For the last part of our trip to Peru, we would be staying in an oasis in the Huacachina Desert – a tiny little place exploding with palm trees, with airless, empty sand on all sides. It was a long way away from Cusco, and as we would be passing through the Nazca region to reach it, we decided to stop and have a look around.
The first place we visited was the Chauchilla Cemetary at Valle Las Trancas. Not far from the city of Nazca, the Chaucilla Cemetary is the remnants of a pre-hispanic burial ground in the middle of a desert. Not a lot is known about the site, but it appears to have been in use by the Nazca civilisation since the 9th century AD. Calling it a cemetery does not give an adequate description: the graves are open pits in the sand, and if you peer over the wooden railings you can see their mummified occupants. The mummies are extremely well preserved: it is possible to get an idea of the possessions, clothing and hairstyles of the Nazca culture. Unfortunately the cemetery had been disturbed over the centuries by various grave robbers. Standing in the stifling heat, staring into an open grave with the grey desert sands on all sides, it was very easy to forget the bustling city we had just left behind.
After stopping in at a pottery shop – where the owner made traditional Nazca pottery using all the ancient techniques – we found the Nazca Lines.
I confess, I had expected something very different. Rather than pulling up at a sparklingly efficient tourist site, we instead pulled over on the side of the road, right next to an enormous tower, constructed of thin metal poles and swaying dangerously in the breeze. We had been driving through the Nazca Lines for hours and had simply not known it. All we had to do to see them was to climb to the top of the tower, which was creaking quietly in the wind. The Lines themselves were nevertheless impressive. Etched into the expanse of dark sands before us and sprawling over acres of space, the Lines were strangely proportioned. I could not call them crude – not when the level of detail, time and effort that had gone into them is so clearly visible – but the peculiar, almost geometric pictures were nevertheless intriguing. The one thing that really struck me was that this was a way of understanding how the Nazca culture saw their own world, and as I descended the tower – trying to ignore the occasional wobble – I wondered how much more of the Nazca culture modern society would ever be able to see.
Then, it was off to a pisco distillery for lunch. For those of you who do not know, pisco is a kind of grape brandy local to Peru which is about 40% alcohol. We were given a tour and a free tasting – in the form of several shots – before we had our lunch, which left most of us extremely giggly at the very least. I’m afraid to say that after our free tasting, I don’t remember much of the museum we visited afterwards – apart from that I found all the exhibits extremely funny.
(AUTHOR’S NOTE: Sorry for the incredibly long absence; I had a dissertation to write.)