Saturday, February 18, 2012

LINES IN THE SAND


In 1939, Paul Kosok, a United States scientist, flew in an airplane over southern Peru and discovered a series of drawings of animals and geometric lines and

shapes scratched into the arid crust of the desert. Some of them were over 1000 feet in size and had been preserved for more than 2000 years due to a complete lack of rain and winds.

DH and I were able to visit Nazca in 2007 with a group of people from the university where DH taught.

After a two-and-a-half hour bus trip down the sandy Pan-American Highway we were informed the weather at Nazca had been foggy for the previous two days

so there was a waiting list of people with reservations to fly over the desert ahead of us.  We were put on the bottom of the list and informed that only about half of those who wanted to go would get a turn.

We settled down to wait. It was a great chance to catch up on sleep, read books or get better acquainted with our fellow travelers.  Some wandered off to explore the town and found very little in the way of stores near the hotel.  Well, there were stores, but they looked like something out of a bad western movie:  very dark small and dirty.

Along with the ubiquitous Coca Cola there was always 
Inca Kola which tasted like super-sweet lemonade.

The minute we left the safety of the walls around the hotel we were accosted by locals with hand-made souvenirs for sale.  I met up with a mother and her little son and daughter, with small knitted figures hanging from a tray.  They had sold nearly everything they had to the people ahead of me, but the price was so very low that I couldn’t resist buying a little man, a woman and a llama.  I indicated I wanted to take a photo of them and they immediately struck several poses while I clicked away.

When it was apparent that very few of our group would get time in the air over the Nazca Lines we took a tour of some other sights in the town.  We visited a shop where pottery was made. The owner of the shop showed us how he used a smooth stone to polish the semi-dried clay.  Then he rubbed the stone on his nose to use the oil from his skin on the stone to even out the surface.  That, he told us with a wink, was why his people did not have large noses like the Incas.

Next stop was a gold refinery.  They were using the most primitive methods to extract gold from the red desert sand.  There was a man with a white miner’s helmet who showed us the process of panning and came up with some tiny, shiny flakes.  He showed us nuggets the size of peas that he had found.  He told use how they used mercury to separate the gold from clay.  Then he showed us

his sluice gate which was a long wooden trough where water was pumped through sand to separate out the gold ore.  The power for the pump was a skinny guy treading up and down on a seesaw device.

At the end of the day only seven of our group got an airplane ride.  Some of them didn’t enjoy it much because they got air sick.  DH and I were disappointed in missing a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see the Nazca Lines from the air.

We boarded the bus for the return trip. As we rode back we watched carefully because we knew the highway had been built across some of the lines and shapes on the desert floor.  Occasionally, for a moment, we could see them a few yards wide disappearing into the distance.

We stopped at a tower that had been built near the highway where we were able to at least get a look at some of the designs.

Since it was late in the day the low angle of the sun helped us see the ancient artwork on the largest drawing tablet in the world.  After DH and I had taken our turn on the tower we waited in the sandy parking lot by the bus.  I wandered around and kicked up some rocks and picked up a heavy black one as a souvenir.  Then I noticed something dusty and smooth with sharp edges.  I was sure I had found a piece of prehistoric pottery.  I flipped it over and blew off the dust. 

The words “Inca Kola” were printed there on a blue label.
 I kept it anyway.

12 comments:

Alica said...

How fascinating that would have been to see the lines from the air!! It amazes me what people did so long ago! It sounds like you made the most of it and enjoyed yourselves anyway, though. :)

TexWisGirl said...

i know you must have been frustrated being so close but so far, but still, what an experience!

(would you consider removing word verification?! it is a total pain now! pretty please?!)

Leenie said...

TexWisGirl I KNOW word verification on Blogger has turned into a total pain. However, I've seen what can happen to some blogs when the Spammers get through. So I'm leaving it up and hoping Blogger will update their update. Thanks for toughing it out and getting through the challenge to leave a comment.

Butternut Squash said...

I'm so sorry you missed seeing the lines from the air. I heard recently that scientists think that ancient people may have been able to make a simple hot air balloon so that they could see these giant drawings from up high.

jabblog said...

The Nazca lines are amazing. It is a shame you didn't get your flight but it seems that you had an interesting trip anyway.

susan m hinckley said...

Oooh, loved this post! Thanks for distracting me for a moment, Leenie. Great start to my morning. I would love to see the lines as well, and probably never will, but I enjoyed hearing about your near-miss!

Anzu said...

Bits of INCA COLO should be precious one someday. I like such an attempt.

Sarah said...

What a shame that you didn't see them from the air-but it was an interesting trip anyway. It always amazes me to think of the Nazca lines and even to have seen them from the ground is worth it. I would have kept the inca cola piece of glass too!-and bought lots of small knitted figures!

TALON said...

I'm glad you got to see them, if not in exactly the way you envisioned, Leenie. What a fascinating place! And there's something bittersweet about the remnants of the Inca Kola bottle, isn't there?

Magyar said...

__There are those (not I) that claim the Nazca lines could have only been drawn, because the height needed to have an accurate lay out, by 'Alien Visitors' to this planet.
__But:
__Due to the form of those artistic lines... so similar, (no, more than similar... dopplegangers to the common Inka art of that time line) I believe none other than the people of Nazca carved those anciently lovely lines... by some inventive art work of their own minds.
__Just lovely Leena! _m

Tom G. said...

Wow. What an awesome experience. My sister went to Peru as an exchange student in the late 70's. She used to sing the Inca Cola jingle all the time when she came back.

"Hola, Hola, Inca Cola!"

When I was a kid I was endlessly fascinated by the Inca's. I dream of someday getting to see Machu Pichu.

CeeCee said...

I can't imagine going all that way and not seeing them. So sad! The story (or lack of) just amazes me. I