The Lines of Nazca, Ica & Paracas

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August 4th 2015
Published: August 4th 2015
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One of the tours Carla had organised was to go to Ballestas Islands and Ica. Now these places where a 5 hours’ drive from Lima and a driver picked us up at 4 in the morning. A rather early start but we slept most of the way down there. When we arrived at Paracas we had a short wait and a jetty took us to the Islands. Now these islands are pretty spectacular and have been eroded by the sea into caves and huge arches. And the islands are providing shelter for thousands of seabird and sea lions. Unfortunately you can’t get onto the island, but it is still an amazing sight to see the birds and the sea lions.

After the visit to the island we stopped in Pisco to have a tour of a winery that made the famous Pisco. Now if you never had a Pisco Sour you missed out. A very nice beverage may I say and the national drink of Peru. There is a bit of a fight going on between the Peruvians and the Chileans who actually invented the drink but I say who cares. And the last stop was a museum in Ica that explained the history of the region in very great detail. Or so I was told by Carla as everything was in Spanish and I understood about 10% of the explanations.

After that is was back home and we arrived at 11 in the evening, pretty buggered but very happy.

The second daytrip organised was to the famous lines of Nazca. Again, Nazca was a fair way from Lima and we had to start again at 4 in the morning and this time it took us 6 hours to get there. Again we slept most of the way and we had the luck that this time we had a little bus all to ourselves. So Carla made the backseat her home and man can she sleep in the car. I thought I was a professional, but she is leaving me for dead.

The Nazca lines are about 22 km from the town of Nazca and are best seen from the air. So we had booked a small plane to fly over them to see them properly. These lines were etched into the Pampa Colorado sand by three different groups dating from 900 BC to 1000 AD and are pretty amazing. Once we arrived the plane took us 55 minutes over the lines and you can clearly see a monkey, hand, tree, etc. And a lot of geometrical designs. And as with many of the places here nobody really knows what they are meant for and symbolises.

After the Nazca lines we visited some old Inca graveyard that had a lot of mummies in them. The graveyard is in the middle of nowhere and was found by some farmers. Nice place.

And then it was back home again but not without an incident. About 10 km outside of Nazca the van blew a tyre and it took a while to change it. To top it off the spare tyre did not have enough air in it so we had to go all the way back to Nazca and fix it. Anyway, at 1 in the morning we arrived safe and well at our hotel.

And then came the time where Carla had to go back home. As you can imagine I was not a happy chap as I really liked Carla to be around me. But she had to go back to Brasilia to do her things. I have to say it was pretty hard to let her go, but such is life. So she went to the airport and I had booked a bus to the north at night.

And here are Carla’s impression. As usual in more detail than my report….

In the four days we spent in Lima, the capital of Peru, the second was dedicated to Ica and Paracas, coast towns, and the third entirely connected to Nazca. Some weeks before travelling to Peru, I decided to visit with Welf those cities, not so far away from Lima and a must see – after all, a time in that country wouldn’t be complete without an obligatory visit to the infamous Nazca Lines. Ica came to my attention due to the recommendation of a friend who once travelled to Peru and visited there a marvellous oasis. The result was the days I previously organized at those extra destinations (starting early, around 3am, and ending after 10pm) were as worth as Cuzco, Machu Picchu and Lima.

So, on the second day at Lima, a van from the company I had previously booked took us at the hotel to visit first Paracas, close to the Ballestas Islands, and later Ica. There were we waiting in front of the hotel, woken up in the middle of the dawn, having arrived at Paracas around 7am. The effort made up for the lost time and sleeplessness: Paracas is a pleasant city full of very nice summer houses owned by wealthy Peruvians and once was where the South American general, José de San Martin, proclaimed the Independence of Peru from Spain. By the way, his campaigns were decisive as well for the independence of Argentina and Chile, connecting the history of those 3 countries. Previously, when in Europe, fighting as volunteer for Spain, against the forces of Napoleon Bonaparte, he contacted a Scottish noble, Lord Macduff, who introduced him to Freemasonry, where it was heavily discussed the independence of Spanish territories in South America. After renouncing military career in Spain, he obtained a passport to travel to England, having Macduff as mediate, where he found other comrades from the Spaniard America (all of them belonged to a society called Lautaro Lodge, which, together with Simon Bolívar, already claimed the independence of Venezuela). Paracas is known for the Ballestas Islands, with its sea lions, pelicans, flamingos and penguins. We took a boat from Paracas to the island and what a view it was… By the way, that was the first time I saw those animals (I, as a totally urban centred individual, have no shame at all in assuming so and it was a fantastic experience and scenario). After arriving in Paracas and proclaiming the independence of Peru, at the beginning of the 19th century, San Martin got so enchanted with the flamingos that he immediately suggested those birds to become a national symbol of Peru. It’s not difficult to imagine why: around Ballestas, the flamingos cover the beach in Paracas. At Ballestas it is possible to see a huge and mysterious drawing in the sand as similar as those lines in Nazca in the form of a chandelier, candelabrum. There are several divergent theories about this 60 centimetres deepness score (a deeper excavation than the Nazca Lines): some think it is recent, dating back from the last 200 years, others attribute the chandelier to Pre-Incan era and others to extra-terrestrial influence in the environment. The fact is the drawing is impressive in design and more in details, as it is turned to the North, being protected of the winds, and so it is never erased – no matter what.

