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Field Notes Close to home or in a far away jungle, there is always something marvelous to see.


PERU | Tuesday, 30 March 2010 | Views [323]

"Tree," Nasca

The Nasca probably knew what they wanted to accomplish when they began etching lines, geometric designs and giant pictures into the desert soil.  Heck, they worked at removing the dark oxidized rock to expose the light sand from 200 BC until 600 AD.  Whatever their purpose, the explanation died when the Wari empire moved in.  I wonder if anyone even realized the lines were there.

In the 1930s airline pilots flying new routes in South America reported seeing huge pictures of scorpions, lizards, condors, hummingbirds and numerous intersecting lines in the desert.  Dr. Maria Reiche, a German mathematician, spent the greater part of her life studying, mapping, and trying to make sense of them.  Her work made them known to the world and was responsible for their eventual inclusion as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  The mathematician in her theorized they were astronomical markers pointing to the rising of certain stars.  Or maybe the lines pointed to mountains.  Probably they had some religious significance, too.  Certainly none of the Nasca ever appreciated them as they are seen today from the air.  We learned all this from a presentation at the Nasca Lines Hotel, out of our price range.  (We stayed at the lovely Hostal don Agucho instead.)

As I explained to the tour operator, “No me gusta volar en aviones pequenos.”  (Translation – I tend to puke in small planes.)  So we opted to see a small sample from a 50-foot high tower along the Pan American Highway.  We didn’t get to see the hummingbird but we got the idea.  And the Highway, which was constructed before the significance of the lines was known, bisects many of them and has wiped out the lizard’s tail.  We could see the lines stretching off in all directions from another vantage point on a nearby hill.

Not only is this place worth visiting it breaks up what would have been a torturous bus trip from Pisco to Arequipa into a more manageable 6- and 9-hour trip.


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