Friday 14 December 2018

Fun in the desert. Nasca and Ica

Peru is very geographically diverse . So far we have only explored a small part of the Southern region but we have seen dense green forests, beautiful rocky Pacific coastline, very large lakes, enormous deserts and dunes, deep gorges and endless flat baron planes.

These features along with the great cities and warm hospitality make it a really great place to spend some time. 

The maximum stay you can obtain on the border is 183 days in a 12 month period. We were lucky enough to get this and think that we will be staying to its limit.

Cusco and Machu Picchu were fantastic and with a bit of sadness we left this region in the direction of Nazca the land of huge desert drawings on the flat planes.

Sometimes you have to  to pinch yourself when visiting these places. I can clearly remember  as a teenager reading books by the Swiss fantasist  Erich Von Däniken, who had wacky theories regarding the creation and purpose of these lines, and now I was actually going to see them. 

Maybe if we were lucky we might even see some Alien Spaceships dropping in for quick pit stop.

We will come back to the lines a little later.

The deserts large town of Nazca near the Pacific coast was the centre of the Nazca culture that existed for about 900 years declining in 800AD. 

The whole region is an Archaeologists dream and new structures and artifacts of this culture are constantly being revealed.

The actual town of Nazca isn't the most exciting place but its location makes it a good  to visit  the archaeological gems in the region.

Along with our good friends Annaelle, Mauricio, Jan and Anja we stayed at Camping Wasipunko Ecolodge just outside the town.
The rather eccentric lady who owns it has, over many years, filled the site with interesting collections of various items ranging from kids toys to large diesel engines and sculptures. The whole place was like a museum to recent history being guarded by two large Peacocks with terrorist tendencies.

It was good to simply relax, playing games and eating too much.

There is a traditional cooking method in Peru using an earth oven called Pachamanca. 

It involves heating up lots of large round stones in a fire then placing them in a pit in the ground. On top of this you load on your meat and vegetables then cover the whole area with large leaves and earth. 

Four hours later its all ready to eat .

We have seen this cooking method used in Chile called Curanto.

Throughout the whole of this Andean region you will hear the name "Pachamama" used all the time. 

"Pachamama" ( Earth Mother ) is the ancient godess of fertility and prosperity. She is also  responsible for the successful  harvests, flooding, climate and other natural occurrences that effect daily life.

In view of this most of the indigenous people are constantly paying their respect to Pachamama in the form of sacrificing animals or offering small gifts to her.

For example if a local has a good crop then a small proportion of it is offered up in thanks  in an effort to secure the next crop. A poor crop would obviously indicate a lack of respect.

We even saw locals who having opened a bottle of beer automatically pour a small amount on to the floor as a gift .  

After the meal was cooked we were all invited to make an offering in the form of Coca leaves .

It clearly worked as it was cooked to perfection and tasted wonderful

We visited the ancient burial site of Necropolis de Chauchilla which lies about 30Km south of the town . It was unearthed in the 1920's and due to the incredibly dry conditions the occupants and their clothing  are extremely well preserved .

Now I must warn you here that the following photos are a little scary, but its probably too late as you have already seen them.

Although possible to camp overnight  here I didn't really fancy it.

The ancient ceremonial city of Cahuachi was a great but somewhat  lonely place to spend the night. 
Situated many km into the desert the site is totally deserted at night. 

The famous Pan American Highway ( Ruta 1S ) runs directly through Nazca and connects it with the the town of Ica which lies approximately 150km to the North. 

This major highway literally cuts through the famous Nasca lines. Sadly it actually completely bisects one of the images. Apparently the road was created prior to the images discovery.

This large collection of "geoglyphs" show images of various animals such as a hummingbird, spider, fish, llama, jaguar, monkey, lizard, dog and a human as well as trees and flowers.They were created by scraping away the top layer of soil revealing a different earth below.

There are many theories as to what these lines actually mean and what purpose the had. My moneys clearly on alien interaction.

Viewing them is best from the air but failing this you can get a small glimpse of them from a viewing platform.

Now I have to say that I was in fact a little bit under whelmed by the parts we could see.

Ica is a very touristy town in the middle of the desert. Its existence relies on its natural fresh water lake at Huacachina making it a veritable oasis.

The huge dunes have become a location for desert based activities such as sand boarding buggies and even skiing on sand.

Despite being a bit tacky we did have some fun

The coastal " Paracas National Reserve" which is shown in green on the maps, isn't.

However, it was great place to go to chill out  after the crazy few days in Ica 

It gave me the opportunity to have a go at driving over the dunes in the knowledge that Jan and Anja, in their large truck, were right behind me . Getting stuck on your own  in these regions could be an big problem as you are very remote with no form of communication so travelling with the others was comforting. 

Luckily we didn't get stuck but Mauricio and Annaelle did on several occasions 

Parking anywhere you want miles from civilisation  is simply heaven for most Overlanders. 

Vulture Station

This is an area that we will probably return to in the new year as The Dakar Rally route passes through it.

I want to finish this post with a short video created by our dear friend Mauricio. We think it sums up the essence and attraction of overlanding.

Don't forget you can see more photos and our route using the link at the top of this page

Hasta luego