Archive for July, 2010

Peru, Day 8: Huancayo

Friday, July 9th, 2010

Today, both Steve and I fell ill, but luckily we waited until we returned from a full day visiting artisans’ workshops in the villages around Huancayo (well, Steve woke up feeling cold, but we didn’t realize he was getting sick). Visiting the artisans was one of the highlights of our trip. The people in Huancayo aren’t as accustomed to tourists as they are in Cusco, the Sacred Valley, Aguas Calientes (the town closest to Machu Picchu), and Puno (Lake Titicaca). Nasca is more accustomed to tourists, as well, but we never felt like we were being hassled in Nasca (“Buy this! Buy that!”). And we didn’t experience incessant hawking in Huancayo, either. They just let us be. Even if you’re going through the markets, no one made an extra effort to get you to buy THEIR wares. They just let you browse at your leisure. I didn’t realize what a treat this was until we reached Cusco, where “Peruvian Disneyland” came into full swing.

In Lima, we were cautioned that the highland people (around Huancayo) might not be as welcoming, because they aren’t accustomed to tourists. Nothing could be further from the truth! They were very friendly and wanted to make us feel welcome. I’d thoroughly recommend visiting Huancayo for the experience of taking the train. But I wouldn’t stick around the city. We signed up for two day tours, one with the artisans and the second taking us around the historical areas of the city. We were joined on the first day by four tourists from Japan, who were a delight. We had so much fun getting to know them. The two days were packed! We had to cut the second day short…because of falling ill and the blasted laundry not getting returned when we were told it would be. But the days were excellent, and our guide, Suzannah, was warm and generous and overall just a very nice person.

The landscape surrounding the villages outside of Huancayo was totally different than what we’d experienced in Nasca. Remember the lunar-like landscapes of Nasca? Surrounding Huancayo, there’s green! Tons of green! Again, a white sky in the morning, which, again, we were told was unusual for Huancayo. But the green, green valleys felt like home. Very peaceful.

We also saw a lot of Peruvian women wearing traditional dress. Our guide, Suzannah, was in jeans and a long-sleeved top like we were, but braids, skirts and hats were the uniform of the day for the women we encountered as we traveled through the villages:

Trip Tip! Posting the photo of this woman’s braid reminded me of my own hair experiences while in Peru. I have lots of hair, but it’s thin. If I don’t use a blow-dryer and/or curling iron, it just kinda hangs lankly. So I took along a travel blow-dryer and my mom’s tiny butane curling iron. In Huancayo, the curling iron stopped working. I thought it was broken, but it worked again in Lima. It also worked in Aguas Calientes (outside Machu Picchu). But not in Huancayo, Cusco, or Puno, all of which are 11,000 feet above sea level or higher. Machu Picchu is about 8000 feet above sea level. So…if you need a curling iron, buy a tiny electrical one. The butanes don’t work above 8000 feet!

Our first visit was to a gourd carver. We didn’t just visit his place of work; we were in his home. He looked pretty old by our standards. I don’t know how old he actually was, but I asked Suzannah how long people lived in that area, and she replied, “Maybe 65 or 70.” They work very hard. Oh, and we learned from our guide at Machu Picchu that they don’t have pensions. So they keep working, unless they have someone else to support them.

Two little boys were in the pinkish-red building that probably housed the kitchen. They played peek-a-boo with Steve through the window while the woman in back washed and rinsed clothes (did laundry) in the courtyard. The homes all usually have courtyards.

The rows of gourds that the artisan sold in his workshop. He would also sell them to markets in Huancayo and elsewhere in Peru, and the markets would then raise the prices to get their cut. These shelves are directly opposite from the main entrance and the woman washing in the picture above. That's corn you can see hanging there. Very fat kernels on the Peruvian corn! Above the shelves is a loft filled with gourds and gourds and gourds.

Close-up of the old man showing how he first carves the gourds. He's training his granddaughter (who's still a child) to follow in his footsteps and keep the family artisan traditions alive.

Here she is, a cutie. She sat beside him at one point to show us her developing talent.

 

Love his glasses! Now he's showing how they burn colors onto the carvings. It's really his wife's job...

...so she gets into the act! If you think she looks pretty short, she was. I'm 5'4" if I stretch, our guide Suzannah was at least two inches shorter than me, and this woman was another 2-4 inches shorter than Suzannah. I've never seen shorter people than I saw in Huancayo. Because of the high elevation, their lungs are very developed, but they don't grow very tall.

