Nazca; a town in the Peruvian desert with one big draw, the mysterious Nazca lines.
We took a comfortable overnight coach from Cusco to Nazca which arrived in the early morning. On board the coach we met Carl; a Swedish guy travelling the world without flying. His route and method of travel was fascinating; from Europe all the way to Rio de Janeiro by cargo ship stopping at various ports along the way. We went out for breakfast together, Carl told us about an ancient cemetery close by called Chauchilla Necropolis where you can see Nazcan mummies in open graves. It sounded creepy. Our visit to Nazca was solely to see the Nazca lines and we weren't aware of any other sights so we were intrigued.
Our hostel manger organised a car and driver for us; we picked another guy up on the way, funnily enough someone from our Machu Picchu tour group. We drove out into the arid desert, along tan coloured dusty roads. The desert is a dry place that sees barely any rain, as with many places on our journey the heat was exhausting. We pulled up and paid a small entrance fee. All I could see were a few shelters dotted about the flat landscape and some pathways outlined with rocks. I was preparing myself, Carl had said that he'd seen a documentary about the mummies which had been the stuff of nightmares. I didn't know what to expect. We walked up to an open grave sheltered from the sun with a makeshift wooden structure and grassy roof. The mummies were sat upright, skeletal legs crossed with skin still intact in places and long dreadlocked hair. Their jaws were open in an expression of horror and long matted hair gathered in a heap on the floor. Embellished cloth hung from the bones and inside the graves were preserved pottery and food including corn. The remarkable fact is that these mummies are over 1000 years old; I found this fact hard to reconcile in my head. More than 1000 years old and still displaying soft tissue and hair. The atmosphere has preserved the bodies incredibly and some research after visiting taught me that certain rituals helped to lessen decay including coating the deceased with resin and drying techniques.
We walked by each grave; along the paths were scattered human bones. The graves had been heavily plundered by locals looking to make money from any valuables to be found, bones were removed and left in disarray throughout the area. Luckily government protection has kept grave robbers at bay for many years and conservationists have replaced as many bodies as possible in their original resting places.
In the end I didn't find the cemetery to be creepy. I found it truly astonishing that these ancient people have been preserved and glad that their history can live on. Many people have heard about the Nazca lines, but not many think about the civilisation of people that created the spectacle or that lived in the area and predate the Incan and Mayan people.
The next morning we woke up early to catch our short flight over the Nazca lines. We decided to fly early as there's less turbulence in the morning and we'd heard stories of people becoming very ill as the small plane banks left and right. We arrived at the tiny airport and were weighed, we then waited a few minutes before being called up. We'd be flying with two pilots and three other passengers. We were placed in the plane by our weight, Craig was seated at the front and I was at the back with two seats to myself. We put on our retro looking green headphones so that we could hear the pilots commentary. Contrary to reports we'd heard about safety we felt like we were in good hands, the two pilots were extremely professional. We sped along the runway and were off!
The landscape was overwhelmingly brown, dusty and flat. There were a few hills not too far away which provided some much welcome greenery to the desert. We flew over many of the lines and biomorphs which are the lines in animal shapes. It was incredible to see these patterns and creatures in the landscape made over a thousand years ago and subject to such mystery. We learned that the lines were made by removing the reddish brown top layer of dirt revealing the lighter colour earth underneath. Some of the biomorphs created include a hummingbird, spider, and a monkey with a perfectly spiralled tail. These were my favourites of the lines. There is also a human figure referred to as 'the astronaut' due to a shape around the head resembling a helmet. This could be one of the reasons why there is a conspiracy that the lines were alien-made and not man made, how would a civilisation over 1000 years old know what an astronaut looked like? The crazy theories are what give this amazing sight intrigue although I think it's amazing enough to imagine the Nazca people using simple methods to create such wonders that they wouldn't have been able to quite see properly from the ground.
The pilots swirled the plane around so we could all see each of the patterns and biomorphs, I snapped away on the camera but also made sure to really look as some of them blend easily into the landscape. The 30 minute flight was coming to an end and so we headed back to the airport filled with excitement that we had witnessed one of Earths most intriguing and mysterious wonders. Motion sickness had not surfaced one bit for me thanks to a tablet I had taken prior to the flight and so it had been a completely enjoyable experience and one of the highlights of our trip so far.
We got chatting to an Aussie guy from our flight and all went out for lunch together. I had a plate of rice and beans with a fried egg and sweet plantain, the beginning of my love for a cuisine found typically in parts of the Americas. In the afternoon we picked up our bags and caught the bus to Huacachina an oasis in the middle of sand dunes. The journey was fairly short and we passed by the Nazca lines watchtower on the way. After a short taxi ride from the bus station to Huacachina we checked in and then met Carl for dinner who had arrived the day before. Huacachina had a travellers vibe to it and thanks to the weekend was bustling. The warm air made walking at night a joy and we were looking forward to a couple of days of downtime.
The following day Craig and I enjoyed lunch together before he went to try sand boarding for the first time. As a keen skateboarder in his teens he was excited to try the sport which is similar to snowboarding but apparently slightly more difficult. I enjoyed a peaceful afternoon of writing. Craig returned sweaty and covered in sand top to toe. We watched GoPro footage of his attempts and I was very impressed, he was a natural. From the footage the dunes looked very high so I was quite glad that I sat this activity out as I think I would have been too scared to slide over the edge and I definitely would have spent more time on my bum than on my feet.
The next day we checked out of our pricey room and moved over the road to the hotel Carl was staying at as there was a pool and relaxing sun lounge area. We had a day by the pool and went out for dinner together, besides that it was blissfully uneventful. The next day we managed to jump on a coach leaving that minute to Lima where Craig and I would be staying with a local family for a few days.
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