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Nazca

Written on: Tuesday November 20th, 2007

A journal entry from: Kevin and Julie's RTW

Location: Nazca, Peru

Author: Kevin

Hola!

Wanting to write about the great day of adventure we had yesterday at Nazca, is trumped by thoughts of planning our trip to Carnival in Brasil. We've been travelling now for 70 some days and everyday the feeling of globe trotting sinks in a bit deeper. I feel like putting on a pair of runners and sprinting from city to city. My energy levels are intensifying with every exhilarating activity. Yesterday started with a 3am walk to the top of the hotel to observe the nightlife of the main plaza of the Nazca. Although there was just the local street vendors out, I realized that there was a call inside me to turn up the fun factor. Remembering that our morning flight pickup was at 8:00 am, I wondered back to my room in the dark.

It didn't take much to get us out of bed, and after showering and having breakfast, we were still a half an hour early for our hotel pickup to the airport. We booked with a reputable company, Aero Condor, and arranged for an additional tour of the Chauchilla cemetery and the Cantallo aqueducts.

Travel is an opportunity to change ones self, and leave behind certain anxieties. For me it was the fear of heights and sleeping away from home, but for Julie, she has a fear of flying. Seconds before getting into the plane she turned to me and says ?Maybe I shouldn't go?. Listening to her, it is inevitably her decision. She climbs into the narrow cabin of the plane. There is room for 6, the pilot taxis down the runway. This little bird accelerates down the runway and quickly we are airborne. The pale desert is well below us and we gaze to the horizon, the Pacific Ocean only 100 km away. The Nazca valley neighbours small hills and the world?s largest sand dune, Cerro Blanco at 2078 meters. The experience for us was less about the lines and animals shapes, and more about the flight. A roller coaster comes to mind, as we bank at more than 30 degrees of incline. I swear I just felt G forces, and I turn to see Julie shaking in tears. The camera is all that she has to keep her distracted from her fear. The pilot looks back and notices the streams rolling down her cheeks, but Julie gives him a sign that she is okay. The wings of the plane teeter-totter as we sway from side to side. The camera shoots the images below and nausea from looking through the lens shakes hands with our early morning breakfasts.

There is mystery surrounds the lines, why are they there, for whom were they intended? They are shapes dug into the desert sand, lines lighter than the sun-burned dirt around them. The shapes are as clear as any drawing, some of people, but most of animals found in areas far from here. Condors, monkeys, whales, hummingbirds, human hands, and an astronaut. There are over 800 lines, 300 geometric figures, maybe used to map the stars, and some 70 animal and plant drawings. Maria Reiche a German mathematician came to Nazca to uncover the mystery. She concluded that the lines could be used like a mathematical calendar. But we still don?t know who could read them. Surely you would have to look at them from the air. Did the Paracas and Nazca cultures have air balloons during 900BC to 600 AD? Maybe an answer lies in a 24 hour hallucinogenic experience of San Pedro, but none of us have the nerve to spend the full day tripping with a shaman. Heck we're still adjusting to the food.

Here is a what if...What if the weather at Nazca is a clear and constant 30C and clear skies. Well it is. And what if the runway looking lines in the desert are really runways. And these images on the ground are for beings not used to travelling to this area, kind of like the lonely planet for ALF's. Some of these hills look like piled stones, not natural mountains...take a look, they are darker than the other hills. If they are man made I wonder what is under them.

Touchdown felt great and a much needed nap was apparent. We headed back the hotel and fell onto the bed for some deserved zzzz's. Our noon pickup was the beginning of yet another strange experience. Yet it?s still the same day.

Water is sacred and modern day man is in agreement with this Incan belief. The Cantallo aqueducts span from the Pacific to the Andes. The Paracas people lived by the ocean but discovered a fresh water source coming from underground rivers. They traced its origins to the base of the Andes, and created a series of aqueducts 200km long. There are 20 circular pools in the Nazca region, and we visited a few. The water irrigation system spread into local farmers land but fields of cotton are struggling from a shortage of rain. The spirit of Pachemama is constantly present in us and we offer these struggling crops some of our bottled water.

Ah a new perspective, Canada is such a new country and yet so different from this one. Two years ago, people here started to take land and put up fences....what? Free land, and land that has mining potential? Is there any free land remaining in Canada? If so you better look into it...cause its going fast. Not long after, hummingbirds fly around us, within a meter from where we are standing. Our guide Hilda tells us we have good energy, and this is unlike the usual. As we move to different aqueducts they follow us. Our guide is surprised and tells us that her mom used to talk about the hummingbirds, and how they were a sign of good luck. She is surprised and we feel great.

The wind blows sand from the ground and into to tombs of Chauchilla, uncovering the human remains for past civilizations. In the 1980's grave robbers attacked these ancient cemeteries, to steal jewellery, clothes, and offerings. It's awful. Bodies were removed and left to decompose in the sun. Now their skulls are scattered, bleached from exposure to the sun. It?s hard to believe that this is a tourist site, and that even today, skulls are collected like they have value. Local families still dig up tombs, and the city knows. Its a archaeologist?s nightmare and I wish someone would help. At the same time I look at the ground for gold and fragments of spondylus shell is all I find of value. Once the currency of these people, now just another seashell amongst the bones. The dry desert sand kept these mummies preserved. Once buried, the bodies would dry out naturally and even now the ones exposed to us still have skin, fingernails, and hair attached to their bones. It?s eerie and gruesome yet we can?t look away. Julie takes photos and wonders if they will offend anyone at home who will look at them. Looking out over the flat dry field, we can see small pockets were there used to be a grave and now all the remains are pieces of cotton fibers and cotton blankets that used to wrap the bodies. Everywhere we can see white bone fragments littering the ground.

After the tour of the cemetery is finished we head off to see how the pottery and gold is made around here. These were the same treasures the Huaqueros (grave robbers) were searching for in the first place. We visit the workshop of a family that has for the past 30 years been making pottery with the same technique as the Incas. We see a demonstration of how the pottery is formed using tools identical to the ones used in the past, how the pottery is fired at 600 C and how they are glazed and painted using naturally mineral fragments.

Then we cross the street to see a gold mining demonstration. A retired gold miner shows how it is hand blasted, quarried and slowly grinded. One small enough, mercury is added to the water and the gold dust separates from the lag. This gold dust is melted and poured into lingots. After tourism mining is the second industry in Nazca with more than 30% of the population involved in some way. The old miner now provides a location for the independent miners to bring their blasted and quarried rocks to be hand grinded in his yard. They don?t have to pay anything but he gets to keep the water/mercury mixture after they are done. More than 40% of gold dust remains in the dirty mixture and needs to be chemically filtered to be retrieved.

The day winds down and we are tired. Julie has started to feel a little sick and we are happy that to be back in our room where she can rest and try to get better before our bus to Ica tomorrow.