They make two main types of decorative gourds: one with elaborate carvings, and the etched lines are darkened with soot. So it kind of looks like they’ve been drawn on, but they haven’t. They’re completely hand-carved.

The second type of gourd is also carved, but the carvings aren’t as elaborate. These are the gourds that get “painted” by burning with the end of a stick.

It was a treat being in the gourd-maker’s home. We were the only tourists there. Our second stop took us to see weavers, but it was a far bigger enterprise and a tour bus with over a dozen people quickly descended, so we left to see the silver jewellery maker. Completely handmade silver earrings and necklaces. Very intricate work. We were totally blown away.

Me and my Peruvian doorways! We were inside the courtyard of the silverworker's home. Above this door hung rows and rows and rows of the thick-kerneled corn, which was drying. I love how the husks look against the old door!

The silver jewelry artist. She wore her shawl and hat the entire time she worked (she made part of a pair of earrings in our presence). I took this photo after the jewelry-making demonstration. She's very happy because our Japanese tourist friends practically bought out all her stock!

She started with a string of silver, which she thinned using this contraption. Her tools included a nail, a thin pair of pliers, and a mini-blowtorch.

She fashions her designs by hand. Her worktable is in a sheltered area of the courtyard.

Finished jewelry pieces cooling in water. She'll use these to create earrings and necklaces. Did I buy any? You bet! One necklace, and at least four pairs of earrings to both keep and give away as gifts to family members. This woman worked hard, was super nice and cheerful. We all wanted to support her.

After visiting the artisans, we went for lunch. Steve introduced himself to a Peruvian delicacy:

Guinea pig for lunch, anyone? Steve was brave enough to try it, but didn

Of course Steve had to ask WHERE they got the guinea pigs. They were raised behind the restaurant (evidence they really are the same animals North Americans keep as pets.)

In the afternoon, we visited a monastery and met Peruvian children on a school outing. By the time we were dropped back at our hotel, we were exhausted. Steve had begun feeling worse and worse throughout the day, and I noticed a sore throat coming on. Strangely, we had different illnesses. I began a sore throat/head cold combination. A visit to a Lima pharmacy after our weekend sojourn to Huancayo helped with my sinuses, but the sore throat kept returning to haunt me, and I have only recently recovered. Traveling by air is not your throat’s buddy, I discovered on this trip. Taking 4 planes in 24 hours REALLY ain’t your throat’s buddy!

Tip Trip: No, I couldn’t find North American cold remedies in Peru. Not even in Lima. Some North American products existed (like Lays potato chips), but not in cold products. But little drugstores are everywhere and the personnel are helpful. The Peruvian cold tablets I bought for my head cold worked like a hot damn!

As part of the tour, we had vouchers for a free dinner, but neither of us felt up to it. Steve got sicker and sicker throughout the night. He wrapped himself in blankets, and we waited for 9 p.m. to arrive, which was when our laundry would get returned…we thought! When it wasn’t returned, we went round and round with the hotel reception guy, who, frankly, wasn’t at all helpful. The girl the next morning really tried to help us, but he’d say things like, “I’ll come to your room to talk about it,” and then never show up. Meanwhile my poor dh was getting sicker and sicker. We finally discovered, after being told time and time again, “We’ll have it in your room in half an hour” (but in Spanish, which we were translating and maybe mangling in the process), that we weren’t getting our laundry that night. This was when we learned that they didn’t actually do the laundry IN the hotel. They had machines, but used them for the sheets and towels and farmed out the laundry. Nobody told us this when we decided to use the “laundry service.” Never again did we use a hotel laundry service while in Peru. We found laundromats on our own, on the street. They are plentiful.

Tip Trip: In the highlands, most Peruvians still do their laundry in rivers, or in wash tubs in the back yard. They can’t afford washing machines and dryers. If they have them, it’s usually for a business. So when a hotel says they provide laundry service, unless it’s a very big hotel, what they mean is that they send OUT the laundry to be done. Then they charge you exorbitant prices for acting as the middle man. It’s very easy to search out laundry services on your own and negotiate a price before the work is done. We did this in Cusco, and our laundress handed us back perfectly washed, dried and folded clothes a few hours after we dropped them off. Compare this to our hotel in Huancayo, where the laundry was sent out not to one, but two different laundry services, and then no one could tell us WHICH laundry services or when we might expect them back.

More adventures in laundry next time! Did Steve and Cindy get their laundry returned? Was it stolen? Sold? Embroidered?

