obvious that life happens in La Paz.

Next to the basilica is the Presidential Palace.  On this visit I got a much better photograph of the guards wearing period uniforms.  The platforms on which they stand bear the inscription, “Presidential Escort.”

A lot of people in front of the Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Peace at Plaza Murillo.
A newlywed couple on the steps of the basilica.
The guards at the Presidential residence in period costume.
The newlyweds posing for photographs.
Getting ready to descend the stairs.
Wedding guests in front of the basilica.

Two police officers walking up Calle Socabaya.

A pharmacy on Calle Socabaya.

After watching life happening in La Paz, I continued my walk to the Teleférico.  Along my path, I saw some new sights.  First was a building with the sign, “Vice President of the State.”  I assume that building houses the offices of the Vice President of Bolivia, Álvaro Marcelo García Linera.  Near that building is the 1668 Saint Agustin Shrine.  Beside that is the La Paz city hall.

The building with the dome has a sign stating, “Vice President of the State.”
A woman boarding a bus at the corner of Calle Mercado and Calle Ayacucho.
El Sagrario San Agustin (The Saint Agustin Shrine) dates from 1668.
The La Paz city hall is beside the The San Agustin Shrine.

Across from city hall were several protest banners and a lone woman selling items, presumably to raise money for the cause.  One of the banners read, “Mayor enforce the constitutional decision to LPL.”  Another reads, “Revilla, order your company LPL to comply with the constitutional ruling of reincorporation.”  The third sign reads, “Revilla is a liar does not comply with the justice of our reincorporation justice is fulfilled do not negotiate.”  The mayor of La Paz is Luis “Lucho” Revilla.  Life happens in La Paz.

A few minutes later, I made it to the celeste line.  A fitting end to my trek that day was the beautiful mountain, Illimani.

I enjoyed walking around La Paz today and watching life happen.

A protest across from city hall.
People queuing for public transportation near city hall.
A woman selling all sorts of items at a stand on Calle Colon.
Buildings on Avenida Camacho.
The bus stop near the celeste line of the Teleférico.
Illimani is visible in the distance across from the Prado stop of the celeste line.
Ancient Peoples or Aliens?

Ancient Peoples or Aliens?

Tiwanaku, Bolivia – May 24, 2019

Friday morning was cold and clear, 1-degree Celcius (34-degrees Fahrenheit).  The clear skies bode well for my photography at Tiwanaku, my destination that day.

Right at the appointed hour, 08:00, Mariela, and her driver, Nico, arrived to pick me up for my guided tour at my residence (3,407 meters (11,180 feet)).  As one will read, the altitude is a topic of interest throughout the blog.  Mariela is the owner of her tour company, Mariela’s Bolivia.  One can find her on Facebook by searching for Mariela’s Bolivia.  Homebase for her company is in La Paz, but she offers tours throughout the area.  I cannot recommend her highly enough.  I will use her for additional trips soon.

As I found out throughout the day, the tour was all-inclusive.  When I got into the van, she immediately gave me a fabric bag with her logo.  Inside the bag were a liter bottle of water, two snack bars, a bag of chocolate-covered puffed rice, and two tangerines.  She also took care of all Teleférico fares, Tiwanaku entry fees, and lunch.

Both Mariela and Nico were friendly and personable.  Since my Spanish skills are not that good, it is a bonus that they both speak perfect English.

Our first destination was the Irpawi station of the green line of the Teleférico.  The plan was for Mariela and me to ride the Teleférico to the last station of the blue line.  Nico would meet us at that stop.  Rush-hour traffic was heavy, but we made it to the green line station in good time.  Mariela and I jumped out of the van and entered the station.  Since it was rush-hour, there were a lot of people in the station.  When I usually ride the Teleférico in the morning, it is around 06:00…not as many people then!

We entered an empty gondola and sat by the far window.  Immediately, another six people came into the gondola.  The door closed and we began the ascent from Irpawi.  Mariela started to share all sorts of information with me about Bolivia and La Paz.  As a history buff, I found the information very interesting.

Arriving at the first intermediate station on the green line, the Teleférico attendant asked us all to scoot closer.  I could see a queue of people waiting to get into a gondola.  By getting closer, we were able to accommodate two additional passengers.

In about twenty minutes, we made it to the final station on the green line.  That is also the beginning of the yellow line, our next transport.  There were very few people going our direction on the yellow line, so only two other passengers joined us.  Mariela continued telling me about her city and country.  One fact I found startling; at last count, some 70,000 people rode the yellow line daily from El Alto to La Paz and back again.

My first venture onto the yellow line provided a spectacular view of the recent horrific landslide.  The civil engineering teams working there accomplished a lot, but there is still a lot of work required.  Several homes and buildings continue to be at risk of slipping down the hillside.  The landslide impacted at least one hundred families.  Amazingly, there were only three casualties.

