Peru / South America

Peru. Nazca. The X Files.

“The mysterious death of a young couple from Europe!”

“Two bodies found on Panamerica highway in Peru, in the middle of Nazca desert”.

“Tourists found dead from dehydration.”

I can already imagine those spine chilling headlines of Latin tabloids. I am sure we will make it to the first page of all of them. Scoop. Breaking news. I bet all the morning shows in my home country will show our pictures and ask – what really happened in South America? In Peru though, people often disappear and let’s be honest, no one really cares about some reckless European couple. Great, no chance to become famous even after my death, not to mention the fact that I doubt someone will come to rescue us. Smells like trouble?

Nazca – The X Files. 

The best way to get to Nazca is by a night bus from Arequipa. The one from Cruz del Sur is awesome. Imagine comfy leather seats, screens with onboard entertainment and food (the food was disgusting but hey, you know what they say – it’s the thoughts that count!) – business class sort of travel. Even Mario who usually suffers when we have to spend over 10 hours on a bus, falls asleep incredibly quick. I can’t find my place so I feel relieved when at 6am in the morning our trip is over. We get to Nazca on time, safe and sound. The last challenge is to get through the crowd of crazy travel agents. They surround our bus like a herd of hungry hyenas. No joke. Don’t bother to book anything in advance.

Most of the tourist come to Nazca just to experience the mysterious lines – by “experiencing” I mean fly over them on a tiny airplane. My boyfriend’s biggest nightmare. The only option for us is to check out 2 viewing points, but to do something different than the usual tourist crap seems to be really complicated. The places are kinda remote, so not everyone knows where to look for them as they are far from the city center. It’s one hour by bus towards Palpa (another town) or you can rent a taxi. As usual our stinginess wins and we end up travelling on a bus. Briefly speaking – the biggest mistake of my whole trip to Peru.

After an hour the driver shouts to us that we are on the spot. What spot – I am asking – if there is not even a bus stop here? He leaves us is the middle of nowhere, where the devil says goodnight and dry tumbleweeds tumble away in the wind – oh wild, wild West!

I’m being a drama queen 🙂 We walk towards the viewing tower – it turns out it’s a metal scaffolding in the middle of the desert with a guard who is currently taking a nap. I bet we are the first tourists he sees today. Or this week… or even this month! We pay 2 soles and climb up the scaffolding. The view is cool but nothing as amazing as flying over the lines (so bear in mind – be tough and insist on flying!). No one knows exactly what Nazca lines are or who drew them. The majority of the scientists share an opinion that the lines were created by Nazca Civilization that flourished at the plateau prior to 200 AC, long before the Inca Civilization. But what purpose did the lines serve? The could be the world’s largest astronomy calendar (although researchers have not yet figured out how it’d work); or they could serve for aliens as well. Another mysterious secret of Peru. Unfortunately, from the viewing point, you can only see 2 of the numerous figures so it’s like 10 minutes and you are done.

The themes of Nazca Lines have vary from flowers, geometric shapes, animals, and birds to even insects – here is the famous Nazca Family.

We walk back towards the highway to catch our return bus. The driver reassured us that he would be driving back to Nazca shortly so we shouldn’t be worried about getting back to the town. Anyway it’s the only road to Nazca so we will be fine. Great. So we wait. In the middle of nowhere. First half an hour is even funny, but it’s almost mid day now and there is no shadow. The sun is literally burning. I am trying to hide under a tiny dry bush. After an hour we are really annoyed. The road is EMPTY. Where are all the drivers of the world? Did they all go missing?

After an hour and a half we don’t have any water left. No bus so far, not even a mirage of it. After two hours of waiting I am slowly losing my hope. We try to hitch hike but there are only 2 cars passing by and they don’t even slow down. I am desperate so when I see a truck I jumped in front of it – Stooooooop! Please! I can’t believe how lucky we are – the driver agrees to take us back to Nazca.  

On the way he tells us that the bus is still in Palpa and until it gets full it won’t go anywhere. I am scared to think we could be waiting there the whole day! Our plan to visit the other viewing point is now officially cancelled. I don’t want to hear more about the Nazca lines.

Waiting for a miracle in the middle of the desert.

Although the Nazca lines are the most popular attraction of Peruvian costa, the area is full of interesting stuff. If you stay here for 1 day – you have to visit Chauchilla cemetery. It’s an incredibly interesting place. Firstly we are the only tourists here, secondly we are lucky to have a nice and knowledgeable guide but what is the most exciting is that the mummies are literally within your reach, lying in shallow tombs.

If it was England, all the bones and skulls would be immediately taken by a prestigious museum and all the world media would shout about the biggest ethnographical discovery of the year. But this is Peru – all the money goes to develop well know tourist attractions while in Nazca desert you can stroll among ancient mummies dating back to the Ica-Chincha culture around AD 1000 (and probably even earlier). It’s incredible!

Visiting the cemetery is a must, it’s such an important place for the Peruvian culture. We also have a chance to pop in the Nazca ceramic workshop and the gold extraction process center. Yes, it’s one of those tourist places where you feel kinda obliged to buy something in a local shop – luckily I haven’t bought any souvenirs yet so I purchase some key rings. Fair enough – the visit was really interesting.

