Nazca – We survived!!
Nazca is world famous for its mysterious lines that are etched into the desert floor spanning an area of 500 square kilometres. They form a network of more than 800 lines, 300 geometric figures and some 70 animal and plant figures. These were discovered by an American guy who happened to be flying over head back in 1939. Following his lead Flic (one of the girls from the group we keep seeing everywhere), Grace and I took to the air; as this is the only way to truly appreciate the lines.
We got weighed at the airport which we thought was rather peculiar but they
explained it was to do with distributing our weight evenly through the plane.
When a tiny 6 seater Cessna plane (including both pilot and co-pilot) picked us up from the runway we understood why this was of up most importance. The plane was literally smaller than a 4×4.
The flight was amazing. Just going in a plane so small is fun in itself let alone using it as a way to view drawings that appear to have been created by giants. That’s the puzzling thing about the lines- they are estimated to have been created years and years ago, when there seems to have been no plausible way to make such precise drawings to such large dimensions (some of the lines measure up to 32 miles in length yet remain perfectly straight- better than Grace could do on paper). Who drew the lines and why is something we can only theorise about. Some of the most impressive drawings were a monkey with a swirly tail, a humming bird and whale, drawn with great detail.
The flight was certainly hair rising at times- in a plane that small you can feel every bump and we both left feeling somewhat queezy but it was well worth it.
After the plane journey we got a lift back to town in the back of our pilots clapped up saloon- only in South America!
We spent the rest of the day chilling out on a roof top terrace waiting for our
night bus to Arequipa. We did see a great sunset and ate some good food including another new traditional dish called aji chicken- a kind of creamy curry. It was nice but the spice was not up to our standard.
So Mike, Flic and I arrived in Arequipa feeling somewhat less than perky at
around 1pm. However after a bit of a re-coup at our hostel we forced ourselves to get out and about to see the sights- not before we made a mandatory visit to one of the best cake shops in town.
Arequipa, like almost every other city we have visited, revolves around a beautiful, greenery filled main plaza, outlined with towering churches and other impressive architecture. Arequipa is famous for its dazzling buildings- they are constructed out of a white rock called sillar formed during volcanic eruptions. This differentiates the city from many others in Peru and is what gives it its name ‘the White City’.
After a mooch around we visited the Museo Santuarios Andinos- home to Juanita ‘the ice princess’ and many other artefacts from a time of Inca rule. Back in the day (over 500 years ago) the mountains surrounding Arequipa were being a bit unruly (eruptions, avalanches etc) and the Incas believed the only way to appease the mountain gods was to offer up innocent human sacrifices- in this case the ‘lucky’ Juanita. Wayne Rooney would have slept easy at this time as only the most beautiful children (8-15yrs) were chosen.
Poor Juanita was marched all the way from Cusco to the top of Mt. Ampato (a twelve hour bus ride to the base alone), after a brief meal and a strong drink she was bludgeoned over the head with a blunt object killing her almost instantly- no worries though, apparently Jauntia would have found this a huge honour!
Her body was found only recently (1995) in near perfect condition, wrapped in her burial robes, encased in the ice that had been preserving her body for all those years.
The museum also exhibited many of the offerings Juanita and other sacrifices were buried with- baby shoes for their re-birth and Llamas made out of gold.
The next day we found ourselves lost in a city with in a city. Monesterio Santa Catalina occupies a whole block of Arequipa and is practically a citadel. The experience was somewhat surreal- it was like being in a small town in Spain, with cobbled streets, fruit filled plazas and terracotta coloured arch ways.
Despite its beauty we couldn’t decide whose fate was worse; the nuns ‘trapped’ in here all their lives (their only communication with the outside world being through a hole in the wall) or Juanita ‘the Ice Princess’. The trying lives they lead may explain why there are now only 20 or so nuns living within the monastery.
We also visited the enormous sillar cathedral- one of the buildings making up the main plaza. As expected the design was lavish- although a somewhat more tasteful application of gold leaf has been used here. The views from the roof top were also pretty great, with the bell towers standing tall over Arequipa on one side and volcanoes on the other. It was obviously a bit too peaceful for Flic though, who couldn’t resist the urge to ring the largest bell in Peru, much to the dismay of our guide.
Mike and I then said our good byes to Flic- not because we were too embarrassed to be in her presence any longer but because we were heading out to Canyon Country…..
- A little something about Peru (helenekatzman.wordpress.com)
- Arequipa the white city. (gingerontheroad.wordpress.com)