From the last mid-point station to the final station atop El Alto, the yellow line seems to go absolutely straight up!  I do not think the ride is for the squeamish.  Arriving at the Qhana Pata station in El Alto, we saw some of the 70,000 people queued up for the trip down to La Paz.

At the Qhana Pata station of the yellow line of the Teleférico people queue to ride into La Paz.

We switched to the silver line and ultimately to the blue line.  As we flew over El Alto, we saw dozens and dozens of people readying for the Friday markets.  At one point, the silver line crosses above a cliff.  As seems to be the norm in La Paz, structures hugged the edge.  I believe they were shops of some sort, not homes.

El Alto is at about 4,115 meters (13,500 feet) in altitude.  That is roughly 609 meters (2,000 feet) higher than my house.

The shadow of a Teleférico pylon seems to point well down the road.
A portion of the fruit and vegetable market in El Alto.
El Alto structures right on the edge.
Another view of the cliff structures.
A church in El Alto.

During the switch from silver to blue, I took the opportunity to photograph a map of all the Teleférico lines.  I had not previously seen that.

The blue line goes directly down the center of Avenida 16 de Julio.  It seems it will never end.  Along that avenue, one begins to see cholets.  The word cholet combines the word cholo, a pejorative term, and chalet, as in Swiss chalet.  Most buildings in La Paz and El Alto are unfinished, with the iconic exposed red bricks.  That meager finish allows the owner to escape some of the taxes imposed on a finished structure.  The cholets are finished, some to a fare-thee-well.  That brings on the mandatory taxes.

The ground floor is typically set aside for businesses.  The next couple of levels are event spaces available for rental.  The owner usually lives on the upper floors.  The embassy recently offered a cholita wrestling event, and the venue was a cholet.

A map of the Teleférico network in La Paz.
The blue line of the Teleférico heading east seems endless.
A cholet in El Alto.
A sign for a popular juice brand in Bolivia.
The Heroes of October Colesium in El Alto.
A cholet in El Alto.
A cholet in El Alto.
One of the midpoint blue line stations.
A cholet in El Alto.
A cholet in El Alto.

When Leslie and I recently visited the gallery of the artist Mamani Mamani, I remember seeing a photograph of some buildings on which he painted some murals (see the blog MAMAN!MAMANi).  Today I saw those buildings from the Teleférico.  I had no idea they were so far away.

Below the Teleférico, we saw nothing but gridlock!  I felt sorry for Nicco down there somewhere.  Regardless, we made it to the final station of the blue line.  There, an enormous Friday market was in full swing.  Nico was not there yet.  However, after just a few photographs, Nico arrived.  Mariela and I got back in the van.

Nico maneuvered the van through the crazy traffic until we got to Route 1.  From there, it was smooth sailing toward Tiwanaku, until we arrived at the village of Laja.  There is a tollbooth in that village.  After obtaining the toll-ticket, there is a police checkpoint.  The police officer looked at Nico’s driver’s license, asked where we were going, and quickly waved us through the checkpoint.

In the distance, high-rise public housing with murals courtesy of the artist, Mamani Mamani.
“Flying” over a street in El Alto.
The market seems to stretch to the horizon.
A bit of a traffic jam. This is why the Teleférico is the only way to travel.
The Friday market near the Waña Jawira station of the blue line, our final stop.
A man walking into the blue line station.
At the Friday market, women selling medicinal herbs.
The bustling Friday market.
Detail of a woman selling the medicinal herbs.

About 19 kilometers (12 miles) from Tiwanaku, Nico pulled off the road at an overlook.  The elevation is about 4,000 meters (13,123 feet).  This particular overlook affords one an epic view of the Cordillera Real (Royal Range of the Andes).  In this area of Bolivia, there is about 120-180 kilometers (74-112 miles) line of Andean peaks always covered in snow.  The difference in distance depends on the information source one uses.  Suffice it to say, the range at this overlook is stunning.  Even without the best light that morning, the mountain peaks are still a fantastic amazing sight.

A mountain in the Cordillera Real (Royal Range of the Andes).
Illimani, part of the Cordillera Real (Royal Range of the Andes).

After traveling a little more than two hours, we arrived at the village of Tiwanaku.  It is the site of two famous and ancient archaeological sites, Tiwanaku and Puma Punku.  I noticed train tracks in front of an old building that must have been the train depot at one time.  I believe there is a special train one can ride from the La Paz area to Tiwanaku periodically.  Schoolchildren visiting the sites most often use it.  A sign near the old building indicated the altitude at Tiwanaku is 3,870 meters (12,697 feet).  Mariela purchased the tickets for our tour at the depot building.

