Monthly Archives: August 2008

Nazca Day II: Day with the Dead

It seems I did have a chance to write again. I´m back at the hotel now after a day of sightseeing, cooling my heels between now and getting on the overnight bus to Cusco. In the conference room next to me an incredibly loud (but good) group of musicians has gathered and is playing for what looks like some kind of conference roundtable. I can feel the vibration in my breastbone!

Still and all, a pretty good day. I got down to the front desk at a little after 8 for my flight over the Nazca lines, only there were two problems. They had no record of the flight reservation I´d made online, and it turned out it was 7 instead of 8. I´m still not sure how that happened, I think maybe my tricky radio clock radioed itself in and reset itself for US daylight savings, undoing the manual time change I´d made. Technology.

As for the reservation, I took a deep breath while they made calls to the agency in Lima, trying to practice my awareness, as it´s developed on this trip so far, that nothing happens quite like it´s supposed to, but it all works out eventually. They verified my existence (something I´ve had trouble doing all by myself sometimes) and informed me that ym flight was at 2. I then did what any sensible person would do- went back to the room and took a bath. Soon after they called and told me I´d been upgraded to 12:30.

We went up in a small plane, the pilot and 5 passengers. Some of you may know I don´t much care for flying (as in sweat, armrest gripping and sheer unreasoning panic), but that´s mostly on jumbo jets. I actually enjoy the small planes, because it feels much more controlled in an odd way, almost like flying a la Superman. I´m super glad I did this, becuase the sheer volume and scope of the miles long lines in the desert was stunning. The figures were great, but I actually liked the lines and geometric patterns better for their vastness and inscrutable purposefullness. I was alos very glad I wasn´t the Argentinian girl next to me, who spent most of the 30 minute flight heaving into a plastic bag. In her defense, there was a lot of banking and turning.

After that, I took a tour out to Chuachilla, a pre-colombian burial site just outside of town. Tour being just me, in a car for hire that the tour öperator¨from the kiosk next to the hotel flagged down and told where to go. The driver did stick with me and tell me about the cemetery, though, (extreme) limits of my comprehension of spanish permitting. The whole field is the sight of tombs of one of the civilizations that preceeded the Inca, which have been extnsively looted since then, but some of which have been reconstituted complete with mummified remains.

It was an amazing scene. Inherently somber, and I was moved by the obvious care with which the burials were done- most were wrapped in extensive linenes, some had decorative wigs, and thay all contained pottery and even dried food offerings. In-between the ropped off walkways leading to restored tombs, the desert snads were littered with bones, pottery and linen frgaments. The real live wind whistling across the dry desert plain and big copper-colored mountains looming in the background gave it the proper stark and yet meaningful feeling.

So now I´m resting and gathering my wits for the 14 hour overnight bus ride to Cusco. I sort of wish more of it would be during the day, since going through the Andes must be spectacular. This is probably the portion of my trip most prone to kidnapping or plungng into a ravine, but assuming none of that hapens, I´ll write more from Cusco tomorrow eveing. See you then!


Nazca, beautiful city of no taxis

I´m in Nazca now, arriving this afternoon after a 2.5 hour bus ride from Ica. It´s a lovely city! Ica seemed very hectic, and had some bad vibrations emananting from it (I was born in California, I can say things like that), hence camping out by the lagoon. Nazca, though, is much more mellow, it feels like the kind of place you can walk around, and talk to people in shops, etc.

After arriving I checked in to my hotel, and then headed for the local archaeological museum. Archaeology is cool, but the grounds were also home to peacocks and kitties, which is super’cool! I was expecting to catch a cab to my next destination, but there are no cabs, unlike Lima and Ica, where half the cars on the road were taxis. There are collectivos, little cars which go around and pick up and groups of people and drop them off at various locations, but I can´t figure out how and where to flag one down.

All of this led to quite a walk to my evening destination, a planetarium that had a show on the Nazca Lines. For those not familiar, the lines are geometric shapes and figures of animals drawn across the desert surface some time between 220 BC and 200 AD that can only be observed from the air. Whacky those Nazca were. There´s all kinds of theories about why they did it and how, most favoring astronomical observation, key positions related to irrigation, and ritual purposes. There´s also the ever popular extraterrestrial theory. Those of you who know my well might expect I fancy that one, but that´s just silly. Why would aliens teach local people to draw monkeys that only they can then see? My personal favorite is from the researcher who belives that the Nazca people had hot air balloons that thye could observe the figures from. Pre’colombian hot air balloons! Now there´s a theory.

Despite my affection for the town, I´m camping out a bit outside the city center. In this case in a hotel by the airport, from whence I depart on a morning flight over the lines. I´m then going on a desert tour involving an ancient burial ground with mummies (mmm, mummies) and in the evening I´m off by overnight bus to Cusco. I don´t know if I´ll have a chance to write again before then. If not, expect a communication blackout until Friday evening.