These questions and more will be answered in the next installment of Peru!

Peru, Day 7: Huancayo, Here We Come

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

We trained to Huancayo on a Friday. I remember because the train only goes on a Friday. The purpose of the Huancayo leg of our journey was the train ride rather than the destination. My parents rode the train 30+ years ago when it went up every week and basically only locals rode it, and my mother’s horror stories of the chicken claw soup they were served (claw intact) made this an experience not to be missed! Were they still serving the chicken claw soup? (We didn’t seriously believe they were). At the time my parents rode the train to Huancayo, it was the highest elevation train in the world. It took 38 years to build the rail line, which opened in 1908, and it’s considered a mighty feat of engineering. It travels from sea level up to about 15,000 feet above sea level before arriving at Huancayo, which is at about 11,000 feet above sea level. It has 56 bridges, some over spectacular ravines, 69 tunnels, a dozen switchbacks (zig-zags). It doesn’t curve around the mountains, it goes back and forth up the mountains. So there are many times when you look out your window and see two sets of tracks. One set that you were just on, and the next set to take you up further. It was very cool!

Steve as we prepare to leave the Lima train station.

When I first started researching the train trip, I couldn’t find any information. It wasn’t in my Frommer’s Peru, and an Internet search turned up zilch. But my mother insisted that this train existed, and so I continued searching. It was one of the highlights of their trip. Why would we want to miss it?

The outskirts of Lima, typical neighborhood. The train is traveling backwards at this point.

Six months passed, and I began researching again. Turned out the reason I couldn’t find information the first time was because the train closed for at least 15 years at some point after my parents’ visit. It only takes 6 hours to travel to Huancayo by bus now, so why have the train? For the historical value! Thanks to a lot of hard work on the part of some devoted individuals, the historical train to Huancayo began running again less than a handful of years ago, but the schedule wasn’t set in stone. By a long shot.

At the first stop after Lima. The passengers get out, shake hands, and B.S. while workers prepare to turn around the train engine around on this huge turnstile.

Turning the engine. After this point, the train traveled forward all the way to Huancayo.

Eventually, as our trip neared, we discovered that the train was now running once a month. We quickly booked the best time for us and designed the rest of our trip around our weekend train ride. As it so happened, the train went up on a Friday on the weekend we booked and traveled back down on the Sunday night at 7 p.m. Other weekends, it runs back down on the Monday during the day.

One of the dozens of tunnels we traveled through. Note the two sets of train tracks. Things had slowed to a crawl as the workers prepared to move the train off one track and onto the next. In this fashion, we zig-zagged up the mountains.

The bar car, the access point for great pictures!

Chugging along. Taken from the bar car as we rounded one of the multitude of curves.

The train is now called the highest “historical” elevation train in the world, because the pan-Himalayan line which runs across Tibet, built in 2005, now climbs to over 16,000 feet. But! The Huancayo train still has the highest elevation stop in the world at which passengers can get out and pass out from the thin oxygen in the air, if they so choose. The Peruvians are very proud of this (as they should be; it’s fun to watch gringos pass out). The Peruvian train is the “original” highest-elevation train in the world. Because it was built over a century ago, it has historical significance. Honestly, it’s an experience not to be missed. If we had to sacrifice visiting Arequipa to ride this train, so be it. The only tourists we met during our entire 3 weeks who’d even heard of the train to Huancayo were the people ON the train.

Steve got out at 15,000 feet elevation. I got out, too, but after two steps I became very dizzy, so I went back in with the excuse that it was hailing. No idea who took this photo!

Now, the train is running twice a month. So hopefully more and more people will discover it. It was a blast.

These days, the DH and I were able to choose to pay a bit more and travel in the tourist cars—more comfortable seating and a bar car! Other tourists from around the world were with us, but Peruvians were with us, as well. No chicken claw soup! I can no longer remember what we were served or how much of it I ate, but I made sure to take advantage of the coca tea in the bar car (a hot drink that helps you deal with altitude sickness). We’d also bought sorochi (spelling?) tablets at a Lima pharmacy, which also help with altitude sickness.

I hadn’t traveled on a train since we backpacked through Europe in 1981. I’d forgotten how much I enjoy train travel. We got to know other passengers, and the most delightful passenger was a little Peruvian boy named Fabian who sat across the aisle from us with his mother (his father was a few seats back). Fabian didn’t know a lick of English, and neither did his mom. We didn’t know a lick of Spanish. But the DH had his handy-dandy English-Spanish phrase book, and a great deal of this 12-13 hour ride to Huancayo consisted of attempting to converse with Fabian because he totally loved my DH (as most children do) and wanted to know where we were from, how old we were, etc., etc. He was, quite simply, adorable.

