I’m so glad we made the trip to Nasca. My parents didn’t make it there when they visited Peru in the mid-Seventies, and I always wondered why. Well, it turns out Nasca is a bit out of the way. It is now, so I’m sure it was more of-the-way 30+ years ago.
By out of the way, I mean that you can’t fly from Lima to Nasca. Not currently at any rate. When I first begin researching our Peru trip, you could pay through the nose to fly from Lima to Nasca and back in one day. By the time we booked, that was no longer an option. We found two tours to choose from. One that would have us taking a bus or other ground transport and staying overnight partway to Nasca. The other had us taking the bus from Lima all on one day. After exploring both tours, we decided on the Drive in One Day option—because that tour included a trip to a pre-Inca cemetery, which intrigued me, being the warped sort that I am.
If I had to do it again, I’d take a bit more time and get off the bus in a town called Ica. Huge sand dunes proliferated like mountains around Ica, and apparently you can go dune buggy riding or even sandboarding down them. I spoke to an English girl who did it, and she said it was a blast.
Can you imagine sandboarding down a huge dune like that? I’ll fall on my keister, but other folks are more talented than moi.
You can also visit sand dunes near Nasca, but the drive to the dunes takes longer and you miss the benefit of staying overnight on the way (how can you tell that not getting enough sleep was a recurring theme of our trip?)
The bus trip took 7 hours. When we booked this tour, the copy said it was a luxury bus. I thought, oh, sure. But it was nicer than any bus I’ve taken in North America. Granted, I haven’t traveled by bus in years… The seats reclined like La-Z-Boys, they fed us and played us videos. By the time we arrived in Nasca, it was pitch black. We were happy to hit the sack and pass out.
The next morning, in our hotel across the street from the bus station, a crowing rooster woke us. Our first week in Peru, no one wanted us to sleep! First, in Lima, the construction workers woke us with their hammering, then in Nasca the rooster. A few days later, in Huancayo in the mountains, a cat meowed outside our hotel window from as early as 3 a.m. on. It’s no wonder I could barely keep my eyes open. Go to sleep, Peruvians! Animals and humans!
When we met our guide, Oscar, on the morning of Day 5, the sky was overcast. This caused me no end of pain. We were supposed to fly over the Nasca Lines! It was May! I wanted bright blue sky and sunshine, damn it!
Oscar assured us that the clouds were unusual for this time of year and would most likely burn off by noon. So he took us to Chauchilla Cemetery first, and I introduced myself to dozens of Peruvian mummies. Note: these pictures may not be for the squeamish (on the other hand, grow a stronger stomach!)
Yes, it is a baby hand. What’s your issue? You think only adults deserve to be mummified? Babies aren’t worthy? What’s wrong with you? If I were pre-Inca and my baby died, I’d want it to be mummified, too.
That baby hand was attached to an entire baby in a display case inside the tiniest museum I’ve ever encountered (it had two display cases in it). But if you can’t handle a hand, you think I’m going to show you the entire baby? (I would, but even I’m not that warped).
Chauchilla Cemetery looks like it’s in the middle of nowhere. It felt like Oscar drove forever to get us there. In fact, at one point, I felt sure “I’m taking you to the cemetery first” was Peruvian guide speak for “You’re never flying over the Nasca lines because I’m going to chop you into 700 pieces and bury you in the desert.” And I had reason to be worried. You see, I’d booked My Liege and I on something called an “Independent tour.” I had no idea what that meant until Oscar picked us up at our hotel the next day. It meant that My Liege and I were the only people he was touring around that day, so, yeah, if he’d wanted to chop us up, I don’t see why he couldn’t have. Aside from the fact that he might have lost his job. And, oh, yeah, he was such a nice guy! As we arrived at the cemetery and I noticed two other cars parked there, I came to the conclusion that I’ve watched too many Sopranos episodes. And then Oscar joked about leaving us at the cemetery in a condition resembling the mummies. Thanks a lot, Oscar!
Anyway, the cemetery is a series of tombs buried below ground, but over the years some have been opened to tourists. Grave-robbing was occurring, you see, and turning the cemetery into a museum was a way to keep it from deteriorating any further.
Bits of bone and rocks are scattered around the sand, and the bones are not to be picked up. You wouldn’t want a curse to befell you, would you? Besides, it’s rude, and I’m Canadian. I’m only rude when people aren’t looking (or listening).
And, look at that sky! Oscar wasn’t lying, the clouds were clearing! I’d get my plane ride above the Nasca Lines (though God knows why I was looking forward to it, as I get motion sickness and only had 8 tablets of Gravol to last me through the day).
First, we had to finish looking at mummies:
That stuff on his head is really his hair. Those skulls behind him are real skulls. These tombs were big, with space for a few people. We saw plenty of babies in with the people. We also saw a parrot mummy. The more hair a mummy has, the more important he was when he was alive. If you could grow your hair long, it meant you had idle time on your hands and weren’t always whipping it out of your face while you toiled the fields.
Some skulls were elongated. See those skulls sitting beside him? A couple of those were conehead skulls, purposefully shaped from birth because it was already known that you were going to be somebody important as an adult and for some reason they wanted them to have coneheads. I’m sure the presence of the coneheads has nothing to do with the rumors of aliens that swirl around the existence of the Nasca Lines to this day. CHARIOTS OF THE GODS, anyone?
We’ll check it out…tomorrow.