I hope to write you all again from 10,900 feet! If only I can first figure out how to get a ride back to my hotel tonight…

Ica, day 2: I want my momia

This morning I went to the Museo Nacional de Ica. It´s devoted to the archaeology of this region, which spans thousands of years. The Inca were preceeded by many other advanced cultures in this part of Peru, each one replacing the one before it. I gor ro experience this backwards since the front desk staff warded off my attempt to start in prehistory and go forward, and instead had me start with the Inca and go backwards. I don´t know if this was a meaningful inversion, since I think they really wanted to send me to the Mummy room first, which happens to be at the front (or is it back?) end of the museum.

Mummies, or momias as they like to call them in that crazy language they speak here, are a big deal hereabouts. The dry desert terrain seems to have been ideal for preserving bodies buried in tombs by the various cultures that rose and fell. I think they think this is uniquely appealing to foreigners, because this section of the museum had more signage than any other. Well it WAS uniquely appealing to me- I love my momia(s).

I also got to see numerous skulls which had been trepenated. This primitive form of brain surgery performed in peru consisted of cutting incisions into the skull, many of which show evidence of healing over, i.e. the people this was performed on lived for a long time afterwards. I finally made it all the way backwards in time only to have to wade through a huge German tour group that was going from prehistory forward. Preferred time directionality is apparently inverted foir Europeans vis a vis Americans.

That was the morning, as opposed to the afternoon, where nothing I tried to do worked right. My attempted next stop was the Museo Cabrera Piedra. The taxi drivers insisted there was no such place. I finally ended up going back to my hotel, getting the travel guide that I had attempted to not lug around all day, and confirming the exacr address. Hail another taxi there. On the way, the screw on my glasses came loose and the lens popped out. After an emergency stop at an Optica, where everyone was very helpful and friendly, I finally arrived. Only to find the Museuo closed, with two padlocks on the door.

I take it there´s a lesson here somewhere. Maybe it´s that things can not work out, you deal with it, and it´s okay. I definitely feel like I´m now relearning that lesson, which I knew so well from travel situations in younger days. On the plus side of the afternoon, being downtown with nothing to do gave me a chance to confirm the bus time to Nazca for tomorrow (about a 2.5 hour trip), and to buy my long distance tickets from Nazca to Cusco, which I´m going to do later in the week. Maybe everything does work out.

I´´m done in twon for the day, soon to head back to my lagoon. Perhaps I can eat in the outdoor restaraunt where a guy with a pan pipe and ten string ukulele serendaes patrons with a roatation of Guantanamera, La Bamba and a Simon & Garfunkle medley. Ah, Earth…

Blog from the Black Lagoon: Huacachina, Peru

Im writing this from Huacachina, an honest to gosh desert oasis comprised of a bunch of hotels and hostels clustered around a dark little lagoon near Ica, Peru. I arrivd by bus from Lima, a roughly 5 hour ride down a coastal highway with la playa on one side and the desert on the other. It was beautiful, and not too long. Anyway, I got to share the experience with a double-decker busload of European tourists, and what could be better than that?

I did meet one American today though, a minister from a church group that brought 300 people here to visit prisoners, provide medical care to the poor, etc. He said they even gave some people heart valve replacements. This made me wonder-are there church groups in the US arranging for poor people to have heart valve replacements and I just dont hear about it? If not, there ought to be! Not that its a replacement for a national health care policy, but in the lack thereof it would be a nice adjunct.

As long as Im waxing political, I should mention that I saw Obama posters on freeway overpasses all around Lima. That may not be a good thing for him- being popular with foreigners is probably a big negative in US Presidential politics.

All right, Im going to wax back in my room soon. I look forward to seeing the lagoon in the daylight tomorrow, and then going museum-hopping in Ica.

Greetings from Lima!

Ive wandered down to the hotel business center. Please excuse the lack of apostrophe- South American keyboards are perplexing.

I feel kind of like its (much) later on the same day I left, since my flight was after 1:00 AM on Saturday night/Sunday morning. Im just here for one night, then off by bus to Ica tomorrow. Ica has amazing archaeological goodies, and is on the way to Nazca, where the giant figures are drawn in the desert and only visible from the air.

My head is approaching maximum fuzziness, so Ill keep this brief, and head off to find dinner of some sort. The flights were really very smooth. Flights as in there was a stop-over in San Salvador, El Salvador. The most amazing part of that (other than a kerfluffle with an unanounced gate change that sent everyone connecting to Lima scrambling) was that there are active volcanoes on the way to the airport. Big cindery mountains, belching steam, which was quite a sight.

As for Lima, my exposure has been somewhat limited so far. I did notice that, for all the trepidation I had about not having done this kind of thing in so long, many of my travel instincts as honed in Asian are coming right back. In terms of physical infrastructure, if somebody made everyone here Asian and changed the spanish to chinese, it would be an a lot like a big city in China. It even smells like urban China- some kind of combination of diesel fuel and pervasive construction dust.

Ill share more, soon as can be. For now Im off to find dinner, and then rendezvous with the bath Ive been dreaming of for lo on these many hours…