Seeing lines in the sand

Trip Start Oct 06, 2010
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Trip End Jul 30, 2011


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Where I stayed
Nazca Trails
What I did
Nasca Cemetery

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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

After Cusco we were ready to be out of altitude. So, to Nazca we went. It is supposed to be hot and dry all year round, an oasis in a desert. It was definitely a desert, but while we were there it was overcast quite a bit of the time and never got that hot.

Our first full day there we decided to learn a bit about the Nazca culture before seeing the fabled lines that Nazca is famous for. So, what better place than an ancient cemetery. The Nazca culture survived from 300 B.C.E. to 800 C.E.and were amazing architects, artists and builders. We went to an ancient cemetery that had been heavily ransacked by grave robbers over the years. Apparently their textiles, pottery and golden jewelery left with the mummified remains of the people (they mummified everyone, rich and poor) were extremely intricate, and therefore worth quite a bit on the black market. What is left is in tact burial pits with mummies that were found strewn about the desert. They lack in anything of value, but are still amazingly intact considering some of them are over two thousand years old. This is due to the amazingly dry climate of the area, the mummification technique and the construction of the burial pits. The site itself was quite creepy, with bones and cotton (used in the mummification process) strewn all around the area by careless grave robbers, but also extremely interesting. Our guide was great and had a wealth of knowledge on the subject and had amazing english (which helps with the technical terms).

After thd ancient cemetery we then went to check out how the local people process gold from nearby mines, all done privately, not commercially because it is so much work to get a little bit of gold from a lot of rock. Then we went to a ceramics workshop where a family use the ancient techniques that the Nazca people used to make amazing replicas of old ceramics. They used molds instead of a wheel to get the cylindrical shapes, natural dyes from local ingredients and used the grease from their face and hair to get a polished shine on the ceramics after painting.

That day we had some delicious seafood from a recommended place. I had ceviche and Elise had crayfish. Both were delicious, but I found out, the hard way, at 4:00 am that the fish was not the freshest. For the next three days I lay in bed sleeping, and watching crappy t.v.

Meanwhile....
E
After catching up on all of our blogs, including pictures, and exploring the town, I realized that Nazca really has NOTHING to offer aside from the lines and the archeological sites. After making a very thorough tour of the town (one of the first places I've known better than Josh this whole trip!) I decided I needed something to entertain me for the endless days of waiting for Josh's system to be up to the task of flying. I booked another tour with our hostel, this time to the adobe pyramide stuctures just outside of the city, Cahuachi. A Nazca ceremonial centre  that's still being excavated, only 1% of the complex is currently being worked on. They used adobe bricks made out of clay and mud in conical, pan (bread) and oblong shapes, and used them to make walls which were then "plastered" with a smooth layer of clay. Main pyramid of which one side is completely excavated and the other angels are being worked on has been plastered by the archeologists to protect the original walls, most of which were found still standing in their original condition.

There were several theories as to why the complex was abandoned, one of which was natural disaster. There are some indications that three major floods swept through the area, covering the complex entirely. Alternatively they may have abandoned the site to avoid it being found by enemies, or drought could have driven them from the area.

In the same trip we saw the aqueducts that the Nazca people built in order to farm the desert - many of these structures are still what local farmers rely on to irrigate their fields. Massive stone structures built in terraces going down up to 10m, this was how the Nazca people sourced water from underground springs, and through a system of channels and pools, flooded and irrigated their lands for cultivation.


After I was finally able to leave the hostel, we booked a flight above the fabled Nazca lines. Unfortunately, the price seems to be going up every year. We got our tickets for $100 each for a 35 minute flight. Worth it. If you have never heard about the lines at least check this site out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nazca_Lines. I loved the monkey and the Condor, hummingbird and Astronaut are also great. The Parrot was absolutely huge. There is no point describing them, and the pictures won't do them justice. The only thing to do is see them for yourselves. The flight itself went pretty well considering I was just sick for three days, I felt quite nauseous by the last quarter of the flight, but so did Elise. The problem was the constant banking of the plane from one side, to the other so that everyone in this 6 person prop plane could get a good view of all the lines. Luckily, we both survived it without incident and I am really glad we did it.

Next stop Ica,
Josh
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