Day 63 The lines in the sand

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July 30th 2015
Published: July 31st 2015
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Distance driven today: 297miles/478km

Cumulative distance driven: 11,219 miles / 18,055 km (5,000 miles to go)

Today’s trip: Lima to Nazca, Peru

Full bike service completed: yes

After a long three day Independence Day holiday, all offices and business finally opened today. I was standing outside the BWM dealership service entrance 8am sharp, i.e. by the time they open their doors for business. In the next three hours the motorcycle got an oil change, new air and oil filter, valve adjustment, new brake pads all around, and a thorough check-up. As soon as the service was completed, we went back to the hotel in Lima, checked out and started (finally) driving south again. Every time now that I turn on the ignition and see the pre-check icons flash on the display, and then hear the engine starting, I can’t help by feel like we have witnessed a miracle, given our experiences on Monday when all of the above suddenly died.

By late afternoon we had reached the town of Nazca in the Nazca desert. Nazca is a must-stop place in in southern Peru (only second to Machu Picchu) as it become famous when a series of large scale geoglyphs, i.e. designs in the desert landscape, were discovered by archaeologists almost a hundred years ago. The lines in the desert form hundreds of figures, most of which portray stylized spiders, monkeys, fish, hummingbirds etc. What make these zoomorphic line art figures so special is that they are large, some are 200m / 650 ft across (essentially larger than a football field), and perhaps most importantly, they are only visible from a significant altitude, typically half a kilometer or so. Because the figures cover such large areas of the desert, they can only be seen from an airplane or helicopter, something that the Nazca people who created them 1,500 – 2000 years ago clearly did not have. Which poses the intriguing question of how they were drawn, and in addition, who and how could actually observe them from the air. None of these questions have been settled so far, though there are plenty of competing theories.

Archaeologists, historians, and mathematicians have all tried to determine the purpose of the lines, but no definitive explanation has been found so far. The most common explanations of the purpose and function of the Nazca lines are religious and astronomical. An interesting fact is that the lines and figures have been perfectly preserved for thousands of years, due to the extremely arid climate. The dry, windless and very stable climate in the Nazca desert also means that it has practically not rained for many centuries here!!

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