Sunday, 21 June 2009

... Peru: The Truth is Out There

You could be forgiven for thinking that there was nothing to see here.  The town itself is a dive. It wasn't until some Scientist flew across the sun-bleached expanse in 1939 that something of a 'The Truth Is Out There' phenomenon was discovered. Paul Kosok flew across the desert and noticed a series of extensive lines & figures etched into the ground below. Believing it to be some kind of irrigation system, what he had actually discovered were the Nazca Lines.

Spread over an area of 500 aq km there are over 800 straight lines, 300 geometric figures  and approximately 70 spectacular & elaborate animal & plant drawings (biomorphs).  The lines were made by removing the dark sun-baked stones from the surface and piling them up on either side of the line that was to be created exposing the lighter soil below. Simple huh!?!

The absolute best way to see these beauties is to leave Lima at 0500hrs with 4 other travellers & two guides, drive for 5 hours along the Panamericana with the guide who thinks he is a Formula 1 driver behind the wheel and then take a bird's-eye view from a sobrevuelo (overflight).  There is the observation tower at Mirador but that really only gives you a sketchy idea of the lines - you see a tree and some hands (or a frog depending on how you look at it). Walking the lines is strictly forbidden - it would irreparably damage them. This is probably also a good idea bearing in mind all the warnings of Landmines. I do have quite the penchant for my legs & other body parts.

Our flight left late in true South American laid back style but once we were up there it was worth it. Especially as I got to sit at the front in the cockpit with the pilot!  We flew over a whale, a set of trapezoids, an astronaut, dog & monkey, condor, spider, humming bird, heron, parrot, tree and hands (frog). It was kind of like being on a rollercoaster but the kind where you scream if you wanna go faster.

Endless questions remain. Who constructed the lines and why? And how on earth did they know what they were doing when the lines can only really be appreciated from the air!?!?

As we began our long drive back to Lima, I could've sworn I saw Mulder & Scully in the distance.... 

Nazca itself has nothing to offer. We did however visit a really neat Pottery/Ceramic place where they make the stuff as it was made by the Wari people. It was therefore interesting to learn all about "Peruvian Kama Sutra".... I kid you not.  The pottery for that was...let's say interesting!

We stopped for dinner at a restaurant called El Catador in Ica.  It is also where they make Pisco and so after a much needed meal (fish & yuca for me) washed down with some chica morada, we had a tour. The kind of Pisco depends on the type of grape and due to that environment they cannot make dry wines but only sweeter ones. I also learned that there are three parts to Pisco:
Head of Pisco - Methanol. Toxic. Used for sterilizing;
Body of Pisco - Ethanol. Consumable. 20-60% alcohol;
Tail of Pisco - Propanol & water. Used for sterilizing.
Of course to fully appreciate all this we had a taste testing! It's an interesting liquor and I think I prefer it as a pisco sour.

After Ica it was dark and we still had Huacachina to visit. We were almost all in the frame of mind of "nah... don't bother.. it's late... let's get back" but I am ever so glad we didn't.  A mere 5km west of Ica, this town of approximately 200 people is surrounded by towering sand dunes complete with its own lagoon. It is one of the 5 top places mentioned along the infamous "Gringo Trail" (yes, there is such a trail) and the place to go to dune buggy and sand board! I now have sand lodged into bodily nooks & crannies that I didn't even know existed. Admittedly there was a brief period at the top of what appeared to be a bottomless drop where we were all stood there looking at our buggy driver like he was mad as he suggested we fling ourselves down there on sandboards.  After hurtling down the first dune, all giggling very loudly until we realised it really was to one's advantage to keep your mouth shut, we wanted more! What an adrenaline rush!

And so I got back to Lima 4 hours later than planned having missed meeting my Lares Trek tour group and walking in on my roomate whom I had never met until I woke her up.  Fun times!  Nothing like making an entrance.  She was at least extremely good natured especially as she had, not surprisingly given the late hour, assumed she had the room to herself.

Next stop Cuzco departing at 0700hrs!

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