After this very good surprise, the tour included in the same day a visit to Ica, a one hour distance town, known for its wineries and the Oasis of Huacachina. Ica is the city where most flourished the Pre-Colombian civilizations, as the Paracas (it is said they were excellent surgeons), Chinca and Nazca peoples, all prior to the Incans. First, we went to a very comprehensive museum about those civilizations, with a fantastic exhibition of mummies and modified craniums and skulls for funerary or religious purposes (I love that unusual, “morbid” stuff, but it was forbidden to take pictures there), followed by a visit to an artisan winery – there are numerous family business wineries all over Ica. In those Peruvian wineries they do produce wine, but their speciality is the Pisco, a spirit made of grape, somehow similar to the Italian “Grappa”. We went to a winery called Bodega Tres Generaciones, founded in 1856, and they showed all the steps of its production (with the right to full time tasting!) until the storing in peculiar barrels, around a typical chocolate done with a local nut. It reminded me somehow of the wine production and vineyards in South Brazil, but in truth both environments are very different. In Rio Grande do Sul State, part of the historical context of Hispano-American viniculture (for having its historical roots situated in both Portuguese and Spanish sides), where wine is maybe the most admired beverage, the atmosphere in cities with vineyards and wineries like Garibaldi, Bento Gonçalves and Monte Belo do Sul resemble the Südtirol and others regions in Italy, the weather is very cold in winter and autumn, the population still speaks Venetian dialect and mostly of the population has Italian ancestry – having the viniculture industry developed with the arrival of Italian immigrants in 1875 (but before them German immigrants and Portuguese and Spaniard settlers already grew grapes there, especially the Spaniard grapevine, introduced by a Jesuit priest, and the American variety “Isabel”). In the case of Peru, in this region of Ica, the wine production entirely goes back to the Spanish tradition and the kind of grape they have is autochthonous, existing there since thousands of years back. Although the unfavourable weather (it is always very warm in Ica), Peru was the first country in South America where the viniculture was systematised since the very beginning of its existence – and the wine produced there was even exported to Spain. Peru is more known though for using the grape in the production of Pisco, with high alcoholic content. The family at Bodega Tres Generaciones export the beverage mostly to Holland, Switzerland, Italy and France and there is a great restaurant with Peruvian food in the winery.

This day ended with a visit to the Huacachina Oasis, called “Oasis of America”. It’s an incredible view, especially if you try a hang out over the dunes in a buggy (something I did and Welf didn’t). Once in this place there were originally seven lagoons which were covered by the dunes over the centuries. It remained only this one, surrounded today by hotels and hostels for all kinds. So how is the feeling in the buggy tour? When I decided to do, the only sentence which came to my mind was that “it is necessary to behave as a youngster sometimes, for the silliest it can sound”. As I am usually frightened and pessimistic, I screamed hysterically every time the driver went insanely down a dune as if it wouldn’t exist tomorrow. After the adventure of being in a high speed buggy, crossing giant dunes, some tried sandboard from the top of the dunes – some of them but not me, because definitely a more adventurous spirit is not part of my personality. It was fun though. The buggies are safe, adapted, each one with 12 seats. All ended in a small plateau, with the buggies parked close to the oasis, waiting for the sunset.

