It's a creekmore world

Peru Day 7: Bones, Sand-surfing and Mysterious glyphs: Welcome to Nazca

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Most of the original remains have been stolen or put in museums.
I dream of being shaken violently in the fist of a primitive giant – my neck twisting every which way as he tries to snap my head off.

I groggily gather my senses and remember that I chose the Cruz Del Sur overnight bus ride from Cusco down the mountain to the desert city of Nazca.  And the twisting, turning hairpin turns are throwing the passengers back and forth in their seats.

This desert is BARE.  You wouldn't want ot get stranded here.
It’s 4am.  No one can sleep through this.  I have noise-cancelling earphones, an eye cover, and a neck pillow in a deep reclining, reasonably comfortable chair.  But the back-and-forth see sawing of the bus is too much.

I peek out the closed curtains.  In the dawn daylight, the desert is lighting up.  I see nothing but red rock.   A few turns later, there is a giant cactus.  Where ever we are, it’s desolate.  There is no underbrush, bushes or even grasses, just rubble and a large cactus every mile or so.  It’s so stark that it looks cartoonish.  This looks how I imagined the surface of a planet from outer space.  (minus the cacti).

Nasca

This is Nazca.  In the upper right is Cerro Blanco, the worlds largest, mountain-sized, sand dune.
We are shortly in Nazca, home of an ancient civilization, active from the first century B.C. to the fifth century A.D., when it quickly dissapeared, possibly because of a catastrophic weather event like El Nino. There is a study that the event was made worse because they had cleared too many trees needed to prevent soil erosion.  AN ECO-TASTROPHY! OMG OMG OMG

As was then, Nazca is a desert region bordered on the northeast by the Andes mountains and the southwest by the Pacific Ocean.  The desert has dehydrated Nazca artifacts and remains (mummies) for eternety, and therefore we know a fair amout about them including they used hallucinogens from cacti, made (still used) sophisticated water aqueducts, and were big fans of severing peoples heads, both friend and foe.

The Nazca lines

Emma's favorite - the monkey.  She bought earrings of this shape.
But the most mysterious thing preserved by the desert are the hundreds of glyphs – large-scale line drawings – in the flat sands of the desert plain.  These pictures; dog, monkey, person, etc… are not recognizable unless you are at sufficient hight, at least a few hundred feet high.  No one knows why they made things that were not viewable at a human scale.

With the windows rolled down, the hot desert air warms us in the old van of the young taxi-lady, Naina, who takes us to the airport from the bus terminal.    It’s about 7:30 am and it’s already hot.

The Alcatraz
There is a lot of speculation about the way the Nazca lines were created:  hot air balloons, alien civilizations, very long ropes.    As I explain it to Lily, her reaction is ‘Wow! They must have been gigantically tall to draw those!’  I replied ‘No, they were human size but maybe they had hot air balloons.” To which she said “Wow!  They must have had really long sticks to draw those from hot air balloons!”  lol.  (Don’t forget to click on the images to get a larger version.)

As we approach the airport, Naina, who speaks pretty good English, asks if we have reservation for the flights.  We don’t, and she goes on about how petrol has been hard to get and prices rose when several outfits were put out of business after thirteen people died in two seperate accidents last year. (The Peruvian government, in response to the international coverage of the incident has increased regulations and reduced the volume of flights.)

Lily and Emma have been excited to see the Nazca lines for months.
Inside the tiny airport, there are a few airlines, maybe five total with two dozen tourists standing around who, by their looks, are most likely on a package tour.  Naina asks around for tickets and does find some fthat leaves in a few hours.  It’s $175 a person – more than I expected, but seemed in the ballpark.

I have a mild headache.  I’ve been up for 4 hours already and haven’t had any caffiene.  The bright sunlight keeps me up, as I walk back to the car to confer with Trish.  Even the dehydrated nescafe crap served at most breakfasts would taste good right now.

Naina comes running out and says she found a better deal – a private plane that leaves right away for $25 more per person.  Well take it!  The only problem is I don’t have enough cash and they don’t take cards.  No matter, Naina says, we’ll get to an ATM afterward and sort it out.

This is the smallest plane we've been on - 4 seater.
An hour later, having paid the airport tax, done the silly security screening (and still with no coffee), we board a flight on the smallest airplane any of us have seen – 4 seater with analog instruments.  The take-off is smooth but Emma and Lily hold hands and giggle as the six of us (2 pilots) soar into the air over the desert.

Geoglyphs and Bioglyphs

The desert is covered in lines, drawings and shapes
You’ve seen the shapes, sure.  But the Nazca lines are much more than that.  First of all, we were very lucky to see them on a perfectly clear day.  The desert can be covered in a low obscuring mist.  When you can see it clearly, it’s overwhelming.  In a relatively small region there are over 70 bioglyphs (pictures) and 900 geoglyphs (trapezoids, spirals, lines and triangles.)  That means there are lines everywhere.

But there are also vehicle tracks and water gullies from the rare times that it rains.  And the lines aren’t that easy to make out in the bright sun.   (I had to up the contrast on these pictures to show the lines.)  But you can definitely see them – it’s not a hoax.

Emma is the family's videoographer-in-training
The lines were made, ingeniously, by scraping back the reddish, rubble crust on the surface to reveal the hard-packed light rock beneath.  They mostly went undiscovered until the 1930’s and have lasted since they were created in around 200 BC.

Emma is breathless, filming enthusiastically and narrating for her friends at home.  Lily shows no sign of fear, and shouldn’t, it’s a smooth flight all the way to landing.  As we descend, we get a great view of Cerro Blanco, the worlds tallest sand dune in the distance.  We’ll do that another trip.  (Next page)

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