After a day of travel from Peru's coastline out to the dry Nazca region, today presented all of our G Adventures crew with the opportunity to take a look into the lives of the ancient people of this land with a visit to the Chauchilla desert cemetery.
Before taking off after brekky, however, those of us who got up early enough had the chance to wander the grounds of the hotel giving us the opportunity to check out the "unique" 70's inspired architecture of our place of accommodation for the first time in daylight. Interesting to say the least. Haha!
Travelling about 3km south of Nazca out into the hot, dry desert, we pulled up at a seemingly unremarkable spot marked only by a couple of small buildings and a series of shade cloth shelters linked by rock-lined walkways. What we found upon exploration, however, was quite remarkable!
Beneath each shaded area were open mud-brick tombs containing bone remains and incredibly well preserved thousand year-old mummies from the 9th Century A.D., seated in the fetal position facing eastwards in the direction of the rising sun (an important event in ancient Peruvian culture).
Due to a combination of dry conditions in the desert and meticulous funeral preparations at the time of death, many of the mummies presented to us by our guide were still in good nick, with a number of them still sporting only partially spoiled embroided clothing and featuring preserved hair and some soft tissue (skin).
In the sands surrounding the tomb pits, fragments of pottery and human bones were scattered left, right and centre – evidence of hundreds of years of grave thieving and ransacking by "huaqueros" (treasure-hunters, amateur excavators and tomb-robbers). I'm not sure who it is (maybe you Rob?), but someone actually has a photo of a tiny human hand sticking up out of the sand. Fascinating in a creepy ancient kind of way.
Flight over the Nazca Lines
Next stop of the day was aimed primarily towards those amongst us who wanted to take the opportunity to head up into the air in a Cessna to check out the famous Nazca Lines from the sky. With various planes being available for charter from Nazca's local airport, the whole group headed out to the small terminal and sat around watching educational videos on the lines and their construction/meaning (check out my post from yesterday for a summary), while Anna & Simon, Ali and Sarah took to the skies.
For the rest of us, yesterday's glimpse from the viewing tower, the desire to save around USD$90 and a somewhat lack of confidence in the teenage looking pilots running around the terminal were enough to encourage us to keep our feet planted on the ground this time around.
Instead, we wished the guys luck and asked them to take a bunch of photos for us. In saying that, I have to send out a very big thanks to Anna (see below in the picture with Simon) for supplying the following shots of the lines from high above.
The last stop of the day was at a neat little artisan's cottage not that far from the airport that we visited while the guys were flying around overhead. Julio our guide did his best to tell us all about the distinctive style of pottery from the Nazca region, showing us a collection of examples, as a teenage boy expertly set about shaping a clay pot by hand in front of us as we watched.
As is always the case when on the tourist trail anywhere in the world, we were led back out of the workshop "through the giftshop" where we all had the chance to do some damage to our wallets on some of the finished crafts displayed across a number of wall-mounted shelves.
Back at the hotel we had a number of hours to pack, relax, read, go for a swim, or enjoy a couple of bottles of barely-cold beer on the large pool deck before we needed to head into town for a roast chicken dinner at Nazca's answer to "Red Rooster" (which Julio was VERY excited about I might add). I'm talking quarter chicken dinners with chips, coleslaw and washed down by gallons of Inca Kola a fluorescent yellow Peruvian beverage that is proudly more popular than Coca-Cola and tastes an awful lot like what we call "Creaming Soda" in Australia (emphasis on the word AWFUL).
Following our greasy feed, we all headed a couple of doors up from the restaurant to Nazca's bus depot where we boarded a pretty modern double-decker overnight coach bound for Arequipa and my chance to finally get my hands on a replacement camera!
Again, a huge cheers to my pals Florian Lees and Anna Wiewiora for providing the great shots for this entry! Thanks guys!
Links & Credits
- Cover image // Florian Lees
- Chauchilla desert cemetery // wikipedia.org
- Nazca Lines // wikipedia.org
- Inca Kola // incakolausa.com