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.
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.
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.
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…