Saturday, September 19, 2009

Paracas, Huacachina and Nazca

We left Lima and hit the road south by bus to visit many places in Peru. This country is simply incredible and offers so much to the visitors that it is impossible to see it all and to show it all to you would mean to write a very thick book, not a blog! So far we took over 300 pictures of Peru so we had to select only a few to show you. Please have a look at our picture page there are many amazing ones even though we had to cut on our selection even there. By the way, we’ve now learn how to choose our hotel rooms and after Lima we had nice rooms with shower, toilet seats, hot water and comfortable beds. All this for less than $20/night of course!

In the small fishing village of Paracas we took a small tour boat to visit the Ballestas Islands where hundreds of thousands of birds and few hundreds of seals live. The smell is horrible when you get close to the islands but it worth seeing the pelicans, penguins, cormorants and other birds nesting on the many little rocky islands.

We kept going to see Huacachina, a small oasis at about five minutes of the larger city of Ica. This oasis is the biggest tourist trap we saw so far in Peru but nevertheless is worth spending at least one night over there. More than that and the wallet gets drained since everything is at least twice more expensive than anywhere else. The oasis is surrounded by large sand dunes that give us the impression of being right in the Sahara desert! This picture was actually taken from the tallest dune that we climbed painfully with many many pauses along the way! Believe me this is much more difficult than it looks like and it’s not on a boat that we get trained to climb a dune.

Then we got in the famous city of Nazca well known for its lines that can be seen only from the sky. But the first thing we visited in Nazca was the old Cimeterio de Chauchilla. This is a many century old cemetery used by the Nazca civilization before it got assimilated to the Inca Empire just a few years before a group of strange men came by boat with their iron armor and long strange sticks! But the interesting part of this cemetery is the fact that we can see old mommies that were actually taken out of their tombs by thefts and placed back by the authorities who now protect them. The Nazca people had a very weird relation with their dead. The mommies were often visited and even sometimes brought back to the village for special ceremonies and I am not even describing the mummification process itself!

Of course going to Nazca means buying a tour by plane to see the famous Nazca lines that can be only seen from the air. When they were first discovered, the lines in the shape of animals many meters long, some weirdoes came with the theory that they were made by or for extraterrestrials, which spun large scale publicity for the region and created a real tourist industry for the small town. Well, when you see them you quickly realized that any moron with a bunch of sticks and ropes could make them as they are not that big and not dung in the ground but only drawn. The Nazca peoples were way smarter than that and built aqueducts that makes these lines a primary school project. You see, this is a desert here with not much wind and surely no water to disrupt the lines. What makes them really special though is that they are between 1100 and 1700 years old! The best theory about them is that they were actually procession paths of shamanic nature used by the very religious Nazcans to somehow invoke the qualities of the drawn animal. In addition to the animals are many geometric lines that the exact meaning still eludes the archeologists. These lines in contrast probably required way more civil engineering skills to draw even though they are straight lines they are way longer. So for many centuries peoples walked these paths hence making them permanently embedded in the soil. Too bad, the alien theory was more exciting and although cynically criticized by the locals it gave the lines way more publicity in the world than the shamanic pathway one!