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The Nazca Lines

May 18, Puerto Inca
From Arequipa we are heading to Nazca; it’s a two day journey.

Once we hit the coast it’s endless kilometers of sand dunes and wild coast line dotted with sketchy towns, often nothing more than a service station and a few crumbling houses.
We cover 380 km before arriving at Puerto Inca, where we overnight at a beach side campsite.

Camping……let me just clarify; the campsite had cabins available as an ‘upgrade’.  Only two or three hardcore campers end-up pitching tents.

Situated in a beautiful bay on the Peruvian coast, Puerto Inca was once the Inca port that supplied the city of Cusco with fish.

There are a number of Inca ruins here including a cemetery and a temple of reincarnation. Part of the road that set out from the coast to Cusco is also still clearly visible.

May 19, Nazca
The entire desert in the Nazca area was once home to the ancient Nazca and Paracas cultures which preceded the Incas by over 500 years.

On the way to Nazca we stop at the Chauchilla Indian Cemetery.  Located in an isolated part of the Nazca Desert, the cemetery is believed to have been established around 200 AD and was in use up to the 9th Century.

It is something of an eerie sight to see the skulls, bones and even hair of the dead, preserved in a remarkable state.  The bodies are so remarkably preserved that I was a little skeptical during our visit (and still a little so).  It’s only through my post-visit, blog-post research, that I have discovered the facts.

A pity that our guide on the day was more interested in playing “can you guess why….” and when I ask “why don’t you just tell us”, I was told I was being impatient! That might also be true – standing out in the hot sun was not my idea of a pleasant day, but he clearly left out some important facts!

The preservation is obviously due to the dry desert climate – it rains 2 hours a year, but our guide failed to mention anything about the funeral rites conducted.  The bodies were dressed in embroidered cotton, painted with a resin and then entombed in dugouts made from mud bricks.

The resin is the all-important missing fact; it kept out insects and slowed bacterial decay. It is this process that is believed to account for the high degree of preservation seen in these thousand-year-old bodies which still have hair and the remains of soft tissue.

I’m still a little suspicious that they leave these remains exposed rather than preserved in a museum.

Next we stop at the Cahuachi Pyramid, a major ceremonial centre between 100 BC – 400 AD.  There is evidence that the pyramid was related to the Nazca lines.

The Nazca Lines are located on the arid Preuvian plain in the Pampa Colorada (Red Plain), covering over 450 sq km, it is one of the greatest archeological enigmas of the world.

Over 700 depictions of living creatures, plants and geometric shapes, measuring kilometres in dimensions are scratched into the earth.

Created in three phases from around 500 BC through to 500 AD, the dimensions, diversity and quantity of the Nazca lines are unrivalled by any other ‘geoglyphs’ in the world.

They were etched into the ground by scraping away the top darker layer of gravel which then contrasts with the paler one underneath.

It is only from the air that you can really appreciate the scale and magnificence of the elaborate designs

I was expecting some stylised scribble that took some stretching of the imagination to visualise the images, but clear as day the outline of a whale appears and an enormous monkey appears with its spiraling tail.

The hummingbird, condor and the astronaut on the hillside, are among the many we fly over – nothing but spectacular.

Who drew them and why, remains one of the great mysteries of ancient times.

Just outside the town of Nazca is a complex system of aquaducts with over 30 channels. Built around the 5th century, they provide year round access to water and are still in use today.

The engineering is unique and includes a series of spiralling wells designed to oxygenate the water and provide access for cleaning.

Back on the bus truck, Lima bound.