Thursday, September 26, 2013

Nazca (September 9th - 11th, 2013)

Nazca is a city perhaps most famous for the nearby desert line drawings, created about 1400 to 1600 years ago and preserved because of the dry nature of the area. Indeed, the region is one of the driest in the world. In addition to seeing the lines, we were looking forward to hiking up the world's highest sand dune - Cerro Blanco, also on the doorstep of Nazca.

We arrived in Nazca on an overnight bus and took some time to find a hotel and get settled in. In the early afternoon, we went to several tour agencies and asked for prices to see the desert lines and Cerro Blanco. A 30-minute flight to see the Nazca lines was too expensive for us (85 USD), and thus, we booked an afternoon tour to a couple of view points instead (50 soles = approx. 18 USD). In addition, we arranged to go to the Cerro Blanco early next morning.

Our tour took us to one natural view point, from where we could see long straight lines, and to an observation tower, with a view on three figures - the hands (also called the frog), the tree and the lizard. In addition, we visited the Palpa lines, created by another, older culture. All lines were made by removing a small layer of pebbles to uncover the underlying grayish earth. It was all rather impressive, but we had the feeling that the lines would have been much better visible in the morning. Our tour also included a trip to the Maria Reiche museum. Maria Reiche was a German lady who dedicated her life to the study and preservation of the Nazca lines. The museum was originally her tiny house in the middle of the desert.

People of the Nazca culture made hundreds of lines like this, some of which are several km in length

The hands or the frog

The Palpa lines were my favorites

The humble room of Maria Reiche (the figure in the corner is just a puppet)

At 5:30 the next morning, we were picked up by Arturo, our sand boarding instructor and guide for the Cerro Blanco. He drove us to the trail head, from where we started a three-hour walk up the dune, carrying some water, bananas and our sand boards. I was afraid that it would be uncomfortably hot, but it was really not too bad, despite the lack of shade. We reached the highest point - 2078 m above sea level - at about 9:30, and then had our first attempts at sand boarding. Arturo told us that there are three methods to go down on the board - standing, sitting, and lying down on the stomach. The latter is the safest, so that's how we got down. We had four rides - the first one short, for practice, the second and third a bit longer, and the forth was really long, lasting several minutes! When we got back to town, our clothes and shoes were, of course, completely full of sand.

Our goal - to reach the top of Cerro Blanco

We carried the sand boards on our backs ...

... and went down on our stomachs. My face looks so dark because I covered my mouth and nose - I did not want to breathe in sand

In the evening, we visited the Maria Reiche planetarium, which is at the hotel where she had a room during the last years of her life. We heard a lecture about her theories of the lines and their possible connection to constellations and times of the year. Current interpretations link the figures with water sources and other places of worship. The planetarium also had a telescope, and with which we could see Saturn and the moon.

Couldn't see the American flag, but the view was still amazing

More photos of Nazca and the surroundings can be seen here.

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