On to Nazca, Peru

Tuesday, July 17, after a day of rest in Lima and some internet access, we moved further south today. We are in the small tourist town of Nazca. It was a seven-hour bus trip starting with a 4:30AM departure from Lima. The trip continued thru the coastal desert, first along the coast and then moving inland a bit to climb some of the low, barren hills just to the east. Before getting to Nazca, the Pan American Highway passes thru the Nazca Plains, one of the sites of the famous “Nazca Lines”. These are designs that the early inhabitants of the area etched into the rocky desert as gifts to their gods.

After we checked into a hotel room and had lunch, we checked out several tour agencies before scheduling a flight to fly over and see the lines. The flight was for early Thursday morning when the sun would be low enough to bring them out. We also took a 3PM tour today to the pre-Columbian Cauchilla Cemetery site. In the past, the graves had been ransacked by grave robbers and the mummies, pieces of cotton cloth, broken pottery and bones were left scattered over the site. More recently the site was protected by the government as an Archaeological Park. The graves were unburied and the remains replaced back into them and then they were left open for tourists to view, although each is covered with a sun shade to guard against further sun damage.

This tour also included a traditional gold-extraction demonstration and visit to a ceramics shop. Both shops were back in town. The gold shop had bags of crushed ore from which gold was extracted in the old manner, using large quantities of mercury! The small amount of gold gotten this way is used for making jewelry. The ceramics shop also uses the pre-Columbian methods. The craftsman was making copies of the pottery recovered from the graves and his pieces were quite fine. The guide for the day was quite full of explanations and spoke fluent English, German, French and Italian, as well as his native Spanish of course.

The town of Nasca is un-remarkable itself. An earthquake in 1996 flattened most of the older adobe structures and the town has been rebuilt with modern earthquake-resistant methods using cement, rebar and bricks. Additional new construction continues today. Some of the poor outlying areas are being slowly rebuilt with adobe, but many of the dwellings are of woven mats (even the roofs), although it rains so infrequently that shade is more important than the water proof-ness of a roof. The mats are woven of either split bamboo or reeds, while the material is still green and then the mats are dried.

East of town is the largest sand dune in the world. It is climbing up over the hills in that area.