The Deep Questions You find in Nazca

The theme of Peru was long drives and dead people.

 Notice the headphones which I used to listen to the exhaustive explanation of the lines... "monkey...monkey... spider... spider..."

We drove south along the Pacific coast.  On the right was the ocean with spectacular surf and a somewhat forbidding aura.  The large amounts of sharp rocks jutting out of and into the water might have had something to do with the aura thing.  The sand of the beaches when we stopped was fine, and powdery and somewhat soothing to the touch.  On the left of the bus was the desert.  The Atacama was unlike anything that I had ever seen before.  We drove for hours and there hasn’twithout seeing a plant, bird, animal, or sign of humans.  Just rolling sand dunes, gravel and rock with the mountains in the distance coming steadily closer.  It was what I imagine that the moon looks like.  After awhile we passed the remains of an adobe wall and above it I watched what I assume was some kind vulture gliding in circles.

The sands of the Pacific

Nazca Our first day in Nazca started with an earthquake.  Just a little one that sort of woke me up but not enough to get me out of bed.  Basically, I rolled over and went back to sleep.  Looking back that was probably not the best way to stay alive if perhaps the building had been less stable that I thought it was.  My survival instincts seriously let me down… I decided to take one of the little planes up to see the Nazca lines.  The lines were created by the Nazca culture

probably between 200BC and 700 AD.  There are hundreds of individual figures. They range in intricacy from simple lines to pictures of animals.  The pictures are very unique and when you see these pictures reproduced it is easy to know what they are.

Quiz: Can you see the Owl-man?

The lines were made in the ground where the reddish gravel that cover desert has been removed, revealing the paler ground underneath. The largest are over 660 ft across.  They really can only be seen from the air.  I flew up in a tiny little plane much like the one that I used to fly to the village in Alaska in.  Of course the Peruvian plane was much nicer and to get into the plane you didn’t have to climb over the wings.  I think that the reason for this feature is so that the gaping tourists (i.e. Tara) can look out the windows without having their view spoiled.  The flight was about an hour long and covered a much larger distance that I had imagined.  The lines are quite spread out.  I had thought that they were all sort of lined up one after another, like the geoglyph version of Easter Island.  Because of the lack of contrast between the lines and the surrounding ground as well as thebright sun made getting a decent photograph of the lines almost impossible.  I can’t tell you how many pictures I took that turned out to be crap.  It was an exercise in futility and eventually I just decided to give it up so I could enjoy the ride and view.  The plane circles each of the lines which was a maneuver that I was not used to even though I have lots of small plane experience.  After about forty five minutes of this I was a healthy and attractive shade of green and more concerned with keeping breakfast down than the impressive lines that I was supposed to be paying attention to.   I managed to keep my dignity but after the flight was over I spent about twenty minutes with my head between my knees.  And yet it was so worth it… mysterious lines from adead culture.

Am I back in Togiak?

To see that dead cultures dead we travelled to Chauchilla which is an ancient Nazca cemetery.  But not a cemetery like we would normally think of it.  The corpses are in deep pits covered with awnings.  The bones are bleached bright white from the sun.  Looking around the broad flat valley you can see tiny bones glinting in every direction.  This is a testament to the grave robbers that have ravaged this area. Chauchilla cemetery has been  looted by treasure hunters and local farmers for centuries.  The valuables and artifacts are a much surer way to make money that trying to eek a living out of thedesert.  Grave robbers have only left behind the corpses.  It is the only archaeological site in Peru, in which ancient mummies are seen in their original graves.  The mummies aren’t well preserved and Peru boasts much better examples but the setting makes the experience powerful and uncomfortable.  Who were these people?  What were they like?  Was it ghoulish and weird to stare at their remains like this?  I don’t know the answersto these questions but I do know that the cemetery is something that will stay with me for a long time…

Back on the bus: The pacific continued to throw itself against the bare rocks of the beach.  Watching it along with the sway of the was almost hypnotic and the whole scene felt almost primeval like watching fire as if there is something about the rhythm of the oceanthat brings back memories of earlier ancestors…

Bienvienidos a Peru! Donde la Historia vive!

This blog is belated. You can tell that it is belated because the last one that I wrote was in April. Seriously April?! What is wrong with me? Okay, new goal for this school year. One blog a week. It may not actually happen but I am setting this as my goal anyway. Let me assure you that in the time that I wasn’t writing thing were actually happening. Not all of them were interesting but still… Anyhow… on to Peru! 

As you can probably tell from the title of this blog my Spanish (while pretty darn bad) is much much better than my Mongolian. 

The flight to Peru was much shorter than I thought it would be. Just short of seven hours from Newark. The plane was also not the monster that I have become used to taking on jaunts around Asia. This might be insignificant but I think that it was demonstrative of the fact that South America and getting to South America is nowhere near as intense as Asia. Peru had a consistently low key atmosphere that I found very refreshing.

I decided to take a tour around Peru. I wanted to see too much 

in too many cities to do it on my own. Okay, I could have done it on my own but I’m lazy. I got into Lima at 11 pm and didn’t have to meet anyone until 2 the next afternoon . Wanting to take advantage of every opportunity I spent the morning wandering, getting lost, finding the hotel again and repeating this pattern about five time. Lima is only 12 degrees south of the equator and I was halfway expecting it to be warm even though it was winter in the southern hemisphere. It ended up being sort of cold and misty. Apparently the mist has a name… garua. Lima is the colonial capital of Peru so most of the interesting buildings are Spanish. 

We got up at 3 the next morning so that the bus could leave by 4. Driving south along the pacific coast we were barely out of Lima when it happened. We were on our way to the Ballastas Islands and we were stopped by a protest. There were tires burning on the road and a crowd of people. In front of the bus, but not too close to the protesters, another crowd of people 

gathered. They mostly looked like tourist who are pretty easy to pick out here. Actually, when you really think about it do tourist really blend in anywhere? I think that being the odd one out in a crowd might be half the fun of being a tourist. There was a van with what I assumed was a television station logo on it driving up the median to the fires. Later on we heard that the station had been showing the whole thing live and that we were all on Peruvian TV. Why am I so entertained by that? The people milling about were having endless variations of the same conversation. “Who are these people?” “What do they want?” or even perhaps, “How long is this going to take?” No one (tourist or Peruvian) seemed to know the answer to any of these questions. As the sun rose I got to stare at the mist wrapped foothills of the Andes and think of the sleep I could have gotten if only I had known that this was going to happen. Funny how getting up and three in the morning and then stuck on a bus with no bathroom makes you wistful for a hotel room… The column of smoke from the burning tires are oddly hypnotic as I watch and listen to a man on the radio speak Spanish at the speed of light. I was picking up about one world in ten. “Curito”, “Importante” and “ quinto” and just listening to it made me a little dizzy. 

The group leader, Fernando spent most of the time talking on his cell phone trying to save the day at the islands. I probably would have been more annoyed or worried but for two things. One: I was not the one who had to deal the logistics and two: I was way way too tired- even though I couldn’t really sleep. I was also bored as nothing had changed except for the light in over an hour. Suddenly the police arrived and Fernando is yelling at everyone to get on the bus and to roll up the windows. Several tear gas bomb later the crowd has been dispersed and the fires put out. Four hours of waiting for the police and the whole thing was over in less than ten minutes. There were still tons of large rocks that had been thrown on the road to black traffic to deal with but a little off roading took care of that. 

All in all a fascinating welcome to Peru. 

And for those of you who care- we did indeed make the islands before the currents turned nasty for the day…