Friday, 27 August 2010

Monkey, hummingbird and spaceman...

We hopped on our last (thank goodness!) overnight bus, and arrived in Nazca early in the morning, with a couple of hours to catch up on some well-needed sleep before taking our flight over the world-famous Nazca lines, a part of the trip that I had been really looking forward to. The planes are tiny, our only holding four people, and we were all excited about taking a trip in such a little aircraft. Well, we were until we actually got up into the air. The size of the plane combined with the winds in the area made the ride extremely turbulent, and the banking from side to side to get a closer look at each figure made our stomachs flip and I in particular felt quite sick as the plane swooped and turned over and over. Bleh. But that aside, the actual viewing of the lines was incredible – the simple beauty and startling clearness of the line figures was amazing, and spotting a new one from the plane led to excited shouts and frantic pointing. The lines were even more incredible in real life than I had thought, and I was very happy to spot the monkey (my personal favourite). We were all in awe at the abilities of the Nazca people to create such breathtaking images, and could easily see how they might have held such ritual significance at the time. We are very fortunate to be able to see them today, mostly complete and unaffected by time, in all their glory.

Back on solid ground, and feeling rather nauseous, we stocked up on souvenirs and had a few minutes to settle ourselves before heading out on our afternoon excursion to a local cemetery containing the mummies of a pre-Nazca culture. The cemetery is a unique experience, as the mummies can be viewed in situ, but unfortunately upon arrival we discovered just what this meant, as the bodies and their surrounding burial objects we left exposed to the elements for tourism. The tombs were open, with their contents sitting inside, and no protection over them at all. Our guide was very sensitive to this, explaining how when she started taking tour groups there, most of the mummies were still in an excellent state of preservation, with skin attached. As a result of exposure over the past 10 or so years, most mummies have lost this; their bones bleached white by the hot Peruvian sun. It was a political issue, with very little of the entrance fees going towards preservation of the site, and it was extremely sad to see objects scattered around the area, and other tourists picking up and fondling the artefacts (there was no security). As the cemetery is the most popular attraction in Nazca after the lines, it is such a shame that there is no warning that the money paid to get in is not being used to support the site, and we all left sad and disappointed in the lack of respect that the mummies had been shown. I really hope that the situation improves before all that is left is bleached bones and broken objects.

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