First on our itinerary was a visit to the two museums in Tiwanaku, the Museo Ceramico (Ceramic Museum) and the Museo Lítico (Lithic Museum – as in monolithic).  Mariela and I first entered the Museo Ceramico.  It was instantly evident that either the heat was not on or there was no heating system.  Regardless, the museum helps paint a picture of the history of the area.  The information offered by Mariela helped bring the culture into focus.  The museum is where one begins to encounter the mystery surrounding Tiwanaku and Puma Punku.  Tiwanaku became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000.  According to the UNESCO site, Tiwanaku flourished as a city between 400 A.D. and 900 A.D.  However, some materials in the museum date the civilization as far back as 15,000 B.C.  That is quite a range!

The museum displays many types of ceramics used in both everyday life and ceremonial life.  Additionally, one can view some weaponry, jewelry, and even a mummy found at Tiwanaku.  Maybe one of the most controversial items on display is the distended human skull.  That one skull is the tip of the iceberg as the museum owns many others.  No one knows the methods used to distend the skulls.  No tools or records of the activity survived.  Some have said the skulls might not be human, but rather extra-terrestrial.  I certainly do not know, but I can say it was one of the oddest things I have seen.  The museum does not allow photography, so I have no images to share.

Departing the Museo Ceramico, we walked next door to the Museo Lítico which showcase the stone monoliths found at the Tiwanaku site.  The Bennett monolith is the star of the show.  Wendell C. Bennett, an American archaeologist from Indiana is credited with discovering the monolith in 1932; thus the name.  Relocated to the city of La Paz after its discovery, it took nearly 70-years to return the monolith to Tiwanaku.  The monolith is almost 7.6 meters (25 feet) tall.  One of its more unique features is the backward right hand.  More on this later in the blog.

Mariela, my guide, purchasing the tickets that will allow admittance to all of the sites at Tiwanaku.
Tickets in hand and ready to go!
The rail station and a snack shack at Tiwanaku or Tiahuanaco, elevation 3,870 meters (12,697 feet).

Exiting the museum, we headed to the archaeological site of Tiwanaku!  Directly across the street from the museum is the main entrance.  From the entry point to the site was roughly 335 meters (1,100 feet).  The benefit of being with a knowledgeable guide is that she knew the shortcut.  Nico picked us up and drove to the north side of the site.  From there, our walk to the site was a mere 33 meters (110 feet)!

Approaching the site, one sees the rock wall of the Kalasasaya Temple, but what catches the eye is the Templo Semisubterráneo (semi-subterranean temple).  That is a large, square temple excavated about 2.5 to 3 meters (8 to 10 feet) into the earth.  Stone blocks make up the walls.  The most significant blocks are maybe 30 by 60 centimeters (12 inches by 24 inches).  The stones are nicely carved and fit together very well without any visible type of mortar.  The seams are tight, but not microscopically tight.  The face of some of the stones show what appear to be tool marks, but overall, they are smooth.  Each of the corners of the walls appears to be very close to 90-degrees.  Interspersed throughout the walls are some much larger stones, some are monolithic.

On each of the four walls are carved heads, 170 to be exact.  The carved heads are much closer to the ground than to the top of the wall.  I thought that was odd.  However, what is even more curious is the shape and design of some of the heads.  I saw at least two that could pass for our current belief of the looks of extra-terrestrials.  Some of the carvings seem to have turbans, something not known in the area in ancient times.  At least one of the heads appeared to be a skull, much like the distended skull in the Museo Ceramico.  Some of the objects have small noses, while others have quite broad noses.  Likewise, there are thin lips and quite thick lips represented.  Some of these features were not common in the area in ancient times.

The massive monolith in the center of the temple is not without its controversy.  Known as the Bearded monolith, it sports a thick beard and mustache.  The indigenous peoples are not known for such hairy faces.  So, the question remains, after whom is the monolith fashioned?  Just another of the many Tiwanaku mysteries.

The east gateway to Kalasasaya (Stopped Stone) Temple. The tourist is admiring the Ponce monolith.
Detail of the gate, monolith, and tourist.
Mariela allowing me to check the focus of the camera before she kindly photographed the author. By the way, that is all of my “junk” draped on her left shoulder.
Standing just above the Templo Semisubterráneo (semi-subterranean temple). The Kalasasaya Temple is in the background.
A group of school children in the semi-subterranean temple.
The Bearded monolith is in the center of the semi-subterranean temple.
On the lower section of the wall of the semi-subterranean temple are 170 carved heads.
Some say the white carved head here is representative of an alien.
The Bearded monolith.
The white head seems to be yet another of our extra-terrestrial friends.
A very odd-looking carved head, possibly with a distended skull.
The head at the lower right seems to look like a skull, possibly with a distended upper skull.
This head appears to have a turban-style headdress; something unknown in the local culture millennia ago.
The head of the Bearded monolith. The beard is quite thick and pronounced, not the norm of people in the area millennia ago.
A snake carved on the side of the Bearded monolith.
The “squished” face at the lower-center is rather odd-looking.

Exiting the temple, one looks directly at the Akapana Pyramid, the third and tallest structure at Tiwanaku, although not exceedingly excavated.  Mariela offered to walk with me to the top.  I opted not to do that, which meant our attention turned to the Kalasasaya Temple.

