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16th August 2006 - Peru Trip - Day 9, July 12th - Nazca area, Ica and Paracas

We booked a flight for the Nasca Lines at the hotel for later, and ventured out to do some other sightseeing.

First we headed out into the desert to visit the Cementerio de Chauchilla, but on the way we spotted a makeshift graveyard in the middle of the desert.

The Cementerio de Chauchilla (Cemetery of Chauchilla) are a series of tombs containing mummies dating back to between 1000-1300AD. Until quiet recently, these mummies were scattered across the desert after being ransacked by tomb raiders, but now they have organised things for the better.

Best comment of the day: "Hmmm, I feel like KFC."

On the way back through the desert, we came across a couple of very new and ornate gates that led to nowhere, how odd!

We popped into a little museum near the airfield called Museo Inka Wasi which was run by a real life Shaman. Inside there were trophy heads, a condor mummy and many other artifacts collected over time.

We then arrived at the local airfield to await our flight over the Nasca Lines.

We were shown a video, which I think I'd seen many many years ago in the UK, about the lines and the life of Maria Reiche who spent most of her life studying the lines.

Covering an area of the pampa of around 500 square km, the lines are still an archaeological mystery. They consist of over 800 dead straight lines, 300 geometric figures and 70 animal and plant drawings, all are almost impossible to see from ground level, in fact only in recent history a main road was built intersecting a drawing of a lizard, which couldn't been seen from ground level.

There are many theories about the lines. The one that probably makes most sense is that they were made between 900BC and 600AD and were used as worship to ask the gods for water. Most of the straight lines point to mountain peaks or symbolic mountain peaks, where the water would flow from.

All the animals are created from only one continuous line and the theory is that the people would walk exactly in these lines as a symbolic gesture for the gods. Of course the more they walked these lines, the more distinct the lines would become.

The lines were created by removing the dark sun-baked stones from the surface and piling them up on either side of the line, exposing the lighter coloured gypsum below. One reason that the lines are still here after all this time is that it hasn't rained here in over 2000 years!

To give an idea of the scale of the animal drawings that you'll see in photos I'll quote some measurements: the condor has a wingspan of 130m (426ft), and the lizard (no photo) is 180m (590ft) long!

The weirdest thing is the so called astronaut or spaceman, which looks like an alien, it is carved in the rock at an angle and seems somehow out of place with the other lines.

We flew in a 6 seat Cessna 206, and the pilot did a great job of banking so we could take photos of each animal we saw.

photos of the lines and other views around Nazca

We then took a glimpse of the highest sand-dune in the world at 2078m (6817ft) high, Cerro Blanco.

There is one place that you can see some animal drawings on the pampa without flying, it's a tower that is near to where the lizard has been cut in two on the Panamericana. You can see some straight lines as well as the drawings of hands and tree. It's still hard to see these drawings from this tall tower, so you can forgive the builders of the road for not noticing the lizard.

We then drove north as far as Ica which is famous for its chocolate (of course I ate some). Dinner for me was sea bass, before we continued to drive to Paracas to stay the night in the Hostel Mirador, which reminded me of the old 50's style holiday camps.