I know it is summer here, but really!
1.17.06 0 °F
Peru, the land of 5 different environments. I have seen two of the 5, beach and desert.
For the weekend, Jean, my room mate from North Carolina, Mary from Calfornia and I went to Paracas to see the Isla Ballesta (the poor mans Galapagos) and Nazca, where we flew over the desert to see the famous lines in the sand.
The day began at 4am, as we had a 4 hour drive to Paracas and the to meet the boat at 8:00 am. We were told at the police check points to indicate that we were all family as the police are looking for kidnappers and drugs. Uneventful, except for 4 check points and we made it in time. In Paracas, we met the boat to take us the the island. The boat had an open top and we were encouraged to protect our camers and cover our head as we might take direct hits from the birds. After a half hour trip, we were in sight of the island that appeared white from the distance. (White = bird poop or guano). As we got closer, thousands of birds flew above us and if you could imagine it, you felt that you were one of them.
The island is a nature preserve and we did not land on it, but cruised around to the various inlets and looked through the arches to the other side. We saw Humbolt Penquins(I now have seen 3 of the 18 types, 15 to go), Peruvian Terns, Peruvian Boobies (Large birds that look like gulls, except they have a lot longer necks), literally millions of Cormorants, pelicans and gulls. Also spoted were thousands of South American Sea Lions (not seals who have ears), orange star fish, sea stars, sea urchins, sea anemonies and mussels and literally tons of guano. It is harvested annually so there are several piers and pulley platforms for the crews to use. It ends up as fertilizer that is sold to lots of foreign countries including the US.
After this trip, we set of to Huachachina but not before we stopped at a local bodega (winery) that specializes in Peru´s national drink PISCO, a 40% brandy made of white grapes. It begins with stamping the grapes by foot, yes, by foot, pressing the skins with a 2 ton wooden press, stored in open bottella )ceramic jugs for 10 days, then one year storage in cement bins and finally, bottling. The straight stuff will put hair on your chest and a little goes a long way. Two bottles bought and will be sampled at the welcome home party that will includ PISCO Sours. YUMMY.
Back in the car where it is hot hot hot 95 degrees and no air conditioning except for 4 60 air conditioning. (all 4 windows open and going at least 60 miles per hour). The landscape resembled my imagination of Mars including dunes of sand or rocks, flat straight roads, not a person, beast or plant in sight. We were happy to arrive in Huachachina for lunch ( which is what I imagine Saudi Arabia looks like). HUGE sand dunes with an oasis of water surrounder by palm trees. Lunch was chinese like food and I felt it lead to my health downfall until Monday when I found out others had the same trouble without the chinese food.
Back in the car for 4 more hours across the Mars landscape to the town of Nazca and the fameous lines. While Mary and Jean snoozed in the back seat, Pablo and I discussed the world and all of its wonders. He is half owner of the hotel, college educated and was missing a family reunion to take us on this excursion. He was very sweet and very interesting to talk to. Slightly before Nazca, we came across a miradore( 4 story tower that looked like something that fireman in training would use to run up with heavy hoses) which overlooked two the othe lines we would see tomorrow. The climb was a welcome distraction from the heat of the car and the wind was amazing across the lines. We saw the Tree and the Hand and could see in the distance part of the large image that was cut in half my the highway. Apparantly, the lines were not discovered until after the highway was in process.
We got to the hotel and loved our rooms mainly because no street noise, overhead ceiling fans and a room 3 times the size of ours back in Lima. The one draw back that I found three times and Jean found once was the wooden bedframes that leapt out and bit my knees or shins whenever I passed. I am afraid I send things stronger than FARKLE when I was bitten.
Sunday morning found us up-and-at-em at 7:00 am for a 7:45 flight. No breakfast, as the planes are small and they alternately bank sharply right and left so that everyone has a great view of the lines. I began the morning with time in the bathroom and the beginning of the Peruvian panic( diarrhea ). Pepto to the rescue and tums to settle the stomach and quick prayer to the divine that nothing else happened while I was in the air.
