Thursday, May 29, 2008

Trip to Peru: Lima, Nazca

In summer of 2007 a friend and myself ventured off on a trip to Peru for a month or so. We had heard much about this exciting South American country mainly through Pooh Bear and various children's adventure novels. It was wonderful although not containing the dangers one might expect.

Go to Brazil for that!

Like most normal people I arrived into the dusty capital city, Lima and unlike most people didn't leave straight away. I had to wait for my friend who had a stricter work schedule back in Ireland. After five days I went to meet him at the airport and had never been more pleased to see anyone in my life.

My hostel had a tendency to be rented out more by the hour than the night, with the consequence that it was sometimes hard to get to sleep at night. I had been conned by this very friendly Peruvian who got about $20 off me. If he had only asked I'd probably have given it to him. And just before arriving in the airport some local youths had smilingly attempted to coerce me into handing over valuable on the bus through the use of a broken bottle. It was one of the two most pleasant experiences I have had being mugged. The other time was in Madrid. The Spanish psyche seems to be awfully willing to please. Their smiles sometimes turn to frustration when you can only keep repeating "No entiende!" to them.

I didn't wear glasses much after that and did my best not to look like a gringo. Which is impossible but at least I may look as if I wasn't a tourist. Yeah, right!

To this aim I hadn't been carrying a camera around Lima with me and the only photo I have is of leaving Lima. Of the shantytown we passed while leaving Lima in fact. Don't worry, you're not missing much.

"Thank God I've left that hell-hole behind!", I exclaimed and we moved onto Nazca.

Nazca is in the middle of the coastal Peruvian desert; the driest in the world apparently. This desert is also very dirty. Thoughts of vast sandy wildernesses were spoilt by ancient buses and not so ancient orange peels rotting into the ground. But we didn't complain. We just sneered at the toilet facilities in roadside cafes and looked forward to our next destination.

This was Nazca and was pleasant enough.

We had been recommended a particular hostel by a travel agent in Lima, lovely girl. Siduith was her name. However, as soon as we stepped off the bus in Nazca felons, young and old accosted us, each regaling us of the wonders of their particular hostel. We stuck to our guns and made our way to our recommended.

First impressions of Nazca were excellent. It seemed a very romantic town as they forfeited all use of electric light for the softer glow of candles and gas. How quaint! If only I could find someone to be romantic with. Apart form this we couldn't see much of the town as it was rather dark.

It was plain and functional and an ideal place to collapse for the night. We dumped our luggage, met an Australian called Craig and took off into town for some food. In the restaurant we encountered our first water shortage. On entering the bathroom my nose grew alert and I dared not look in the toilet bowl. After a week or two in Peru my resistance had hardened somewhat and I would challenge anyone to a bowl staring contest. but in Nazca I was yet tender. There was a barrel of water rather than a basin and I was happy.

Food was a served by a long haired hippy type who was polite if not chatty. The food itself was similar. It served its purpose without bothering to be particularly tasty. But then again I'm awful fussy at times.

We went home to our temporary home and duly collapsed.

The next morning we woke to a beautiful day and some shouting. I can't remember what the shouting was about but it was good to be awake. Had some cold showers and then got ready for this trip which we had arranged the night before. We were to go on a tour of the town and then take to the skies so we could waste lots of film on photographing the famous Nazca lines. No, really, they are famous!

I made a new friend on the trip as you can see below. He lived in an ancient graveyard where they had perfected the mummifying technique, we assume independently of Egypt. The human hair was braided with horsehair and is the last part of the body to decay. The decay apparently only set in when these graves were opened up for ogling by tourists. On the mentioning of this by the townspeople to the authorities the authorities replied that they would open another grave when the bodies in the first had decayed.

We met his pal later on who was taking something of a rest from the noonday sun.

On to the Lines!

My eyesight isn't the best. I couldn't see a single design from the plane but just kept snapping my camera in the general direction of where our pilot was pointing. Every so often while I would be relaxing and enjoying the scenery, while pretending not to get sick, he would scream some nonsensical word in my ear. Like "Hummingbird" or "Spaceman" or "Whale". I think he showed an unhealthy fascination with animals. Maybe it was just the language barrier but I found it difficult to communicate.

I was quite pleased with my shots and could make out the various giant shapes etched into the rock quite clearly. Not clear enough to put up on the web unfortunately so here's a plane instead.

Again these shapes or rather how they were constructed are something of a mystery. They were not discovered in modern times until the early years of this century when aeroplanes first began to fly over this barren desert. There are various theories as to their origin, including water divination, homage to the Gods and markers for a landing site by extra terrestrials. I like the latter idea myself.

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