The illustrious Fabian. Note his snow pants! At first we thought he wore them just because he's a kid and that's what kids do. But when we arrived at Huancayo with only our fleeces on, Fabian's mom dressed him in a snow jacket and gloves and then donned the same herself. It think it's fair to assume that Peruvians and Canadians differ in their estimations of "cold."

More zig-zagging tracks.

Peruvians have a thing with putting stuff on their roofs. This roof is fairly empty. Outside of Lima and as we traveled to Huancayo, we saw tons of roofs with all sorts of stuff all over them. Bricks, old chairs, dogs, anything, it seemed, to keep the roof on. Note the funky looking mountain in the distance? It looked like melted marshmallows. No idea why it looks like that.

By the time we arrived in Huancayo, it was just after 7 p.m. and we were exhausted. We quickly found our hotel and bunked in for the night. We also decided that 9 p.m. on a Friday night was the perfect time to arrange our first attempt at getting our laundry done in Peru. The laundry guy came and took our bag of stuff, promising we’d have it back by 9 p.m. Saturday night. Hah! We did not see our laundry again until a couple hours before leaving for the train again late Sunday afternoon. And it took several conversations—with an interpreter—to get it back intact. Adventures in Laundering. We learned a valuable lesson. When hotel personnel takes away your laundry in Peru, that doesn’t mean the laundry is washed IN the hotel. Take note! (You can just sense a Trip Tip coming, can’t you?). Next time!

Peru, Days 5-7: Nasca to Lima to the Train!

Monday, July 5th, 2010

Nasca continued…

After the plane ride over the Lines, Oscar the Guide (not Grouch!) was supposed to take us to lunch then deposit us at our hotel and pick us up again in the morning for a tour of the Cantalloc aqueducts before popping us onto the bus again for a looooooooooong ride back to Lima. We decided we’d rather skip the lunch and see the aqueducts immediately following the lines. For one thing, I was feeling ill following the plane ride (a lot of people chuck their cookies). It was hot, and the idea of having to get up the following morning when we could fit everything all into one day didn’t make sense to us. Plus, it meant that Oscar could get himself a new crop of tourists in the morning.

The aqueducts were pretty cool, but I can’t show you everything or we’d be here until September. You can click this link for some great photos and information. Trust me, it’s something to do with water. And it’s yet another indication of how ingenious the ancient Peruvians were. These aqueducts are still in use today. Oscar walked my dh down into one of them and scooped water over his (Oscar’s) head.

What? You won’t accept no pictures? Okay, then, just one. I can’t resist showing off the blue sky!

Usually, I’m showing barren landscapes of this area of Peru, but there’s plenty of greenery around the aqueducts, because, ‘natch, of the underground water channels they access.

So…back to the hotel we went, and then out to dinner. We hopped down to a little Chifa place. Chifa is Peruvian Chinese food. In Lima, we’d heard that we had to try it. I thought I’d get a second chance, because my dish of Chifa was ultra-bland and I could barely eat it. My Liege ordered something more adventurous, and his was great. That’ll teach me.

Another thing we were introduced to in Nasca was Inca Cola. A girl where M.L. works told him, “You have to try it!” It’s Peruvian pop/soda/soft drink/what-have-you. So I ordered an ice-cold bottle on a boiling hot day. It was yellow. I tentatively sipped. It was cream soda! Just yellow instead of pink.

Ice-cold and on a super hot day when you’re feeling healthy, Inca Cola is great. Warmish on a day when you’re not feeling healthy, Inca Cola is…well, suffice it to say that once my stomach turned in Peru I couldn’t drink another bottle of Inca Cola.

At our hotel, while lounging by the pool (which no one swam in; it seemed more for looks), I had a chance to meet several people from a group tour. That was when I learned that most people who travel from Lima to Nasca either stop at Paracas or Ica on their way, or they continue down to Arequipa and the Colca Canyon afterward. I’d researched Arequipa. It was somewhere I really wanted to visit. But we only had three weeks, and we were still on the first leg of our four-leg journey. So we’re saving Arequipa for another time.

Poolside, I also briefly talked to a woman named Nancy Vogel. She, her husband and their two sons have been biking (as in pedaling) from Alaska to the tip of South America for two years now. Nancy has a website and is chronicling their journey on her blog. Her sons also write entries. Isn’t that cool?