The east wall of Kalasasaya Temple is roughly parallel to the west wall of the Templo Semisubterráneo.  An ancient set of seven stairs appears to have been the main entrance to the temple in ancient times.  The stairs lead to a gate and ultimately to the Ponce monolith.  Well worn, the stairs are not open to the public.  To enter the temple, we walked along the north wall until we arrived at a much smaller set of seven stairs.  Going up the stairs, we made it to the topmost level of the temple.

A group of school children at the very worn steps to the east entry to the Kalasasaya Temple.
Detail of the east wall of the Kalasasaya Temple.
The north wall of the Kalasasaya Temple.
Yours truly at a stair to the upper level of Kalasasaya Temple.

We walked directly to the Sun Gate.  This gate, though carved from stone, is not similar at all to the other rock at the temples.  The face of the gate is incredibly smooth.  One cannot see any tool marks.  Precisely cut 90-degree angles are on either side of and above the opening.  Just how was this stone carved?  How was the stone transported to this spot?  Since there are no signs of stone chips, where did the carving occur?  No one knows the answer to these questions.  There are many theories, but no proof to date.

At the very top of the stone, above the opening, is an intricate carving of what archaeologists think is the Sun God.  To either side and below the Sun God are four lines of figures.  The lower line may have been a calendar.  The other three lines contain 48 identical winged figures.  Lastly, one cannot miss the enormous crack at the upper part of the stone.  Some believe that the break is the result of a lightning strike.  I disagree with that theory.  If lightning is the cause of the crack, I think there would be much more significant damage on the top portion of the gate.

The backside of the gate is not as intricate, but it still has the characteristic 90-degree angles and smooth finishes.

The east face of the Sun Gate.
Detail of the Sun Gate at Kalasasaya Temple. The figure is the Sun God.
The west face of the Sun Gate.
A side view of the Sun Gate. Note how smooth are the surfaces.

Our next stop was the El Fraile (the Friar) monolith.  This monolith is well known for its contrasting colors of the stone.  At the monolith we stood near a group of school children, also touring the sites.  According to their jackets, the children hailed from the Villa Tunari neighborhood of El Alto.  While standing there, Mariela continued to speak to me in English.  Hearing the English and the fact that I was not Bolivian seemed to be of more interest to the children than the monolith.  Several of them smiled and said hello to me as they departed the monolith.

The El Fraile monolith, like several others, has a unique characteristic.  The right-hand is backward, and in the left, El Fraile holds a chalice.  The fingers on the left side look natural, holding the cup.  In the right hand is what appears to be a scepter; however, if one looks closely, the fingers of the right-hand point in the wrong direction.  Another question, why?  There may be theories, but no one seems to know for sure.

A panorama of the Kalasasaya Temple looking south toward the Akapana pyramid to the left of the frame.
A group of school children at the El Fraile (the Friar) monolith.
A less crowded view of the monolith.
Looking southwest from the Kalasasaya Temple toward the village of Tiwanaku.

Along the north and south walls of a portion of the temple are 14 structures, seven on each side.  They appear like tombs.  Archaeologists believe they may have housed the mummies of leaders or ancestors of the Tiwanaku society.  I wonder if that is where the mummy in the Museo Ceramico originated?

While I read a sign about the tombs, Mariela asked me to stay where I was.  She disappeared on the opposite side of the wall.  Suddenly I heard my name called, but no one was around me.  I finally realized it was Mariela speaking to me through a small hole in the wall.  Even though she whispered what she said, I heard it all very plainly.  The holes in the wall are not only round.  They have interior undulations that seem to mimic the inner ear.  The holes prompt more questions.  Why are the holes there?  How were they carved so precisely?  The answer appears to be that there are no answers.

The Cuartos Ceremoniales (Ceremonial Rooms) Kalasasaya along the south side of the temple.

In the center of the tombs stands the Ponce monolith.  In the bright sunlight, it is easy to see the detailed carvings on this monolith; including the backward right hand.  The “belt” of Ponce has a repeating pattern of what seems to be a crab.  Those are in addition to the intricate designs on the headdress, face, chest, and fingers.  The monolith has what looks like a mid-shin pair of shorts or breechclout, festooned with circles and what looks like peace signs.  One theory holds these tracked centuries of solar and lunar eclipses.

On the back of the head of Ponce, one sees what looks like braids or dreadlocks.  An unusual hairstyle for that part of the world in ancient times.  At the base of the neck on the right side, a large chunk of stone is missing.  Spanish explorers possibly tried to decapitate the monolith as they did with so many others at the Tiwanaku site.

The front of the Ponce monolith.
Detail of the front of the Ponce monolith.
The left side of the Ponce monolith.
Detail of one of the sides of the Ponce monolith.
The backside of the Ponce monolith.
Detail of the backside of the Ponce monolith. Note the large chip missing at the base of the right side of the neck.
Looking into the Semi-subterranean Temple from the Kalasasaya Temple.
An “ear” hole in the north wall of the Kalasasaya Temple.