We watched several planes take off before us and we realized, we were only one of five different companies running flights above the lines. 6 seats with Jean with the pilot, Mary and I behind and a couple from OZ in the back. Only 45 minutes in the air, but that gave us time to see the closest 15 of over 75 lines in the area. Some of them includes the space man, spider, dog, hummingbird(my favorite), condor, alcatraz (we never could decide if it was a bird, dragon or lizard) and several others. My photos were not great, so we will depend on postcards to view these wonders. Many of them are very faint and in danger of further erosion with water flows and wind. They have lasted over 400 years amd the best part of this trip, not one of us had to use the cute little plastic bags.
With 7 hours in the car across the salt flats again, we wanted to leave the area by 11 am in order to make dinner with our group at 7:00 pm in Lima.
Before we left, we did see a local artisan in gold mining and another potter who follows the old ways of pottery including using baby hair brushes and local rocks pulverized to supply the muted, yet lovely colors.
The gold mining exhibition was amazing to watch. The family that owns the mine, hires men (which means their entire families help in the processing of the rocks) after dad huffs it down the mountin.
The miners hand pick the rocks with rough tools and get the rocks to the size of base balls. They carry then in 60+ pound sack 15 KM down the mountain on their backs. Next the rocks are tumbled in something resembling a lottery ball mixer (2-3 hours by hand) until the rocks are the size of golf balls. Then the entire family helps as the rock and pulverized under huge wedge shaped rocks in a depression that is filled with water with a drain at one end. On top of the rock is a plank and dad, and usually several of the kids rock the rock back and forth similarly to a teeter totter until the golf ball rocks are reduces to a fine rubble. (5-6 hours). The rubble is then dried and then the process of arsenic is used to extract the gold from the redish rubble and finally, the arsenic is heated and evaported away to expose the gold. (They are aware of the dangers of arsenic so that evaporation process takes place in a sealed unit so that the arsenic is contained. I hope it works. Each sack yields the vast quantity of 1 ounce of gold.
Then we went to the artisan potter who uses the local red clay, makes his own colors from rocks which he pulverizes and mixes and then uses a baby hair brush, just as the ancient Inca did in their pottery. He showed us an antique brush and then the one that he uses. After the colors are dried, he oils the pieces with facial oil from the outside of his nose (yes he does!) and believe it or not, it gives a nice polish to the piece. Then the pieces are fired for 12 hours in a kiln and taa daa!, they are ready for sale.
The pieces that Jean and I selected had not been fired and therefore, they cannot be washed until they are. As I did not want to send a huge piece home, I bought a small piece as a gift for someone and will mail it to the US just as I leave Peru.
It was wheels up at 11:00 am with only one more stop to make. The home of Maria Reicht(sp?) the German Mathematician who studied the lines all of her life. Before her death at the age of 85, she was make an honorary citizen of Peru. Bless her heart, she worked on the lines until her death, and was blind for her last 20 years and had Parkinsons disease. She was transported out the to lines in her final years on the back of a kindly peruvian. The museum was tasteful and my delight as a small alpaca walked by and folded his knees and lay down so that I could take his photo. NO touching but very photogenic.
7 hours in the car with two of the three of us feeling less than fabulous, with 4 60 air conditioning and Pablo saying we will make it time. We did(just) and we even stopped for lunch where they ate and I had Agua!
Pablo had indicated that it was better if we plan to be a KM marked 60 after 4pm, becuase on Sundays during the summer, ALL THE LANES GO INTO LIMA. The entire population is aware of this and at 4 pm, all the lanes lead into Lima on both sides of the meridian. We were no where close to KM 60 by 4pm, so Pablo upped his evasive driving techniques as we pelted towards LIma. Pablo called the hotel to say that as soon as any of our party were at the hotel to call him at his cell phone.
At 6:10, we go the call and he said that we would be at the hotel at 6:30. We finally arrived at 6:55 and were told later that we all looked exhausted. ( I can´t imagine why). The group graciously waited for us to at least pee before we went out for pizza.
I would not have missed it for the world. I learned a lot of interesting things including that I will not plan any major excursion for the weekends when I am on a placement. We slept quickly and waited for week two to begin.