Week of April 18, 2004
We left Lima with Carlos giving us escort in his bus. We found it difficult to leave because of the friendship we made but alas, Cindy was keen on getting back on the road, as were we.
We headed straight for Ica and its sandboardable sand dunes. We found a nice little hotel (that Carlos recommended) and flagged down a taxi to head for the hills. After choosing one of the top-model sand boards (insert sarcasm here), Gerson trudged up to the top of the 300'+ sand dune. After a sticky start, Gerson was angling down the slope. However, after a few climbs back up, Gerson gladly relinquished the board to moi. I had an easy run and after having made that arduous climb once, I needed not to be reminded again. It was a fun experience but we both agreed tis better on the snow (and with lifts).
Our next stop was in Nasca (or Nazca) to do a "fly over" over the Nasca plains wherein mysterious etchings have been left in the rock and sand encrusted pampa (plateau).
Somewhere between 100 AD and 600 AD the Nasca culture thrived and the famous "Nasca Lines" have been dated within this same time frame. Scraped into the Nasca pampa are a serious of enormous geoglyphs and geometrical lines and shapes that were only rediscovered during the early part of the 20th century. Some of the etchings represent animals, such as a 180 meter (540 feet) long lizard (mistakenly cut in half by 20th century road builders that did not notice the markings), a 90 meter (270 feet) high monkey with an elaborately spiraled tail, a condor with a 130 meter (390 feet) wingspan, etc.
The etchings were made by removing the sun-darkened rocks from the desert surface to expose the lighter colored stone underneath. Also, some shapes were formed by removing the darker stones from around their picture, thus creating a "raised relief" as opposed to an etching. An interesting aspect of the geometric and animal figures is that none cannot be fully viewed from the ground, nor from the low-lying hills on the pampa. One must view the enormous shapes from hundreds of feet above, feeding into one theory that the lines were made by aliens. Of course, one figure that looks an awful lot like an astronaut waving has certainly added to this theory. However, the earlier Paracas culture used what was called an "owl headed man" in much of its artwork and this culture influenced the later Nasca culture (which sort of dampens the "astronaut" description).
It is also believed that the Nasca lines represent a fantastic astronomical calendar and that the geometric lines point to specific constellations and/or other heavenly bodies. However, this theory has its critics due to the fact that the Nasca sky has millions and millions of stars so of course, the geometric lines can point to any one of the stars or cluster of stars at any given time.
Then, there is the religious theory that the animals and lines represented ceremonial worship practices. There is an argument that the "shamans" or spiritual leaders sniffed a rather potent powder that gifted them with the powers of hallucination. Of course, they did not think they hallucinated but rather, they felt that they soared over the pampa like the birds or ran through trees like the monkeys or maybe they "saw" the figures on the pampa and wanted to bring to life their message-bringing hallucinations. The reason why this theory has some ring of truth to it is because there are no monkeys or whales near the Nasca area. These animal's likenesses would have to have been transferred with different cultures and couple this with the fact that the use of the powdered substance was popular among the tropical or jungle tribes, there seems to be a connection within this theory.
Then again, the lines and shapes could have been from those crazy kids and their geo-graffiti.
Whatever theory or combination of conjectures you believe, the same conclusion is reached: these tremendous etchings are unique and fantastic and if you think about the why and how too long, you get a headache. After visiting so many ruins and especially after viewing the Nasca lines, me thinks the scholars try much too hard to "fit" an explanation into the "whys and hows" of these different people's practices. Must we always have an answer for everything? Personally, I like the mystery.
After Nasca, we jaunted down the road a bit, hoping to find some small town that had at least some sort of hotel or secure parking where we could make use of Cindy. In Nasca, we were told of a little place called Puerto Inca so we tried our luck with this recommendation.
And luck be with us for Puerto Inca was exceptional. Much like La Playita in Panama, Puerto Inca is built around a small, intimate bay that is guarded by rock sentinels at its mouth. The water is crystal clear blue and green and teeming with sea lions, otters, fish and sea birds. But, what made this place better than our previous experiences was that it was extremely tranquilo and even more wonderful for us, it was nestled in between a good sized Inca settlement. Yes, even more ruins to investigate, but with these ruins, they are not fully excavated and still in that "raw" state that is rare to see. By raw, I mean you can still see many of the mummified bones here and there, find pieces of pottery dating back to the early hundreds AD, and you can even see bits and pieces of the cloth they used to wrap the mummies. Needless to say, Gerson and I spent hours tip-toeing through the ruins and ever so carefully, brushing away dirt from here and there to get a better look at some of the bone fragments or the cloth pieces. Very, very cool.
What was supposed to be just a one-night stopover, turned out to be two days of hiking, exploring, snorkeling and just enjoying our last bit of Pacific for awhile (from here, we head inland). Also, it did not hurt that I found some very lively friends and Gerson had a difficult time dragging me away from them.
The time here also gave us a chance to chase down a pesky problem that has followed us since we picked up Cindy in Ecuador. For some reason, our bottom cabinet that houses our pots and pans would become absolutely caked with dust and sand, even after the shortest drive. So, after stripping the cabinet bare and crawling in as far as I could, we found a considerable slash of daylight showing along the floor, right next to the rear tire. Apparently, when those oh-so-wonderful shipping idiots strapped Cindy around her girth and picked her up, it placed more of a stress on her frame then we initially realized and as a result, it split the floor. Well, with some compression tape (like door weather stripping), re-nailing of the loosened staples and some well-placed silicone, we think we have the breach sealed. It will be nice to cook with clean pans again and not wonder why the eggs are crunchy.
We are off to Arequipa and back into the mountains. We will be reuniting with our friends, Carlos and Rosa, who are traveling over to Arequipa to meet us and give us a bit of a tour. This was a welcome surprise and we look forward to seeing them again (and it does not hurt that they are bringing me this awesome coconut/sugar concoction that you buy from the street vendors - I am addicted to the stuff).
Staying in Puerto Inca brought home the reason why we chose to travel as we are and it reminds us that there are so many other places we have yet to discover for ourselves.