Descending from the Kalasasaya Temple, the final monolith we saw was the Descabezado (Headless) monolith.  As the name implies, this monolith has no head.  The stone looks like the stone used for the Bearded monolith.  Archaeologists believe the monolith dates from 100 B.C. to 400 A.D.

We departed the Tiwanaku site and walked the 33 meters (110 feet) back toward the van.  At the parking area was a woman selling tourist souvenirs.  Of course, I had to buy something.  After I completed the transaction, she was kind enough to allow me to take her portrait.

The Descabezado (Headless) monolith.
A woman selling tourist souvenirs near the north entrance to the Tiwanaku complex.

Leaving the parking area, we began our drive to the lunch restaurant.  On the way, we passed a unique adobe structure.  It seemed like Bolivia adobe meets Hobbiton.  Nico was kind enough to stop to allow me to take a photograph.  Upon closer inspection, it was evident that if I tried to enter the low front door, I would undoubtedly bump my head on some of the even lower ceilings!  Because of that, I decided I would not go in!

An abandoned adobe structure alongside our route to lunch.

In a matter of minutes, Nico parked in front of the restaurant Taypi Uta.  That means “central house” in the Aymara language.  The owner built the restaurant and a sort of museum on the rest of the grounds.  The restaurant is modern, spacious, and very clean.

Our lunch, included in the price of the tour, was a Bolivian buffet.  It was delicious.  Our server, the owner’s daughter, brought our first course; sopa de trigo or wheat soup.  As soon as we finished our soup, the server placed a small table with a traditional cloth next to our dining table.  On the table, she placed three plates and ten small bowls.  The bowls contained the buffet.  I tried a little bit of everything.

One of the potato dishes was chuño.  They are a dark-colored potato, dried in some manner that allows them to be stored almost indefinitely.  They are not my favorite.  The potatoes lack taste.  My three favorite foods were the fried quinoa, the fried trucha (trout), and the llama.  The bowls may look small, but we were all sated by the end of our lunch.  That did not stop our server from bringing some yogurt for dessert.  It had some banana and quinoa on top.  I took a couple of bites, but yogurt is not one of my favorites.

Mariela noted that if we were working in a nearby field, the type of lunch we had would be brought to the area in the colorful fabric, for all to share.  After nearly ten months in Bolivia, this was my first genuinely Bolivian lunch.

Lastly, the server brought a basket with several keychains attached to business cards for the restaurant.  Each key chain had a small amulet.  I chose a chacha puma, a figure that is half-man and half-puma.

What an enjoyable lunch!

The interior of the Taypi Uta (Amayra for Central House) Restaurant.
For our lunch starter, sopa de trigo (wheat soup).
A true Bolivian lunch buffet. The two bowls at the top, from left to right are quinoa fritters and fried trout. The next line of bowls are chuño, uqa, quinoa, and fried chicken strips. The final row are potatoes, rice, lentils, and llama.
For dessert, yogurt, banana, nuts, and quinoa.
View to the south from the restaurant parking lot.

During lunch, we talked about our final tour of the day, Puma Punku.  Both Mariela and Nico spoke about people from the History Channel visiting the area a few years ago.  Those visitors were more interested in Puma Punku than Tiwanaku.  With that information in hand, when I got home, I looked up the episode in question.  I watched Ancient Aliens season 4, episode 6 entitled The Mystery of Puma Punku.  For anyone interested, it is well worth the investment of 44-minutes.

Following lunch, we drove the 600 meters (nearly 2,000 feet) to the Puma Punku archaeological site.  We all three walked into the site, toward the first set of H-stones.  As the name implies, these are stones formed in the shape of the letter H.  Looking at them from the front, they are approximately 1-meter (3.2-feet) square.  Many of the same questions come to mind.  Where did the stones come from?  How did they get here?  How were they carved with no trace of tool marks?  How were the precise 90-degree angles formed?  What was the purpose of the stones?  I am sure the list goes on and on.

Regarding where the stones originated, scientists are reasonably sure they came from a volcanic area, Kapia, about 100 kilometers (62 miles) away.  That fact makes the question of how the stones made it to the site all the more curious.  Some of the larger stones approach 100 tons.

Regarding usage, The Mystery of Puma Punku episode explores two theories; a door hinge system and a space vehicle launch system.  Watching the show, one can understand how the two individuals arrived at their opinions.  However, I question the validity of either theory based on what I observed at the site.  If the H-stones were part of an extensive door hinge system, where are the other hinge components or the door?  If the H-stones were part of a launch system, why are they presented in an upright position?  Why were the H-stones not aligned on the ground, parallel with the earth?  As one can see, the use of the word “mystery” is very appropriate for the Puma Punku site.

