Nazca - lines, lines, lines

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September 5th 2006
Published: October 16th 2006
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“Lines, lines, lines” is how my friend described Nazca while trying to convince me to stay in Arequipa. I decided to treat myself and catch a first class bus from Arequipa to Nazca. It was a lot more expensive, and a bit boring (I missed the old ladies from the mountains) but finally I had a lot of leg room, and there was a meal served on the bus! Leaving Arequipa in the evening I arrived in Nazca at around 2am. I was hoping to stay in the bus station waiting room until the morning, but unfortunately it was closed and tiredness got the better of me so I decided to look for a hotel. The first 3 or 4 hotels where full, so it was looking like I might have to give up on the hotel after all. The following one had room and I was soon asleep.

The following morning I got up early to organise a flight over the Nazca lines, the person at the hotel did the organising for me. After eating breakfast at the hotel, I was picked up for the airport. Once at the airport we watched a video about the lines and then
The HummingbirdThe HummingbirdThe Hummingbird

The clearest of the shapes and the only one I can find with Google Earth.
waited and waited until around 10am when it was our turn to fly.

The lines and shapes are believed to have been created between 200 BC and 600 AD by the Nazca culture. They where done by removing the brown topsoil and uncovering the lighter soil under the surface. Since the Nazca culture did not develop writing, no one is sure why the lines and shapes where created. Since the shapes cannot be seen from the ground there are many theories as to why they where created including: religious (since they could only be seen from above by the Gods), pathways to water sources or places of worship, an astronomical calendar (this has been largely discredited), one theory suggests that the Nazca people built hot air balloons to view the lines, and of course that it was done for or by aliens.

The plane was a small five passenger Cessna, I was sitting right next to the pilot! After a brief flight we got to the shapes flying past the whale, the astronaut, monkey and dog (my two favourites), condor (although I think it looks more like another hummingbird), spider, tree and hands (near the observation tower), hummingbird,
I love LucyI love LucyI love Lucy

Street in Nazca.
alcatraz, and finally the parrot. As we would pass each one the plane would bank sharply one way and then the other to give people on both sides of the plane a good view. I really enjoyed the flight, but some of the others looked a bit sick upon getting out.

In the early afternoon I organised a tour to the cemetery of Chauchilla. On the way we firstly stoped at a pottery workshop, we where shown how the pottery is made. There was some fantastic Moche and Nazca replica pottery, a lot more expensive then at the markets though. Next we stoped at some gold processing works (see photo).

The mummies of Chauchilla cemetery date from between AD 1000 to 1300. The cemetery was discovered by grave robbers who dug up the funeral bundles, stole any gold or silver and left the mummies scattered on the surface. More recently the mummies where relocated into 12 graves to protect them from the sand and sun. I must say the mummies had some interesting hair cuts (or lack of). Inside a small room is a more intact mummy which has been found more recently with offerings such as corn
Gold mining worksGold mining worksGold mining works

Gold mining in Peru is still a largely manual process. The rocks with potential gold ore are dug out individually and brought back to the works (many lose their life in accidents). Here they are processed by crushing them and soaking in mercury to extract the gold. The boy in the photo rocks the round stone back and forth to crush the stone underneath.
and a hair comb.

After returning to Nazca I had a quick look around the modern town (no colonial architecture here) before getting the bus out.

Additional photos below
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The MonkeyThe Monkey
The Monkey

The Nazca people must have had contact with the jungle far to the east since there are no monkeys in this region.
The highway, tower, tree and handsThe highway, tower, tree and hands
The highway, tower, tree and hands

The Pan American highway cuts through the desert, with an observation tower looking over the Tree and Hands.

Perhaps the mummy of a Shaman
Cemetery of ChauchillaCemetery of Chauchilla
Cemetery of Chauchilla

The Mummies are covered from the sun, with no rain here for hundreds of years.

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