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Nasca– the perfect weekend getaway

This past weekend I had the opportunity to go to Nasca, located in the desert about seven hours south of Lima. I went with two other girls from my program: Mallory and Claire. We left Lima on Friday morning, and just got home at 7:00 tonight. We arrived in Nasca on Friday at about 2:00 in the afternoon.

On the way to Nasca I was completely taken aback by the amount of poverty that exists in the countryside. I always knew that the campesinos were really poor, but I had never seen the conditions they live in. There are little towns that are at least thirty miles from any other location, and are in the middle of the desert. There is no running water, no electricity, no work. Nothing. The “houses,” if they are even worthy to be called that, are about the size of a master bathroom, maybe even smaller. I need to ask a local how these people survive, because it looks absolutely devastating. There are no schools around, and with no cars, I don’t know how the locals are capable of surviving. As you can see below, the houses are made out of thatched branches, and many of them do not have doors. It is definitely an example of extreme poverty and the strength of the human spirit.

Once we arrived in Nasca we first checked into our hostel, which was named the “Walk-On-Inn”. How clever. After we had checked in we decided that we wanted to do a tour that afternoon before it got dark. It gets dark here really early- about 6:00.

We were also definitely not prepared for the weather. Lima is cold. By cold I mean about 60 degrees, but it is still cold. Being the smart traveler that I am, I didn’t really check into what Nasca was. It happens to be in the middle of the desert. It’s hot. I only brought one short-sleeved shirt, as I was more prepared for Lima’s weather, but I survived.

It was such a great break to get out of the city. I had been in Lima for over three weeks, and needed a break from city life. Everything is so busy and hectic. It was really nice to just have a break from traffic, city lights, and to be able to see some scenery.

The tour we decided on took us to an aqueduct and some Incan ruins. It was really interesting and also amazing to think of how the aqueducts served not only as a water supply, but also as a means to control the people. Our guide explained to us that the “government” or the people that were in control would control the water. If an individual wasn’t willing to work or didn’t conform to the rules of society they wouldn’t give that family water, and they would then die. Talk about a dictatorship!

During our tour the guide told us that with the arrival of automatic pumps many aqueducts are being sucked dried, and that there could be a water crisis in Nasca within the next 15 years. I guess technology isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

We also went to the Nasca Arqueological Museum. It had been highly recommended by the tour books, but it was dreadful. The owners seemed like they couldn’t be more excited to get rid of us, and there wasn’t much to see… oh well.

That night we ate at a small restaurant in town. I had a salad for my first course which turned out to be a horrible idea. I was so sick the next afternoon. The lettuce was washed in regular water, so it just didn’t go over well with my body.. thank goodness for prescription medication.

Saturday morning we went on a flight over the Nasca Lines so we could see them. The pictures are really hard to see the lines, but you can actually see them in person. A lot of people felt really sick, as it is a little Cessna plane, and they make sharp turns so you can view the lines better. Thankfully I was fine.

There are thousands of different theories about how the lines were made. The “most common” belief is that the Nascan people made them as an offering to their gods. The Nascans believed that their gods flew around the cosmos, and hoped that their designs would attract the attention of the gods, and in return the gods would bring them rain and plenty of food.

These lines were created by digging into the sand, removing the rocks that are all over here, and exposing the lighter colored under-soil. The strangest part about the lines is that they are only visible from the air. The Nascans were never able to see the works they created, as they can only be viewed if they are flown over.

After the flight we had a few hours to sit around before my highlight of the trip. I convinced Mallory and Claire that we should go on a dune-buggy tour which also included sandboarding. (Snowboarding on sand). They weren’t thrilled about the idea but agreed to go because I was so insistent. I was scared they weren’t going to like the tour, but in the end everyone loved it. We first went to three arqueological sites; a cemetery, a different type of aqueduct, and a site that is being excavated.

The Peruvian government refuses to support arqueological digs in Peru, so there are Italian groups that are working on them. We weren’t allowed to enter, but it was really interesting to see the work they have done so far. In 15 years the Italians have only been able to uncover 1.5 pyramids out of the 32 that are thought to be in that area.

We went out into the middle of nowhere to do sandboarding. It literally was over an hour on dirt roads to get to where we went. I was just praying that our guide knew how to get back. After spinning around in the dune-buggy for a while, we finally got out to try sandboarding. I have done snowboarding about twice in my life, and broke my wrist the last time I tried. I was really hoping this wouldn’t be another occurrence. The first thing our guide told us was that it was better if we had never snowboarded before. Great. The difference is that in sandboarding you don’t make arcs as you go down, you have to just do a straight shot down. SCARY!

There are three different ways you can do sandboarding; standing, sitting, or laying down (going face first). Mallory and I both preferred standing, but Claire preferred laying down. It was a ton of fun, even though you leave completely covered in sand. (I am still finding sand in my hair and in my ears). We went to the top of the dunes to have a “competition” to see who could go the farthest while laying down. It was great because you go so far on the sand. The hard part is climbing back up. It’s exhausting, but a great workout!

We all had a great time- and were completely exhausted when we headed back into town. The first thing we wanted to do was shower. Those were some of the longest showers I think we have ever taken, as there was just more and more sand! My poor Nike shoes are probably ruined thanks to the sand. We had a great time, and we definitely ready to go to bed at about 9:30. Our hostal happened to be located right across the street from a family that raised roosters—on their roof. Needless to say, we didn’t get sleep either night.

Overall, we had a great time and are now starting to plan our “next great escape” from Lima.

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