Some of the H-stones at Puma Punka.
Large blocks of red sandstone behind the H-stones.
The backside of the H-stones and another view of the sandstone block.
The I-shaped indentations were for metal connectors, some of which are in the Museo Ceramico.
Several precision-cut stones.
Some additional patterns with 90-degree angles.
A line of H-stones.
Detail of the H-stones.
A seam of two pieces of sandstone.
Squares and a circle cut in sandstone.
Note how flat the surface is and the absence of tool marks.

There are many other stones at the site, nearly all of which generate similar questions like those above.  However, there is one stone that is more perplexing than all the others combined.  At first glance, one might not even take notice of the stone.  It lies flat on the ground.  It is about 1.2-meters (4-feet) long by 0.5-meters (19-inches).  There is a large groove with two cylindrical holes on either end of the slot, roughly in the center of the stone, running lengthwise.  But the two most unexplained features are “drill” holes and parallel lines.

On the edge of the stone is a small ledge that is precisely at a 90-degrees angle.  On that small ledge are multiple small holes, apparently made with a drill.  They are roughly equidistant.  On the face of the stone, near one end, are two tiny, parallel lines carved into the rock.  The lines have the same precise 90-degree angles and equidistant drill holes.  I do not think I need to write all the questions here, but suffice it to say, there are a lot of questions about this stone.

In The Mystery of Puma Punku, scientists try to duplicate the cuts and finishes on a small stone taken from the site.  They used both a diamond wheel cutter and a laser cutter.  Neither even came close to matching the features found on the rocks at Puma Punku.  More questions…

This may have been the most interesting stone at Puma Punku. Along the front edge are equidistant holes that appear to be done with a drill. The two intricate parallel lines at the far right also contain “drill” holes that are equidistant.
Stones are strewn everywhere.
A partially excavated pit.
Looking west from the top of Puma Punka.
Detail of a nearby farm.

The structure at Puma Punku is a raised, pyramid-type structure.  At the west wall is a set of ancient stairs that were likely the main entry point.  Like the Tiwanaku site, they are well worn.  Other than the stairs, the construction at Puma Punku is much different.  Precisely cut, the stones at the walls fit together well.  The seams are so precise that one cannot insert a piece of paper between two rocks.  I saw no signs of visible mortar.  Again, questions…

The west steps to Puma Punku.
A wider view of the steps.
A portion of the west wall of Puma Punku.
The view east along the south wall of Puma Punku.
An example of the very tight seams along the walls.
This channel comes from the top of the temple.
Another example of the tight seams.
An inside corner.
Looking back across all of the various stones of Puma Punku.
More very smoothly cut stones.
A fallen gate.
Tourists on the other side of the largest, multi-ton stone at Puma Punku. It may approach 100-tons.
Smoothly cut stones.
Looking toward the upper H-stones.
The author at the some of the H-stones.

Near the end of our tour of Puma Punku, we saw some rodents living under the stones.  I believe they are called cui rabbits.  Regardless, they were cute and fun to watch.

A rodent under one of the rocks, possibly related to a chinchilla.
An adult and a youngster…
The den seemed to be up and under the huge stone.

After our walking tour of Puma Punku, we drove back into the village of Tiwanaku.  I wanted to take a few photographs of the town.  The Church of Saint Peter of Tiwanaku, built between 1580 and 1612, is on the east side of the central plaza.  Built with stones from the archaeological site, it also showcases two monoliths near the front entrance.  Above the main entry door is a stained-glass depiction of a man’s face, possibly Saint Peter.  Whoever it is, the man does not look happy at all.

Following the brief photography session, we drove back to the Museo Ceramico.  The primary purpose was to use the toilets before our two-hour drive back to town.  Emerging from the museum, we crossed the street to one of the souvenir stands.  I bought a couple of items there and photographed our charming vendor.

A sign in town for good beef.
The Church of Saint Peter of Tiwanaku.
The entry to the church.
The southeast entry to the main plaza area of Tiwanaku.
Colorful buildings along the east side of the plaza.
A sign for Torito cold-cuts.
The snack shacks near the Tiwanaku museums.
A very nice vendor in Tiwanaku.

At about 15:00, Nico turned the van toward El Alto, and we began our trek home.  We made one more stop at the Cordillera Real (Royal Range of the Andes) overlook.  Because of the lighting, the view was even more spectacular than it was in the morning.

This day was one of the most enjoyable tours I have ever taken.  I recommend Tiwanaku, and more importantly, Mariela’s Bolivia to anyone that visits the La Paz area of Bolivia!

A panoramic view of the Cordillera Real (Royal Range of the Andes).
Illimani in the distance. The city apparently at the base is El Alto.
Me at the Cordillera Real (Royal Range of the Andes) overlook.
Another view of Illimani closer to home.
Witches Market

Witches Market

La Paz, Bolivia – September 4, 2018

After ten days of living in La Paz, Bolivia at 11,180 feet (3,404 meters), it was time to bring my lungs on a walking tour of parts of the city.  The Community Liaison Officer (CLO) organized a walking tour on the Labor Day holiday.

