Day 3: From Huacachina to Nazca

Nazca Travel Blog

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Our departure time from the hotel of just after 8 in the morning meant that we could sleep in. Today we continue our drive across the desert, and once again we set off thought mist and rain. The mist is not too thick to keep us from making the odd photostop in a rocky part of the desert, where we still have quite a view in spite of the mist.

After almost two hours we reach the watchtower of the Nascan pampa. For one sol we can climb it to have a view of the famous Nasca lines. The metal tower, built by Maria Reiche (she spent most of her life researching this remarkable phenomenon, now listed on the Unesco list of world heritages), is about 15 m high and gives a good view of two well preserved figures: the hands and the trees.
On the other side, you can also see some lines figures in the desert, but they are pretty much distorted by the Panamarican highway, which was built right across those figures (at the time the road was built, no one had any idea of the immense figures, drawn by the Nascan people.

It is really amazing to see those figures. Just imagine that from the ground, you can only see some places where the ground looks dug up in some kind of random pattern, but from ground level is just all looks like a big bunch of gubbledegoo. It's only from enough height above the ground that you can see the desert ditches actually shaping into primitive linedrawings... But the Nazcans did it all on the ground, drawing drawings while they couldn't see what they were drawing!

But there are many more of these figures than the two we can see from the watchtower, so in a quarter of an hour all of our group have climbed the tower (and come down again), bought some souvenirs and we are on our way again, to see more of the figures later in the day.

We continue to the city of Nazca, where our tourguide consults the local agent about the order of the program for the rest of the day. The mist, we have been experiencing all morning, forces us to change the program. That's why our next stop is a quick visit to our hotel in Nazca, where we will be staying the upcoming night. We have a cup of tea (or coffee) there, take some pictures of the house-alpaca, grazing at the lawn of the hotel, and the birds of prey (family of the condor), sitting at the lampposts in the garden. While we are there, the sun also takes its final victory over the clouds for today.

From there we go a little bit further along the highway, before turning away from it at an angle of 90°, onto an unpaved dusty desert road (although "road" might be a bit too heavy word, it's more like we're following the tire tracks of cars that have been there before).

Fourty minutes cross country, we reach our sandy destination, the Chauchilla cemetery. This is where the Nascans buried their dead. But they did that in quite a special way: they dug a hole in the ground, stabilized it with stones, put the dead body in it in foetal position facing east, put some gifts for the afterlife in the hole and covered it with a plank. The desert wind took care of the rest, covering the plank with sand again.

Nowadays, a number of these grave-pits have been recovered and reopened, so visitors can see the now mummified Nazcans. Even though there are quite a number of graves left in tact, alas many more have been destroyed over the centuries by grave robbers, treasure seekers and even locals looking for the riches. For that, they didn't need the bodies, so they just disposed of them.
That's why now pieces of bone and cloth lay scattered across the desert. Only a shallow depression in the sand is left as a reminder of the graves-that-are-no-longer.

The reason that the mummies that have not been destroyed by grave robbers are still so well preserved, having been left untended for about fifteen hundred years, is the local climate: extremely dry. On average, only 8 mm of rain falls per year. In such a dry weather, no special preparations have to be taken to mummify the dead body. And not only human bodies: in one of the graves, we also see a parrot-mummy.

At the visitor centre of the Chauchilla cemetery there is a small museum (one room with the two best preserved mummies) which we visit. And, of coarse, before we leave, we buy some bottles to drink, because after our more than half an hour guides tour around the grave pitches in the dry heat, we are starting to feel pretty well mummified ourselves.

We return to Nasca city, where we stop at Jenny's pottery. Jenny, a pottery artist, herself demonstrates how traditional Nazcan pottery is made, using only natural materials. We marvel over the tremendous pace in which she can produce a perfect Nazcan pot (with handle) in just over ten minutes while explaining every move she makes. OK, she has had "some" practice, but still... After such a show of skill, it is only natural that we have some time to look around the shop afterwards, and hardly anyone in our group leaves the building without having bought one or more traditional Nazcan pottery items.

