The town of Nasca is to the Nasca Lines as the town of Gardner Park is to Yellowstone National Park; the towns flourish because of the attractions they are next to.
Nasca is a boring little town that has spent some municipal funds to spruce up the main plaza and one street called The Boulevard. The plaza is only about 50M square with a dozen or so uniformly placed benches that line the crisscross walkway. In the center, a new undecorated fountain.
This is the center of activity for Nasca. Locals fill up the benches and watch the cars drive around the plaza. The Boulevard is four blocks long and packed with restaurants, cafes, and travel agents.
The travel agents all sell one main product; flights over the Nasca Lines.
We arrived in Nasca on December 30th. A short walk though the local market revealed a peculiar item that we found in great abundance; yellow underwear. There was a great assortment of other items of the same yellow color but underpants were the most popular item. YELLOW, it was explained to us, was the color of good luck. It was important to wear something yellow on New Years day to ensure good luck in the new year.
The other holiday item we found in large quantities were, grapes. Presumably for good health, but we didnt ask.
At 9:00 am on the last day of the year, Soon Jeong and I climbed into a small 3-passenger plane and flew over the mysterious Nasca Lines.
It was a very fitting way to start our last day of 2008. For the entire year just about all we did was travel and move around.
Among the Nasca Lines there are hundreds of lines that are simple geometrical shapes and lines. About 70 are of animals or humans or other things of nature. Our flight included 13 of the best figures.
The lines are a UNESCO World Heritage place and they only survive because of the unusual weather conditions in that area of Peru. They are located in the high arid Nasca desert. This area gets virtually NO rain at all. I mean NOOOO rain.. About 20 minutes of rain each YEAR. Additionally there is almost no wind. This has preserved the lines because they are created simply by removing the reddish brown top soil to reveal the white dirt underneath. The white part is only a few inches down, so you can imagine if a big rain shower happened or even occasional strong of gusts of wind, it would effectively erase the lines. But for 2000 years this has not happened and the lines are still there, giving the tourists a thrill and the town of Nasca a reason to exist.
The best and perhaps the only way to see the Nasca lines is from the air. Soon Jeong and I paid USD $55 (plus a 40 soles airport tax) each for a 30 minute flight over the lines. The flight itself was fun and the lines were great. The unanswered Who, What and Why questions that are permanently attached to the mysterious lines, never even occurred to us, we just pressed our noses to the window and let ourselves be amazed by the huge drawings in the desert.
Our evaluation of the Nasca Lines; well worth it. !! Great!
In addition to the lines we signed up for a short tour of the Chauchilla Cemetery. Now I’m repeating the facts and info our guide Hector Rivera -Humani told us. By the way, If you go to Nasca, try to find Hector, he is an excellent guide and provides good service in everything he does.
Nasca Culture existed from around BC 300 to 600 or 700 AD. On the fringes of these dates the Nasca people were influenced by pre and post cultures, thus it is said that the true, pure Nasca culture lasted for about 500 years.
During this period the dead were mummified and buried in graves in the Chauchilla Cemetery.
The Cemetery is about 2 km long and 500 meters wide and somewhere around 3,000 graves have been found. However, the graves sometimes held as many as 5 or 7 people in them.
For the Nasca people mummification was for everyone, not just the rich or powerful. All mummies had their organs taken out and then they were placed in the fetal position sitting on a mat usually woven of a reed or grass. They were then packed with cotton and wrapped with a special woven cloth that was of fine quality and very detailed in its design. Then each mummy was placed in the grave.
The graves seemed to have been like a family grave plot and the unique feature was an access hole. Apparently, the grave was dug with the intention that it would hold the whole family. Of course the entire family didnt die all at the same time so an access hole was built into the grave so as family member died, they could easily place the newest mummy in the grave.
Now jump ahead to the beginning of the 20th century. Some local farmers found one of these mummies and it was very valuable…. for the fine cloth it was wrapped in. Thus began the grave robbing trend in Nasca that, surprisingly, continued up until the year 2000 when the government ordered a stop to it.
Local people would go out at night and dig up the graves. (grave robbing was a dishonourable thing to do so they did it at night so no one would know their identity.)
Hector recalls when he was a boy he could walk out into the area of the cemetery and see bones of legs, arms sticking out of the ground as well as some of the cotton used in the mummies. We even saw bone fragments in the dirt. All the discarded remains from years of grave robbing.
The results of the grave robbing attracted a another group to the area; archeologists . They were interested in other things and, well,… being nosy little archeologists they began snooping around and, ?Oh wow they found some mysterious lines in the desert. Bunches of them… Ooo here is a monkey and a hummingbird and WOW here is a whale. And… well you know how the story goes from there.
When Hector, Soon Jeong and I arrived at the Chauchilla Cemetery we were the first ones there. Soon other cars with tourist arrived. Because Hector was going into such detail of the history and facts of the mummies, we were still there when all the other tourists and guides had gone. A credit to the quality of guiding Hector did. We appreciated it. We each paid 30 Soles for the tour and an additional 5 soles for the conservation of the cemetery. Not a budget breaker.
Note: in the photos you will see the mummies with the heads on top of the wrapped bundles. These have been placed here solely for the tourists. Remember all mummies were in the fetal position and totally wrapped in the cloth.
Nasca town didnt have a lot going on, on New Years eve. Soon Jeong and I just climbed the stairs to the roof top of our hotel for the best view or the plaza. At the stroke of midnight a few fireworks and car horns began going off. Soon Jeong and I hugged and kissed and said good by to 2008; a year of constant moving for us.
And NO we are not wearing Yellow underpants for good luck.