Now how, you may ask, does one keep up with a blog in Peru? And why didn’t Cindy? I can answer the second question easily: laziness. The first is easy to answer, too. There are Internet cafes everywhere in Peru, and access in the hotels. I can’t recall staying in a hotel that didn’t have at least one computer that you could grab a free minimum five minutes on. But I do have a tip! (I know, you missed the tips).

Trip Tip: If you’re using a public computer to access your email, LOG OFF YOUR PROGRAM WHEN YOU’RE FINISHED! You wouldn’t believe the number of times we sat down at a computer and found ourselves in someone else’s Hotmail account. Able to read their email if we so wanted! Able to send nasty notes to their friends pretending to be them! (Not that we did that). I sat at computers that had Word documents saved to the desktop that I’m guessing the writer emailed off as an attachment and then DIDN’T DELETE FROM THE DESKTOP. It truly boggles my mind. For Pete’s sake, don’t leave your documents on a hotel’s computer. Especially if you don’t know how to use spell check. Don’t make me feel embarrassed on your behalf!

Day 6. Yes, we’re on Day 6. Aren’t you relieved? Basically, we traveled back to Lima by bus. Below is typical geography of the highway until it got dark. The lunar-landscape look was cool at times, and other times eerie. It made me glad I live where there’s lots of trees:

Look, Ma, no vegetation!

We returned to Lima waaaaaaaaaaaaay later than we expected. We met a lot of, ahem, “younger people” in Peru who thought nothing of taking 18-hour-long bus rides. I learned I can handle about 6 hours on a “luxury bus” and 10 hours on a train. But I’d rather travel six hours on a luxury bus than 8 hours by plane.

In Lima, we stayed for one pitiful night at a B&B called Second Home Peru. I say pitiful because I wanted to stay there longer, but we couldn’t. I tried to book the B&B for our first two nights in Lima, before we went to Nasca. But it only has 6 bedrooms, and it was fully booked. So we had one wonderfully blissful night there. This place was amazing. It was once owned by Peruvian artist Victor Delfin. Remember the sculpture of The Kiss I mentioned when I first began chronicling our journey? (I might have spelled his name wrong in that post—sorry). That was his. The B&B is filled, and I mean to the rafters, with his artwork. A little art gallery exists inside the B&B, but we got there too late at night and had to get up too early the next morning to tour it. My Liege did travel all over the grounds taking pictures, but it was very dark and most of them didn’t turn out well. Sculptures were all over the grounds, and there was a walkway down to an overlook of the ocean. We weren’t supposed to be down there at night, and M.L. caught heck from the night clerk.

Our room was incredible. We stayed in some “five-star” hotels that weren’t as nice as this B&B. The staircase to the second floor was wide and gorgeous wood. Our room shared a huge deck with another room, and it had a view of the ocean. We walked to amazing Italian food (artichoke ravioli is to die for!). The bed was comfy…and it had a claw foot tub! I was in heaven. Cue Cindy taking a bath:

All this for under $100 Canadian a night. If I ever have occasion to stay in Lima again, I would definitely, without a doubt, stay here again.

Trip Tip: If you’re on a tour, you really have no choice but to stay in the hotels the tour places you with. Either that or feel like you’re losing money by NOT staying the tour hotel and paying for a room elsewhere. Participating in tours can get you access at very reasonable prices to some amazing hotels! On the other hand, some hotels become…very comfortable with the knowledge that tour groups book through them, and they, shall I say, might not try as hard as hotels that aren’t booked by tour groups. If you are traveling on tours, the nights you don’t HAVE to stay in a tour hotel, get adventurous. Go on-line and search out reviews of where you think you might want to stay. Have fun with it!

We thoroughly enjoyed all three B&Bs/hotels that we booked on our own on this trip. The Nasca hotel booked as part of our Nasca Lines tour was okay. The room was okay. The restaurant was pretty darn good. But another hotel we stayed in later in the trip, booked along with a tour, was…quite disappointing. And that’s being polite!

The next morning, Day 7, we got up at the ungodly hour of 4 a.m. because we had to be at the train station by 6, and if we missed our train we’d miss the second leg of our trip. Couldn’t let that happen.

Trip Tip: If you’re traveling for 6-7 hours on a bus one day followed by a 12-13 hour train trip the following morning, and you’re getting up super early, DON’T believe the tour representative who assures you that you’ll arrive at your hotel between 3-6 p.m. Don’t think one short night of rest (at your age) is enough. Book a second night in Lima, relax, go visit a museum, and thank God your stomach hasn’t yet turned.