Jenny's pottery shop is just outside the centre of Nasza, which is where we have lunch at El Greco, a restaurant with good food (prepared in a kitchen which is visible from the restaurant and immediately you wish you hadn't looked, but the chicken in mushroom sauce "recommended by the chef" is very much recommendable indeed) and quite fast service.
And, as you might have expected already, when a group of foreigners enters a city centre restaurant, a group of traditional Peruvian musicians follows quite soon after them and starts playing Andean tunes. Once again we are lucky: this group is really good (so they sell quite a number of their CD's after having played for us). I say lucky, because when we walked from the bus to the restaurant, about half a block before our place and across the street, we saw and heard another group perform... those were unbelievable in their own way - hardly likely you will ever hear so many false notes played in one tune.

The service is even quick enough to leave us some time to look around the centre of Nazca and get a glimpse of the local life, before we depart for our final destination for today: the airport.
There we learn two more things about Peru: when they say "wait a little while", the little is meant only on astronomic scale, and when they say "promised", they will probably change their minds in the next two minutes into the complete opposite.

Just after we have arrived, we have to fill in a list, signing a declaration that the company will not be responsible for any ill-effects, such as airsickness or plane crashes. Immediately, one of the officials of the airline company promises that we will be fly over the Nazca pampa, over the Nazca lines (because that's what we are here for) in our own plane, with all twelve of us on board in one aircraft... That's until they find out they have miscounted the number of passengers on the list: we're eleven, not twelve.
.. So the next promise is that three of us are going in their own plane, the other eight will fly together in another.

Not so: the three separate flyers have just taken off, as the airline-official calls on us again, now saying that the remaining eight are split up again into three and five, each subgroup its own plane. Wrong again! The three are sent up in a three-seat Chesna allright, but the last five (I'm one of them), go up into the sky in a twelve seater after all, together with a number of Italians and some French tourists. But at least we're going to fly, having waited for almost two hours, and being able to return just seconds before sunset.

Now, earlier today, our tourguide warned us to take some preparations for the flight: "if you tend to be airsick, please start taking pills against that well in advance - and bring along a plastic bag, just in case the tablets turn out to be insufficient - and for those who are not airsick very quickly: bring along a plastic bag anyhow!".
With that in mind, we are prepared for the worst...

All preparations turn out to have been unnecessary: the views of the Nazca lines and the landscapes are so overwhelming,that we all forget to become airsick, even though the plane is making turns in which the wings of the aircraft are completely vertical. We can see all the linedrawings in the sand very clearly, and the red glow of the sun approaching the horizon over the mountainous terrain is an extra bonus - you might say a nice compensation for all the broken promises at the airport.

One unforgettable experience richer, we return to our hotel, some two miles from the centre of the city. Having put my suitcase and other stuff in my space capsule sized hotel room, we all very much have an appetite for dinner (once again we can enjoy the riches of the Peruvian cuisine, this time with a egg plant salad, stir fried strips of beef and ice cream for desert), accompanied by more traditional Andean music - to our great surprise, performed by the same musicians that played in the restaurant this afternoon.
Three of them, that's to say: at lunch, they were a trio, now a quartet. They are still playing very good, but they don't sell many CD's tonight...

After dinner, I go to the yard with one of our group, to have a game of pool at the pool table, I spotted this morning during our short visit here. We find that there is a possibility that Nazca must very near a spacetime singularity: balls that already had stopped on the table start rolling again, shots on which the queueball changes its direction by 90° without hitting other balls or  sides of the table, objectballs that don't drop into the pocket, but spontaneously return to the centre of the table and so on. Even the queue is distorted by an overdose of gravity into a very nice approximation of a circle segment.

Two games on this table of horrors is enough for us, before calling it a night - it's been another very fine day, and we have a very long day awaiting us tomorrow...
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A very beautiful hotel in the middle of nowhere
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photo by: ulysses