About 20 people met at the U. S. Embassy to begin the adventure. A station on the light blue line of the Teleférico (Linea Celeste) was a little more than a block beyond the starting point. It took several gondolas to get the group to the end of the light blue line. Once at the end of the line, the group transferred to the orange line (Linea Naranja).

The orange line “flies” quite high above the never-ending city of La Paz. The views of the town are stunning. It is impressive to see just how many homes and businesses are packed into an area delimited by steep hills and cliffs. It seems one can look in any direction and see hundreds and hundreds of red brick structures clinging to any area of soil that seems as though it may support a structure. Some look rather doubtful, but that does not seem to deter the owners and builders.

The density of La Paz is like no city I have seen.
View from the orange line of the Teleferico.

In our direction of travel, the orange line drops passengers off near the old train depot.  While it is still known as the train depot, no trains originate from the depot.  For some reason, service was suspended years ago.  The only remnants today are the old building and a couple of train cars sitting on display on tracks that lead nowhere.

The orange line of the Teleferico deposits one near the La Paz train station, seen here in the background.

Departing the orange line terminus, the group walked along Avenida Buenos Aires.  In front of a building under construction, there were a half-dozen burros.  It is uncertain for what they were being used or whether there are others in the city.  These are the only burros I have personally seen here.

Burros at the side of Avenida Buenos Aires.

A few bends along the Avenida later, CLO announced we were at our first destination. The destination was not readily apparent. CLO pointed to a small opening off the side of the road and proclaimed, “There is the entry to Uyustus Market (Mercado Uyustus).” At first sight, it did not appear that it was an entry to anything. But, sure enough, once through the entrance, one found all sorts of shops on both sides of a tiny aisle. The aisle could not have been more than three feet wide. Regardless, it was open to travel in either direction. There were not many people in the market when we arrived. Several of the shops were not yet open. Some experienced people in the group said the aisle was very difficult to traverse when all the shops are open, and the market is packed.

The narrow slit between the white tarp and the yellow/orange shop is the entry to the Uyustus Market.

Walking through the market, one passes numerous shops. Some of the shops are no more than a stall about eight feet by eight feet (2.4 meters by 2.4 meters). One can buy shoes, backpacks, cosmetics, underwear, shirts, pants, electronics, household appliances, and more. Now and then there was a small opening between shops. Walking through those, one entered the ground floor of the buildings which line the street. That was entirely another maze of shops offering everything one can imagine. If an item cannot be found at Uyustus Market, it is not something one needs anyway.

A quarter-mile (434 meters) up the market road, thankfully at the end of the upward march, both my lungs began to complain about the 12,300-foot (3,749 meters) elevation. I was happy to stand still and search for available atoms of oxygen while my companions looked for bargains. Looking up, I saw the tangled mess that delivers power, cable TV, and telephone. I am not sure how one could decipher where to begin if one of the utilities stopped working at a nearby home.

Above the ground floor shops were another four or five floors of apartments. Probably 95 percent of the buildings appear to be unfinished. In other words, the exterior is frequently just red brick. The interiors are finished and undoubtedly livable. One Bolivian told me there is no sense in making the exterior walls “pretty.” They are outside.

View of the Uyustus Market.
This mannequin must have been five percent off…
Typical apartment homes above the ground level shops.
The main portion of Uyustus Market is quite crowded.

Soon it was time to walk back downhill toward Avenida Buenos Aires; hooray!!

In the middle of Calle Uyustus was a sleeping dog. Since this is a market street, the majority of the traffic is pedestrian. The dog was unfazed by any of the activities. On that note, there are thousands of dogs roaming throughout the city. Some are turned out by their owners for the day. Regardless, it makes walking dangerous. Not because of packs of dogs growling at passersby, but because of the “gifts” left behind by the dogs. Picking up dog feces does not appear to be in vogue in La Paz. Therefore, when walking, one has to be constantly aware lest one acquires an odorous gift on the bottom of one’s shoe.

Let sleeping dogs lie…

This situation reminded me of our time in Madrid. While living there, the city faced a similar problem of people not picking up after their dogs. The city’s campaign designed to turn the problem around was simple. They put up signs throughout the city that stated; bolsa caca. Loosely translated, it means to bag the crap! Maybe a similar campaign could gain traction in La Paz.

The other hazard when walking in La Paz is uneven terrain and holes. By rough terrain, it is not a reference to the broader terrain of the steep hills and cliffs; but, rather the sidewalks and streets. There is any number of trip hazards in every few yards or meters one travels. It is unsafe to walk and look about at the sights. It is much safer to pay attention to the path to ensure one does not encounter holes, unexpected curbs, sudden inclines or declines, and the occasional dog gift. If one wishes to see the sights, it is best to cease walking and then look.

