Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Nazca Lines and Gold Mining

August 31, 2012

It's 7:00am and I'm wide awake already... because a neighbouring rooster spent the entire night doodling non-stop. My head is spinning. I drag myself out of bed to get ready to go for the day: we're going to the Nazca Desert.

Breakfast is brief and both AW and I are ready to head out to the highlight of this portion of our trip. We're getting on an airplane to see the Nazca Lines. What are the Nacza Lines? They are essentially huge glyphs and lines scratched into the desert by the Nazca people by removing the reddish pebbles to expose the grey/white ground. They were discovered by a Peruvian archaeologist while hiking in the highlands and they've been dated to be made between 400 and 650 AD. One of the main reasons they've survived to date is because of the climate. However, until they were discovered nobody knew any better and a highway actually goes right through one of them! The most notable scholar who studied these lines during her lifetime was a German mathematician, Maria Reiche.

There are many speculations about the purpose of these ancient pictures ranging from the believable (religious or practical purposes) to the strange (UFOs!). Maria is a mathematician so her theory lies within these realms. Antonio believes similarly.

These are a bit difficult to see in the photos but here's a picture of the Hummingbird:

The plane is a 4 passenger propeller plane. This is the first time I've gotten into such a small vehicle... It's cramped to say the least. I am apprehensive about the ride not only because it's a small prop plane and that the risk is probably higher but because the way in which they will be flying has left many reviews from tourists that the experience is rather challenging for those who are prone to motion sickness... and even for those who do not suffer the same problem, this experience can bring out the worst in a person. There are little baggies on the back of the seat in front of me.

The flight is over quickly and I'm happy to be back on the ground. The experience brings back some memories of a trip to Disney World and the stomach churning ride that I insisted my brother and I go on because "we can handle it just fine"--yea right.

Antonio is waiting for us in the parking lot and tells us our next trip is to visit an outdoor museum with a sad and chilling history: Chauchilla Cemetery.

We drive into the desert (again) and drive by an Incan administrative office ruin! Who knew the Inca's influence went as far south as Nazca. But what a different place Nazca is, from what the Inca were used to.

We arrive at what seems to be, the middle of nowhere with a woven thatched roof over a small booth where Antonio walks over to speak with a woman and exchange tickets. We have arrived at the Chauchilla Cemetery. The story of Chauchilla is sad... nobody really knows much about the history or the truth about how the tombs are actually formatted because of grave robbers who desecrated the area when they found the riches exposed by an el nino effect one year.

The tombs are just recreations of what archaeologists think might have been. You can see in the sand, remnants of pottery, human bones and even hair. The boy who is in the next picture is Antonio's shadow during the tour. He must find us tourists so strange.

We understand why this town is as unusual as we have seemed to discover... it is primarily a mining town. Many miners here mine gold, among other things and it has made some of them very wealthy. And, since most miners tend to be men, we understand the reason for such a high male population. Our next stop is visiting a metal separating facility--specifically for gold in this case. It's done the old fashion way: with mercury. We realize that back home, these conditions would probably never be allowed for the miners in North America. It's kind of disheartening, actually.

We get a session from the owner about how the process works and then are escorted into a gift shop. Right on cue. I learn the the gold refining process is just absurd! Imagine 60 tonnes of dirt (what they consider "ore") and they process all that for maybe 1 ounce of gold. Crazy, right? Well folks, that's how it's done now. Gone are the days of the gold rush and the Spanish conquest of South America.

It's getting dark and Antonio has dropped us off at the hotel to find our way about dinner. We check out a small local restaurant that the guide book has suggested and I down it with another bottle of Inca Kola. Our evening spent strolling the street is a bit more comfortable and we see the streetfood vendors all out and selling their fare. Hamburgesa con quesa. Well, not quite but their version of it! Too bad we already ate... otherwise S.2/00!

This is our last night in Nazca and we stroll around for a long while while really getting to know all the streets and making sure we don't miss anything.

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