Waiting for the Train

We were the second or third people there. Talk about neurotic. Those are our suitcases, made by a company called CalPak. They were great. They had wheels, but also a backpack hideaway we never actually had to use. They came with matching daypacks that zipped onto the larger packs. Everything for 3 weeks went into those two packs, including souvenirs (the green pack was mine). Two pairs of jeans (one on my body) and one pair of shoes. A fleece (that I’m wearing) and a pair of fleece track pants to double as PJs at high elevations. I also brought a sleep shirt for lower elevations. One lightweight, zippered hoodie, two long-sleeved tops, two elbow-length tops, two T-shirts, and one raincoat that wrapped up into a ball. My long-sleeved tops were actually PJ tops! I wore them during the day, and I wore them at night. No one suspected. They just thought I was fashionably challenged. Nothing wrong with that.

Practicing early morning photography skills

That’s the view across from the train station. Here’s another one. I had no idea what I was doing, so I’m pleased with how they turned out. #experimentsuccess!

The oldest bar in Lima (I think). Across from the train station. I vaguely remember walking through this bar during the city tour before we bussed to Nasca.

Thus ends Leg 1 of our journey. We’re off on Leg 2!

Peru, Day 5: Those Mysterious Nasca Lines

Thursday, July 1st, 2010

You can also spell Nasca with a zed (zee). Nazca. Your choice!

After the cemetery, Oscar took us to the airfield where at least half a dozen different airlines offer flights above the Nasca Lines. You can arrange flights from your Nasca hotel, however this being our first trip to South America and taking into account the previously mentioned not knowing any Spanish, we did everything through pre-arranged tours. Now I think we would feel comfortable enough to tackle certain areas on our own. However, Peru is such a vast country and there are plenty of areas where it’s difficult or not advised to travel unless you are with a tour. Or it’s just impossible…unless you’re super rich. The way I looked at it, the Peruvian people work hard to make foreigners feel welcome in their amazing country. If they can make some money off me by luring me in with glossy websites instead of encouraging me to rent a car and drive myself around, why shouldn’t they?

One thing we learned taking tours is that tour guides know their stuff! They fill you up with so much information sometimes it feels like your brain’s gonna blow up. But at least you never have to look at something and wonder, “What’s that for?” With a guide, all you have to do is ask. And I doubt you have to worry about being chased through the streets in Tangiers, Morocco, if you have a guide. But that’s a story for another time…

I don’t have many pictures of the Nasca Lines because I’d heard the best way to experience the lines is NOT to spend your time taking pictures that won’t turn out, anyway. Instead, enjoy (yeah, right!) the flight and buy postcards. So that’s what we did. My Liege doesn’t get motion sickness, so he didn’t spend a portion of the flight with his head between his legs. I wasn’t being wimpy! I WANTED to see the lines. At one time, however, with our pilots eager to make sure EVERYONE IN THE ENTIRE FREAKING PLANE (all four of us, as we were paired with another couple…or maybe it was two singles) got to see every example of the Nasca Lines, swooped us about so crazy-like that the G-force crammed my head down (“Check out the Monkey on the right.” Swooop. “Now, for those on the left!” Swwoooooooooooop!). I popped it up again as soon as I could.

I did manage to snap a photo of The Astronaut:

He’s on a hillside, and is actually the crudest (as in not as artistic) of the drawings we saw. Can’t see him well enough? Here’s a close-up:

The lines are created by removing the dark rocks filled with iron oxide. The light color underneath is the sand. Why doesn’t the wind sweep the sand and lines away? Because the hot air creates a kind of protective barrier for a few inches above the earth, preserving the Nasca lines for all posterity.

Other designs include a spider and monkey, a whale and lots of good stuff.  The crazy thing is they’re designed to be viewed from the air—at a time when there were no aircraft. Cue Twilight Zone music. There’s a little photo gallery on this website, if you’re interested in seeing more of the designs (note: that wasn’t the tour company we used).

Why create these lines in the desert? There are a lot of theories, but no one really knows. Were they ceremonial, something to do with agriculture, or were they drawn to entice aliens to visit? Were some of them landing strips for alien spacecraft? I dunno, but tons of these (see below) shapes and lines are all over the place:

My Liege likes the aliens theory. I like to bop him upside the head.

What do you think?