Back on Avenida Buenos Aires, it is impressive to see the amount of vehicle and pedestrian traffic. Often the cars and the humans are separated by mere centimeters. Luckily, there were no mishaps spotted.

A Dodge bus on Avenida Buenos Aires.
A red Ford bus on Avenida Buenos Aires.
An approaching Dodge bus that was just not quite as fancy as the first.
A family of three on a moped on Avenida Buenos Aires.
Literally, a little old lady walking along Avenida Buenos Aires.
A Bolivian woman wearing the traditional bowler hat.
Some nuns in the back of a minivan.

On the way to the Witches Market, we walked through yet another market along Pasaje el Rosario. There were many shops open; however, it was not overly crowded with people. Interestingly, there are so many shops in the area. They seem to be sectioned off, for example, one area deals primarily in sewing and knitting supplies. Another area features mainly electronics and appliances while yet another deals in aquariums and aquarium supplies.

Another small market on Pasaje el Rosario.
There are many things in the market competing for one’s attention.
A Bolivian woman in a bowler tending to a shop in along Pasaje el Rosario.

We walked into another such area, the “Home Depot.” This street has every type of hardware or hardware related item one can imagine. There is a similar area near where I live. This particular street with the shops is a busy road. It is a one-way road. The vehicles have to negotiate with shoppers while being inconvenienced by a car stopping to take on a large load of something. That sets off the horns on the other vehicles for blocks.

A portion of the road, Isaac Tamayo, is the local “Home Depot” of this area of La Paz.

Not long after the “Home Depot,” we made it to Calle Sagarnaga. That meant we were very close to the Witches Market (Mercado de las Brujas). Finally, at the intersection of Calle Sagarnaga and Calle Linares, we found ourselves in the middle of the Witches Market. The market is so named because, in addition to selling the standard tourist fare, one can also buy many spells and potions. I did not buy any tourist items or medicines, preferring to defer my purchases until I return with Leslie and Lorraine. However, upon my return, I doubt any potions will find their way into my shopping bag.

View north along Calle Sagarnaga toward San Francisco Basilica.
The intersection of Calle Sagarnaga and Calle Linares.
Bolivian women tending a street shop in the Witches Market area of La Paz.
In the Witches Market, looking south along Calle Linares.
The entry to the inti-illimani shop in the Witches Market.
An entry point to another area of the Witches Market along Calle Melchor Jimenez.
A woman walking along Calle Linares.
One of the very colorful street displays found throughout the Witches Market.

About an hour of shopping later, the group met for lunch at a Cuban restaurant. I opted not to join the group. I had to return to San Miguel to go to the Tigo store.

I walked down Sagarnaga toward the San Francisco Basilica.  I would have liked to have gone in, but I had to keep my errand in mind.  Walking from the basilica to the Teleférico, I caught several glimpses of Mount Illimani.  That mountain is about 21,122 feet (6,438 meters) high.  It is visible from many of the higher points of La Paz; including from the Teleférico.

The main entrance to the San Francisco Basilica.
Mount Illimani in the distance.
Riding on the light blue (Linea Celeste) of the Teleferico, apparently destined to Mount Illimani.

I still had to settle my bill for cable and internet after the previous facility manager departed. I took the Teleférico back to the end of the green line. From there I taxied to Tigo. Once I paid my bill, I decided to walk home. As I walked, I passed a dentist’s office. It was apparent they were trying to use a clever combination of the words teeth and health. Unfortunately, in retrospect, maybe the “H” should have been lowercase… I’m just sayin’.

Maybe the “H” should have been lowercase too…
Even though the city is so dense, there is new construction nearly everywhere one looks.
Looking down and to the east along Calle Uyustus.
Near the top of Uyustus Market. The light pole seems to be a starting place for electrical, cable, and telephone spaghetti.
Walking back down to the main portion of Uyustus Market.
Nearly back to Avenida Buenos Aires.
Buses traveling up Max Paredes.
People mix freely, but cautiously, with the traffic.
A paint store at the intersection of Calle Sagarnaga and Avenida Illampu.
Pedestrians were able to cross the intersection.
Walking down Calle Sagarnaga to the north, toward the Witches Market.
A partial view of the Plaza Major de San Francisco. The traffic jam is on Avenida Mariscal Santa Cruz.
The bell tower of the San Francisco Basilica.
Looking to the southeast beyond the Plaza del Obelisco, following Avenida Camacho, one can see Mount Illimani in the distance.
Pedestrians waiting to cross the street.
From a bridge on Calle Bueno, looking to the southeast along the light blue line of the Teleferico. Mount Illimani is covered with a few clouds.  Note the Batman and Wonder Woman restroom sign.
Marvelous La Paz.
The Marvelous La Paz sign is visible in the City Park.
The Linea Celeste drops in elevation to the point that one can no longer see Mount Illimani.
Departing the next to last station on the Teleferico Linea Celeste.
Preparing to pass under the bridge.
From the last station on the green line of the Teleferico looking back toward the northwest.