Chauchilla Cemetery in Peru was discovered in 1920 but had not been used since the 9th century . The cemetery includes many important burials over a period of 600 to 700 years. It is said that the start of the interments was in about 200 AD!
The bodies are so remarkably preserved due mainly to the dry climate in the Peruvian Desert but the funeral rites were also a contributing factor. The bodies were clothed in embroidered cotton and then painted with a resin and kept in purpose-built tombs made from mud bricks. 
The burial ground has been restored to as close to its original state as possible, with the bones, bodies, heads, and artifacts either returned to tombs or showcased in displays. 
It is the only archaeological site in Peru, in which ancient mummies are seen in their original graves, along with ancient artifacts. It may sound shocking but the sculls.. they seem smiling at you!
Nazca – visiting ceramic workshop.
Even though we were expected to buy something from the workshop we learnt a lot about the ceramics so we enjoyed our visit! 

Paracas – something ends, something else starts…

Our last point of call in Peru is Paracas. Don’t judge me for staying in such a boring place. I was desperate to lazy around for a couple of days especially after our intense day in Nazca. We chose Paracas coz we really wanted to visit Islas Ballestas – Mario and myself, we are both very keen on observing the wildlife. Islas Ballestas are known as “Poor man Galapagos“. I haven’t been to Galapagos but visiting the islands was a memorable excursion for me. I was amazed by the herds of wild seals sleeping on the rocks – it was really beautiful and I could feel like David Attenborough with my camera 🙂 We could admire seals, sea lions, penguins and hundreds of different birds (that could be Hitchcock’s faveourite place!) . You can hear them, you can see them and unfortunately you can also smell them. Some people got a nice white gift on their jackets so be careful 😉 Do you know how guano stinks (the fancy name for bird poop, in case you aren’t up on your fecal terminalogy)? Yes? Multiply by 1000 and you will find an answer why those trips are only 2 hours long. 🙂

So this is the last post from Peru, but before we wrap up I want to share with you a cool story which connects South America with my next trip to Siberia, showing how small our beautiful world can be.

In our hostel in Paracas apart from cockroaches (I just hope they won’t reach the 3rd floor and my bed!) there is also a young Russian family. I ain’t no stalker, I noticed them because I learn Russian and I was trying to find out whether I can understand them. That’s why I did remember them, even though we didn’t talk to each other at all. Our plan was to go to Lima, before we fly back and spend there one day sightseeing but as we couldn’t find a host (to be honest I sent only 1 request so probably my fault) and we heard lots of bad things about the city from the locals we decided to skip it and stay one more night in Paracas. The host who rejected my request was really apologetic, he couldn’t accommodate us and while I was having a little convo with him he said he had no space coz he was hosting a Russian family. Hmm.. the only Russians I’ve seen in Peru was that family from my hostel. It turned out that we are talking about the same people and this is how Mau became the final link between East and West. The Russian family was from Siberia so you can kinda guess what’s gonna happen next. Although we have never met we will connect again, but not in the way you can imagine… It is the real WILDEST TALES and you will have a chance to read about it soon.

The Paracas Candelabra, also called the Candelabra of the Andes, is a well-known prehistoric geoglyph found on the northern face of the Paracas Peninsula. Yet another mystery from Peru.
Islas Ballestas
Islas Ballestas and the faveourite spot for wild seals – there are thousands of them on that beach!
Islas Ballestas
I have truly never seen so many birds on such a small space in my life and for the most of the excursion I was terrified of becoming a victim of a guano-dropping! yuck!
Islas Ballestas
Rich in marine life, the uninhabited islands are home to sea lions, pelicans, Peruvian boobies and Humboldt penguins.
Islas Ballestas
The sea lions were so noisy! They were not only basking in the sun but also swimming in the water next to our boat. How cool would be to play with them in the water!?
Islas Ballestas
Seals lounging in the sun – this is so cute!

Peru was the very first country I’ve visited in South America. It’s a really nice place to go if you are into the nature, hiking and history and you still want to feel safe when you travel – I’ve seen plenty of people travelling solo. If I was’t very fit I would be rather terrified though as most of the hikes are really tiring due to the altitude, so you will need some time to prepare yourself (but is there any better motivation that upcoming travel?!). The beaches aren’t that nice and personally I think it’s a waste of time to spend your day basking in the Sun when you could be discovering some ruins, right? Machu Picchu and Cuzco were simply amazing and by far my faveourite places to go so if you have limited time, travel just there and you won’t be disappointed! If you have a bit more days add Colca Canyon to prove to the world that you can do it! Visiting Lake Titicaca please remember it’s all about responsible travel. Nazca can be tricky if you are afraid of flying but here I come with my blog – you know what to do there, you are ready to go!

All the tourist spots on the famous Ruta de Gringo are officially checked – does it mean I am satisfied? Not at all. I heard so many stories from Bolivia so if I ever go back to South America, you will be looking for me there. Or in Colombia… or Uruguay… gosh, sometimes I feel like being addicted to travel is a real curse. No matter how sweet it was.