On our third day in Lima the same tour took us to the city of Nazca. According to Welf the desert landscape, contouring the highway, had some similarity with Afghanistan. At this desolate environment are situated the Lines of Nazca, a series of ancient geoglyphs, that can be admired from the top, by plane. After some seven hours in a van, we arrived at the aerodrome, crowded with tourists from all over the world. Yes, there were Brazilians there as well (my comrades are found in everywhere possible over the Globe). The city of Nazca was always popular for its mysterious lines and desert Geography – in this area it only rains once in each 40 years! The Nazca civilization, previous to the Incans, showed a splendid cultural development, evident in pyramids, the enormous lines drawn in the floor, jewellery etc, besides the hydraulic improvements they were responsible for, as aqueducts still used by farmers from the region. It is said the Lines were built for offering purposes to their gods and raining entreaties to those spiritual entities. The Nazca Lines were designated as a UNESCO World Heritage and it is believed they were created by the Nazca culture between 500 BC and 500 AD. Most of the drawings consist of simple geometric shapes, but more than 70 are zoomorphic designs of hummingbirds, spiders, monkeys, lizards, llamas, jaguars etc. The interesting is due to its isolation and dry weather in this area, the drawings have mostly been preserved. When in the plane, flying over the geoglyphs, I confess I had a little deception: I expected more, as the drawings are not as huge as imagined and it is necessary to pay a certain attention if you wish to take any picture, because the plane overflies for some seconds close to a geoglyph and not always one is able to visualise each of them… I saw triangles and trapezoids, the Spiral, Condor, Hummingbird and the Hands, but I was unable to find other famous drawings. The Nazca Lines were first mentioned in the 16th century and interest in them lapsed until the Peruvian archaeologist Toribio Mejia Xesspe spotted them while he was hiking through the foothills in the 20’s. Later, the American Historian Paul Kosok and the German archaeologist Maria Reiche helped in the better understanding of those geoglyphs, relating them to Astronomy and Cosmology: the lines were intended to act as a form of observatory, to point to the places on the distant horizon where the Sun and other celestial bodies set in the solstices. All similar to other prehistoric cultures around the world, which also combined Astronomy with religious cosmology, as in Brazil, in the Amazon Forest (in the Acre State), Australia, Iceland and Scandinavia.

Our tour over Nazca included only a flight over the lines, but weeks previously the travel, I decided to pay a bit more, as the city also has other interesting attractions. I was in doubt between two of them: one was the museum dedicated to the Dresden born Archaeologist Maria Reiche, in the house where she lived, showing all her studies and researches about the Nazca Lines and her life in Peru, to where she moved in the 30’s, and the other was the Chauchilla Cemetery, a necropolis where are the remains of the Nazca and Wari civilizations. Of course I opted for the second option – and I did enjoyed any single second there. The place is a must see for anyone interested in cemeteries. That was one of the most impressive sites I ever visited (and I dare to say I enjoyed there more than Machu Picchu, for example). Today it is opened to visitors, but originally the tombs were closed and in the interior food were checked (it is still possible to see the vessels and sauce boats) with exquisite alpaca and llama woolen cloths (still in excellent conditions), adornments, jewels etc – after all they believed death was the restart of a new life, so… Through some interesting details, one has insights about those civilizations: among the Wari and Nazca peoples, long hair in dreadlocks style was used only by the nobility (what is noticed in plenty of the cadavers). Over the time, because of sun exposure, the hair of most of the corpses went from deep dark to blond or red shades. There are mummies of entire families, in good state of conservation in spite of their ages – some with remains of their skin – what is possible due to the arid weather in the desert of Nazca. It is the only archaeological Peruvian site where is possible to see mummies in their original tombs. The sad part is that necropolis suffered from grave robberies done by ambitious people who sold jewels and bones in fairs over Peru as souvenirs, so that most of the archaeological treasures disappeared. Since the 90’s though the zone is protected and became an official archaeological site.

So, that was my memorable experience in Peru. It was also the perfect opportunity to meet again the love of my life – who shortly later I met again in Brasília, when he finally could enter again in the country. Where there’s a will, there’s a way and so nothing and nobody, obstacles of any type are able to separate us from our fate, that is being together forever. 😉 And as a plus, when he came here, I showed him Pirinópolis, a beautiful city with colonial Portuguese houses in the Goiás State, Center-West Region of Brazil, not far away from Brasília. But that is another travel story.

So that’s it for this update. I hope you enjoyed it and didn’t fall asleep reading it. My next update is about my trip to the north and a bus robbery that was pretty exciting – NOT.

Thank you for reading to the end and please do something crazy today; keeps one sane and alive. Until next time.

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28th April 2018

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