Sunday, February 28, 2011
Today was spent mostly on the road and in the air. A 4:00 am wake-up call got us to the airport for a 7:30 am flight that didn’t take off until 8:30 am because of airline traffic. We arrived at Lima airport to board buses for a 3 ½ hour drive to Pisco where we would get on a small plane to fly over the Nazca Lines.
The pisco sour (the national drink of Peru) is named after Pisco which means “birds” because of all the birds the Spaniards found here. The type of grape used in pisco sour thrives in Peru and is sweeter than grapes used in dry wines.
The bus ride was bleak. Mountains of desert sand on both sides of the Pan American Highway almost the entire way with occasional fields of fertile ground with crops growing, but this was rare.
More common were squatters’ communities. Tents along the highway with nothing but sand are erected.
If the squatters stay there long enough they get a license to build and will construct something more permanent of rough brick. But squatters are not welcome on private property and high fences discourage them. “Private Property” (in Spanish, of course) are posted ,others adding “Trespassers Will Be Shot”.
We arrived at Pisco Airport at about 3:00 pm to be weighed in with our passports before receiving a boarding pass for the small planes that would take us over the Nazca Lines. We also had to give our age.
The Nazca Lines remain a mystery as to why and for whom they were made. They were made by the Nazca culture in about 300 BC. Maria Reiche, a German researcher, discovered them when she was working as a translator for an American engineer studying the ancient aqueducts. They flew over the area a number of times before discovering these unusual designs. She continued her work for many years independently, and was considered peculiar as she used a broom to clear and expose the designs. Later, her work was recognized and she was in great regard, especially after publishing her book, Mystery of the Desert.
The plane took groups of about ten on a 2-hour ride to the site.
The planes are ideal for this purpose with one row of seats on each side.
The pilot circles a design and then makes a turn so that the people sitting on the opposite side can view it. He did that for each design. They are better suited for viewing than photographing, if you can see them at all. It was almost like looking for small pictures hidden in a big picture, but these were huge. You had to have a good imagination, but once you saw it it seemed obvious. I wish I had had a preview of what I would be seeing and its position. It is theorized that the designs are part of an astronomic calendar and they are so huge because they were to be viewed by the gods who live in the sky.
If you look closely you can make out a whale,
the other is a parrot.
Other designs were a hummingbird, monkey, spider, dog, heron, condor, trapezoid and hands.
We all wish we could stay at our hotel more than one night. It’s a gorgeous place with a giant swimming pool,
rather out of place in this most unlikely environment of shacks.
But it’s up early tomorrow to get back on Discovery. After these strenuous few days, we all need a rest.